Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Technology and Mission


Technology is literally defined as, “the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes” and it most certainly has been applied to nearly every conceivable sphere of living with great affect. Not many aspects of our lives can claim being free from it’s influence. In truth, advances in technology have propelled humanity to the place in which it resides today making life that bit easier, broader, more effective and most certainly - faster.

Not every change technology has brought could be considered beneficial to society, but most are deemed so. The latter of the changes mentioned above is considered by some to be the most dangerous to the (spiritual) Christian life. Author, philosopher and speaker Dallas Willard has been known to say, ‘Hurry is the greatest enemy to the spiritual life’. It seems that despite all of our advances in technological development, one thing we have not managed to save in any way is time. It still slips through our fingers at the same rate and seemingly the very thing we have created to save time, steals more of it from us. It must be common knowledge that there is just as much to do or accomplish in life since recent technological advancements like the personal computer, if not even more. Much of the time we hoped to save by use of these systems and products is re-invested into other forms of technology like browsing and buying on the internet, watching films at home, previewing music and speaking to others around the globe for free.

The Missio Dei, or Mission of God unlike advances in technology has never changed. People were, and are still the priority of the Godhead. God has always been about (and will continue to be) reaching out to and redeeming creation (humanity included!). We, in the Christian context realise this as central to our faith and trust in God - ‘God sent His one and only Son . . .’ God Himself has gone so far as to become one of us AND offer to reside within us (as the Spirit) in order to redeem and preserve His relationship with us. What other faith system has a God who makes Himself a servant of those whom He has created?? Right at the heart of God is mission, a love that perpetually reaches out to the world. As those who are being transformed by this ‘unbelievable’ belief in a God who is Love, we also are invited into this mission of God (missio dei) to partner in His work of redeeming creation.

Can technology serve God’s purposes? How can it do so? These questions rise to the surface as we explore living a life of faith in the twenty-first century. In the Western world, it is nearly impossible to escape the reach of technology - so how can we engage with it and utilise it for good? As we know, relationship is of utmost importance to God, therefore technology must always work toward facilitating greater connection and communication between human beings. Any ways in which it might be employed for the greater good we must explore. It is obvious that in sharing the Message of hope with the world, technology has a large part to play through the internet (facilitating access to much of the globe) as we make information available via web sites, stay in touch with telephones (fostering otherwise impossible relationships), post parcels anywhere we choose (as in the work of relief agencies) and develop a greater awareness of other cultures. Information though is only part of the Message God invites us to share.

St. Francis of Assisi is quoted as saying, “Wherever you go, preach the Gospel and, if you must . . use words.” Implicit within that challenge we again get a glimpse of the essence of Mission, that it is primarily and foundationally relational. We must be in close proximity to share the whole story of God as it’s written with our lives on a day to day basis. Never will there be a time when in God’s eyes, developing relationship will be superseded by other means of reaching out. God has intended from the beginning to invite and involve His people in reaching humanity through breaking and pouring themselves out for the ‘other’ just as Jesus demonstrated. Technology is of use to God only in so far as it works toward this end. We see this truth displayed time and time again in our celebration of the Eucharist - God’s invitation to join with Him in his work in the world - and when we hear the closing words of worship services, “Go out in peace to love and serve the Lord.” and the response is, “In the name of Christ, amen.”

May technology long serve the purpose of God in reaching out, in relationship, to redeem a world in need of Him. It’s just too bad that technology hasn’t helped to stem procrastination . . .

===========================================

I wrote this article for a diocesan magazine in the South East of Ireland at the beginning of the year.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Heaven Abandoned


I found this photo on Google Maps from my home town of Columbus, Ohio. I'm not sure what it is that I really like about it - but something beyond the beautiful imagery captures my imagination. I get the feeling that a good discussion over some pints could ensue from reading this image! Anyone wish to give their personal thoughts or insights?

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Wisdom of Buechner



"Whether your faith is that there is a God or that there is not a God, if you don't have any doubts you are either kidding yourself or asleep. Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving."

- Frederick Buechner

Sunday, August 24, 2008

An Apple a Day


Ok, so I'm sitting here at the breakfast table eating with my family. I know it's strange, but I really enjoyed the shadow and light across this apple I'm chomping on and - if you look at it in a certain way - you can see a heart shape. I had one of those experiences this morning reading from Matthew 9 & 10 when you 'see' a passage of Scripture differently than before. I guess that's inspiration for you. It seemed to present itself more clearly than before the scope of what it means to be an active agent of Christ's coming Kingdom. "The Kingdom is here . . "

Friday, August 22, 2008

Repentance and Liturgy


Before the beginning of the summer I was invited to speak in a small church on the south coast of Ireland in Co. Waterford. I was glad for the invitation and better still, the rector and her family invited me to bring my family down with me for an overnight stay. I had a chat / trivia time with a few of the local teens on the Saturday night then spoke in the church the next morning. I felt especially bold that morning with some of the words that found their way out of my mouth but I believe God was in it. As a natural part of our Church of Ireland services there is a liturgical response by the parishioners. When it came time to respond with what had been prepared by the rector, I was astounded and humbled. What follows is what every member of the church confessed that morning . . including myself.

We kneel and confess our sins to God our Father:
Lord, forgive us when we seek comfort in the familiar - the easy words, the regular patterns.
We are sorry, Lord.

Forgive us when we get annoyed by even the smallest changes which upset our routines.
We are sorry, Lord.

How can you transform our lives when we are so attached to what we have created for ourselves?
We are sorry, Lord.

Lead us to seek you as our solid rock, confident you will never let us down. Forgive us when we don't trust you, remind us daily that you are the Solid Rock and that your hands are always reaching out for us to come and join you at that safe (?) place.
We are sorry, Lord.

May the Father of all mercies cleanse us from all our sins, and restore us in His image to the praise and glory of His name, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.


This confession is just what we need to be making to God regularly - especially for those of us who get stuck in our ways and leave no room for the God of the Impossible to do what He does best!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Dark Knight and George Bush


Here's an interesting article that an acquaintance of mine - Dr. Gareth Higgins - wrote which I enjoyed very much. He's the author of "How Movies Helped Save My Soul: Finding Spiritual Fingerprints in Culturally Significant Films" a lecturer, activist and podcaster from Northern Ireland.

". . it has been difficult to find interpretations of this new Batman film that delve beneath the surface sheen of sexy black vehicles and leather tights, or the morbid fascination with the late Heath Ledger's performance (admittedly extraordinary -- and so obviously based on Tom Waits that that growly-voiced minstrel deserves the Oscar too, even though he's not in the movie) as the Joker . . .

But The Dark Knight is much more than this. It's one of the most politically interesting (and provocative) films of recent years -- but it seems that only The Wall Street Journal has noticed. Only half-marks to the WSJ, I'm afraid, for although they recognize the fact that this film relates nothing less than the story of the "war on terror," they go on to suggest that it is a "paean of praise to President Bush." I beg to differ, for although it's impossible to tell whether or not the movie is pro-neocon without getting inside the head of co-writers Christopher and Jonathan Nolan, just because Batman does something doesn't mean we're supposed to like it."


Read the full article

Michelangelo and Learning

. . and now from a man I admire very much . . .

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Wild Goose is Aflight!


Most of us have no idea where we’re going most of the time. Perfect.

“Celtic Christians had a name for the Holy Spirit–An Geadh-Glas, or ‘the Wild Goose.’ The name hints at mystery. Much like a wild goose, the Spirit of God cannot be tracked or tamed. An element of danger, an air of unpredictability surround Him. And while the name may sound a little sacrilegious, I cannot think of a better description of what it’s like to follow the Spirit through life. I think the Celtic Christians were on to something…. Most of us will have no idea where we are going most of the time. And I know that is unsettling. But circumstantial uncertainty also goes by another name: Adventure.”

--from the introduction of the book 'Wild Goose Chase'.


About the Author:

Mark Batterson is the lead pastor of Washington, DC’s National Community Church, widely recognized as one of America’s most innovative churches. NCC meets in movie theaters at metro stops throughout the city, as well as in a church-owned coffee house near Union Station. More than seventy percent of NCC’ers are single twentysomethings who live or work on Capitol Hill. Mark is the author of the best-selling In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day and a widely read blogger (www.markbatterson.com). He lives on Capitol Hill with his wife, Lora, and their three children.
==================================================================

I've received a copy of the book to review . . really looking forward to it.

I'll post the review within the next month and will give one person the chance to 'earn' a free copy for themselves!

If you're too fidgety and can't wait you can find it at Amazon.

Stay tuned.

Homebrewed Christianity


Here's another site with some 'seemingly' good downloads for your listening pleasure . . .

I have not actually listened to them but I am planning on it. Some good looking topics are there.

Homebrewed Christianity

Coldplay Takes On the Pope


Here's a brief thought-provoking article from author Mark Joseph (The Rock & Roll Rebellion, Faith, God & Rock 'n' Roll) on a perceived challenge offered by Coldplay frontman Chris Martin to the Catholic (Christian?) faith. Has anyone else had similar thoughts after a listen to this song?

" . . when I began to hear Chris Martin at my gym singing about St. Peter not calling his name I was intrigued. What in the world was he singing about? A lot it turns out. It seems that a debate is already raging in cyberspace about his band Coldplay and its song "Viva La Vida."

What Martin isn't doing is playing coy like Bono. At first blush, this appears to be a direct, albeit melodic attack on the Catholic Church. Listen and read for yourself here and here."

Read on . . .

Inflatable church, the beach and God

Father Andrea Brugnoli, head of Sentinelle Del Mattino, told Reuters:

"God called me to dedicate my life to young people, to go among them and find them because today it is hard for young people to go to church, so it has to be the church to go towards them. This project was born to attract young people in the places where they normally hang out such as streets and beaches."


Way to go Father Brugnoli!

More on the story here . . .



Here's another inflatable church from five years ago in the UK that can be rented!

Friday, August 08, 2008

Rootbeer Summer Tunes

Here's a quick, infectious, rhythmic trance of a tune called 'So Good' from Rootbeer artists Flynn Adam and Pigeon John. Flynn is a relatively new friend. He and Poems came over to perform at Anois last year here in Ireland. I've been a fan of Pigeon's for years since I first heard 'Deception' years ago. Check out this great live performance and if you're keen . . buy some music and support!

Best Downloads of Late 2


So here's a second submission of great downloads I've been enjoying lately on the iPod and otherwise. Download at your discretion and enjoy!

A) fermi project podcast episode 21 with screenwriter Christoph Silber
This was an interesting insight into a successful screenwriter's world including his inspirations, creative process and what influenced his choice of career.

B) Continnum podcast episode 3 with Sarah Arthur
What an inspirational listen! Sarah is/was a youth worker but has written a book on 'holy dreaming'. It's all about the dreams God entrusts to people who are consumed with Him and how to encourage your faith-filled imagination to grow.

C) christianaudio.com's free audio book of St. Augustine's Confessions
What to say about this but that it's considered a classic by Christians of numerous eras and it's by one of the 'Fathers' of the Christian Church.

D) NoiseTrade's flippin' amazing offers of free, legal tunes by quality artists including Derek Webb, Sandra McCraken and Sixpence None the Richer
Get on this one and recommend NoiseTrade to friends!

E) Mark Batterson's suggestions for 'Setting Life Goals' in a PDF download from the site for his new book 'Wild Goose Chase - Reclaim the Adventure of Pursuing God'
I haven't yet read the download but plan to along with the pre-release copy of the new book. I'll be posting a review in the coming month or so.

Selling Jesus?

"It doesn’t matter whether you’re selling Jesus or Buddha or civil rights or ‘How to Make Money in Real Estate With No Money Down.’ That doesn’t make you a human being; it makes you a marketing rep. If you want to talk to somebody honestly, as a human being, ask him about his kids. Find out what his dreams are - just to find out, for no other reason. Because as soon as you lay your hands on a conversation to steer it, it’s not a conversation anymore; it’s a pitch. And you’re not a human being; you’re a marketing rep."

A line from the film, The Big Kahuna

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Deadly Dualism!


Here's a quote long-time friend and actor Carl Von Hollen sent me yesterday. Yes, yes and yes Carl!

“There truly is no division between sacred and secular except what we have created. And that is why the division of the legitimate roles and functions of human life into the sacred and secular does incalculable damage to our individual lives and the cause of Christ. Holy people must stop going into “church work” as their natural course of action and take up holy orders in farming, industry, law, education, banking, and journalism with the same zeal previously given to evangelism or to pastoral and missionary work.”

- Dallas Willard, author, speaker, professor

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

fringe is freakin' awesome!


What these guys are doing is nothing short of inspiring! Creativity at it's most vibrant expression. Wow . . . fringe is it!

Jesus for President


It's so wonderful seeing a friend venture along life's path with Jesus. Over the past few months I have been hearing reports from random places about a new book called Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne (The Irresistible Revolution) and Chris Haw. I haven't put my hands on a copy of the book yet but I plan to do so.

Ten years ago Chris Haw was a passionate, bold, servant-hearted 18 year old guy in my small group at Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago. Chris was always 'up' for stuff - helping out in anyway possible, leading worship, serving his peers and chatting with anyone who'd give him the time. We had a great year or so together (seems so short from my perspective now but so full still) spending loads of time together at various functions, gatherings and impromptu sessions. One of the most memorable was a trip six of the young guys took with another leader and I to Boundary Waters on the Canadian Border in Minnesota. We spent five days canoeing in the middle of 'no where' with wolves, bald eagles and other various creatures. Each day we'd portage the canoes, paddle for miles and portage again. At night we'd spend time around the fire reading from Oswald Sanders 'Spiritual Leadership' and chatting about life.

Near the end of the guy's last year in high school I took them to the Billy Graham Musuem in Wheaton , IL at Wheaton College. I prepared a 'talk' to give them on 'Vision, Expectation and Dreaming Big' which was delivered in three parts during the day. I gave them paper and pens and after a our first session, I encouraged them to walk through in silence and just make notes about what caught their heart and what they thought God was saying. Halfway through we stopped and chatted again then continued before finishing our time together in the 'Heaven' room which was followed by a short debrief of the experience. My goal wasn't to have them see 'success' in life as being what God has done through Billy Graham (suggesting their lives must look the same), but rather to dare to dream with God of the kind of person they might become if they fully entrusted themselves to Him.

I have no idea what impact that experience, or our year together before they jetted off to college, had on any of them. I'd like to think that God somehow used it to draw those young guys ever closer to Himself and helped encourage them on their respective journey with Jesus. I have not kept in touch very well with any of them over the past ten years. Chris came over to visit Christy and I in Northern Ireland not long after the millennium and I think I had him share a bit with our young people there. It's just because he's been on the radar more recently that I have begun thinking of him and those guys again. Great memories!

Maybe it's coming time to gather some them together again and have another night under the stars with lawn chairs and stogies talking about life in all of its beauty and wonder.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

A Day in Kildare




Here are a few shots of my family (Christy, Neve and Aidan) on a little road trip we took to Kildare Village Outlet Centre a week or so ago. We didn't buy anything but we had a great time just traveling together, watching the kids play on the toys, getting their faces painted, acquiring balloon sculptures and watching a street entertainer. The sun was out, we ate at Starbucks and we laughed. Simple fun.

Free Album by Irish Songsmith


Dublin singer/ songwriter Chris Singleton has very generously offered his most recent album 'Twisted City' for FREE to all of us music-hungry folk. While I look forward to acquainting myself with all he offers up sonically, I am already favourably disposed to his presentation (even down to the retro sentiment expressed by the cassette tape presentation online). On offer with the audio download are a lyrics PDF and (interestingly) a PDF guided tour of the spots around London each song refers to. Nice touch! He's received some weighty lauds from Hotpress and The Irish Times so if you're into making discoveries, make sure you inform yourself about this artist from Ireland's capital.

Disappointment with the State of Things


I recently read this article from LifeSiteNews where my Archbishop, Alan Harper, attempted to make an argument from Scripture for homosexuality as a normative situation for people. Firstly, I have been fairly silent on this issue of sexuality for two reasons: 1) Although I hadn't spoken out publicly about it I do not hide from sharing openly in respectful dialogue with friends and 2) although this is an important issue, I can't believe that so much focus, energy and effort should be spent in debating (and sometimes destroying) each other when so many other life-threatening issues are more pressing in the world like human slave trafficking, extreme poverty, the Aids epidemic, unjust wars and child abuse, etc. This issue of human sexuality must not be ignored but I do not believe it should dominate the Body of Christ's (Church) attention and be the biggest thing on its 'radar'!

In my experience, while the issues/arguments/positions are important, they are not usually the reason things get out of hand and everything short of all-out war is declared on the 'opposing' party. It's oftentimes the way (manner) in which positions are communicated and not what a person's actual position on this subject is (considering they are humane and respectful that everyone is a recipient of God's love) that causes the most strife. I am not someone who believes there is no truth or ultimate reality in the world . . our whole ability to exist and operate daily relies on the perseverance of immutable, foundational realities. While I do have clear thoughts on this issue (informed heavily by my Christian understanding), I also hold strongly to extending love, grace and reconciliation to everyone while holding to truth, justice and God's revelation of Himself in Christ. In regards to human sexuality I don't see the necessity of making a case from the Bible (although this is possible to do), the answer can very elementarily be deduced from basic biology. No species can perpetuate itself without being pro-creative and as anatomy/physiology clearly demonstrates, there is a basic implied relationship for human beings - male and female. This is the 'natural' revelation deduced by simple observation. Now, all sorts of arguments can be made against this viewpoint, but it's so simple I don't see how it can be refuted.

Regardless, I will choose to be generous, respectful, embracing and gentle without negating what I understand Scripture to state, the created order to dictate or what God calls each person to in Christ - the ultimate example of what it means to be truly human. Let's get our priorities in order and seek a healthy balance in addressing life's issues from a holistic perspective. Aggression, ignorance nor disregard can be tenable postures in this current state of affairs. Not one of us has our life 'sorted' out.