Friday, February 27, 2009

Love for Public Toilets

Does anyone else love these public toilets?? I know it sounds weird, I just think they're soooo cool! Not any public toilet mind you, only the type shown in the image here. If you haven't been in one of these babies, do yourself a favor and experience the wonder! It might be a different experience if you have to sit down on the seat of the toilet of course. I guess that effectively cuts out the non-male gender. Ooopps, sorry. You ladies may still find it a good experience though.

I love how the door slides open and shut again. I like how it's built sturdily, with the sink and hand dryer (never very effective) built right in. It'd make a really cool office space - with windows and no toilet of course. Another great feature is that when you exit, the unit washes the floor ON ITS OWN! Awesome. OK, I better quit singing praises of public toilets before you all begin losing even more faith in me. Signing off!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Becoming An Intentional 'Missional' Community

A few of us involved in Dreamers have for some time now been talking about what it would mean for the Dreamers of the Day community to transition into a 'missional order'. Some of you may be wondering what the heck a missional order is - so are we! What we do understand about them intrigues us and seems to be inviting us to explore further.

Traditionally, Orders within Catholicism, Anglicanism and other traditions were groups of people who gathered together (sometimes lived together) around an ethos, central principles and often a 'Rule of Life'. The Rule is a pattern for living that helps the individual open more fully to God, be more available to serve others and ultimately enables the individual taking on the 'Rule' to grow into who God designed them to be. One of the most influential Rules was established by St. Benedict around the 5th century for monks in his care. Many have centered on basic values of poverty (simplicity), chastity (self-control) and obedience (freedom before God). Some American monks near Limerick in Ireland have playfully referred to these three values as, 'no bling-bling, no sweet thing and I serve my King'.

Regardless of what values guide certain communities (intentional gatherings) of individuals with like-hearts, the premise is a valuable one . . a Rule of Life empowers individuals - and ultimately communities taking on the same - to become all God dreams they can be. This is what excites some of as we share with one another. I personally, after having studied with the Jesuits for two years in spiritual direction, am fond of the Jesuits' self-professed mantle to be 'contemplatives in action'. Something about being encouraged and challenged to engage deeply with God and others - while empowering them to do the same - appeals strongly to me.

The Dreamers values could be a mix of some of the old values mentioned and some fresh ones highlighted by members of the Community. Additionally, each person part of this nascent gathering could take on their own unique values / principles to live by which may spring out of their specific gifts and vocation. Whatever direction this conversation takes, there is no doubt that from the very conception of the Dreamers vision almost ten years ago, it was to facilitate a deep connection with Christ and other people while intentionally exploring and celebrating the inter-relationship of the arts, faith and culture. Our reflection, conversation, prayer and study is meant to empower us to 'go out' and shape lives for the better as Jesus supremely demonstrates what it means to live a truly human life in the love of God.

For the past nine months or so I've been investing much thought and some research on what it might mean for Dreamers of the Day to transition into a 'missional community' - so I took a stab at writing a Rhythm of Life (I like 'Rhythm' instead of 'Rule'!) for us.

I want to hear what you think. If you're convinced this is everything that is good and right for the direction the Dreamers community could go - we can do this! Again, I'm struck with how well it seems to fit with the original vision for Dreamers from ten years ago which was to help individuals come to terms with God's dream for their lives.

Please download the document, read it, reflect on it and offer your thoughts right here for the benefit of all!

If you're not already a member of the Dreamers of the Day network, and you'd like to be - you're very welcome to come and explore faith, the arts, making a significant, lasting contribution to society or deeper discipleship. Dreamers is open to all who desire to connect and live a more meaningful life of increasing purpose, hope and joy.

So, check out the downloads linked to this post and let the conversation begin! Where do we go from here?

Here are two articles from a few years ago which may help get the cogs going . . .

The New Monasticism

The New Monastics

The Dreamers of the Day 'Rhythm of Life'
(open for re-imagining!)

Attachments for further study:

Monday, February 23, 2009

Retreat for Pastors to Artists

I had a great conversation with a new friend, David Taylor of Austin, Texas last Friday night. For me it felt like chatting to a brother I never knew. I resonated with so much of what he shared and we connected on many different points. David is an Arts Pastor and last year he and a friend hosted the Transforming Culture Symposium in Austin. I really wanted to make it but I couldn't. This year he is hosting a retreat at esteemed Laity Lodge for pastors to artists. I have wanted to be a part of a retreat and training facility for ten years that served the creative community. I would LOVE to attend this gathering, but I'm in Rome co-hosting another retreat at that time. Ahhhh! This is one occasion I wish I could be in two places at the same time! If you'd like more information on the gathering in Austin from Monday, April 20th - Thursday April 23rd go here. If you make it, let me know what your experience was like - please! If you mention you saw this on my blog, maybe David will give you a free Transforming Culture t-shirt. [ ;-) David! ]

Create the future!

Download the PDF Advert

Register HERE

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Shout Out to the Hem-So!

. . and all my Southern Hemisphere people said "Hey-yo!" . . .

C'mon, I hardly EVER hear from any of you friends further South - where you at??

Spectacular Irish Landscape

I'm posting this image right from the bench where I took it on the County Clare side of Lough Derg here in gorgeous Ireland. If we had a bit more sunlight the picture would have been ultra-vibrant. I'm out w/ my kids for the day while Christy has some time to herself. We're soaking in the wonder of God's creation. Ahh, now THIS is the good life!

Friday, February 20, 2009

16 Ways to 'Be Like Jesus'

John Smulo posted this two years ago on his blog and reposted it recently. Every link is worth checking out.

1. Get baptized by the craziest guy in town.

2. Say and do things that are guaranteed to make religious people want to kill you. Repeat again, and again, and again, and again, and again and don’t stop unless forced.

3. Do amazing things for people and ask them to not tell anyone.

4. Hang out with the most despised, marginalized, looked down upon, and shunned people you can find.

5. When possible, forgive and restore people, even if they betrayed you.

6. Live in a way that provokes gossip.

7. Win the most grace competition.

8. Keep the party going.

9. Serve people (note: nose plugs may be required).

10. If you’re sad cry.

11. Empower people to do the extraordinary.

12. Act like a rock star in a hotel temple.

13. Radically simplify theology.

14.Break human-made religious laws. Repeat consistently.

15.Prioritize the most important over the important.

16. Let women with questionable backgrounds pay your bills.

If you would like to copy this and put it anywhere feel free.

[HT: Grace Rules]

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Love Takes Balls

You gotta love this church's Valentine's Day sermon focus - 'Love Takes Balls' . . .

Striking A Chord!

Wow! What did I do? I have NEVER seen this many visits to this site before . . I think I have an idea . . it may be linked to en event happening this coming Tuesday (27th) in the music industry!

Online networking 'harms health'

People's health could be harmed by social networking sites because they reduce levels of face-to-face contact, an expert claims.

Dr Aric Sigman says websites such as Facebook set out to enrich social lives, but end up keeping people apart.

Dr Sigman makes his warning in Biologist, the journal of the Institute of Biology.

A lack of "real" social networking, involving personal interaction, may have biological effects, he suggests.

He also says that evidence suggests that a lack of face-to-face networking could alter the way genes work, upset immune responses, hormone levels, the function of arteries, and influence mental performance.

This, he claims, could increase the risk of health problems as serious as cancer, strokes, heart disease, and dementia.

'Evolutionary mechanism'

Dr Sigman maintains that social networking sites have played a significant role in making people become more isolated.

"Social networking is the internet's biggest growth area, particular among young children," he said.

"Social networking sites should allow us to embellish our social lives, but what we find is very different. The tail is wagging the dog. These are not tools that enhance, they are tools that displace."

Finish the article . . .

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Beauty and the Church

(photo: Mount St. Joseph's Cistercian Abbey in Roscrea, Tipperary, Ireland)

Beauty is compelling. It's invitational. It speaks to us of the world that could be. It draws us back to the beginning. Back to the beginning that God authored in the Garden when ALL was beauty and light. What beauty we experience now is a mere taster to that beauty that beckons us home. All beauty reminds us of our eternal home because its fundamental quality - its nature - is to remind us of our origins in Him who is all beauty and light. Fearful, yes, and awe- inspiring. Beauty we know, is not limited to what is seen with the eye. That's the most immediate point of connection with a subject. It's first and foremost is known in the heart. It's our hearts, our 'spirit or will' as Dallas Willard writes, that is the core of our being. Our 'heart' is our navigational center. It's the part of us that is ultimately oriented to God and therefore is the space of conscience. Since God has made us for Himself, and He is all beauty, we now understand why our human soul longs for that which is beautiful. We long for our Creator. So, if the Creator's church is to be His representative in the world, it stands then that the Church MUST be a purveyor of beauty - a beauty that's compelling and mysteriously causes all people to consider their lives outside the loving care of Beauty itself.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Live Music Producer

Hey friends, I'm looking forward to having a conversation with this live music producer called Tom Jackson tonight. He lives and works out of Nashville and I met him about five years ago when I was in Nashville with my father-in-law when he was getting some instruction for the group he was singing with at that time called Freedom Voice. This should be an interesting conversation!

Btw, that trip to Nashville was the time I got a personal 'wave' from Amy Grant - a woman I had a boyhood 'crush' on for years. Nice!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Matters of the Heart Pt. Two

Spiritual transformation is a journey, and in order for us to continue in the process of being changed from that which we are into that which we might become, trust is essential. We CAN entrust our whole selves to God because our God is good and He loves us! Remember, He is always working with our best interests at heart. If we believe anything less than this, we cease to believe in God and begin to try to appease idols of our fancy. God has revealed Himself in the person Jesus Christ. We can know God and we CAN trust Him.

The spiritual disciplines, or practices, are gifts from God. They are in effect, ‘space-makers’, allowing God to meet us where we’re at as He’s always done right throughout human history. These disciplines can be practices that are familiar, as well as those less familiar to us including: Scripture reading / reflection, prayer, silence, solitude, fasting, celebration, service and worship. I’d like to make one thing extremely clear at this point - we are not holy (‘set apart’) because we do or engage in these practices. As Dallas Willard states, “The spiritual disciplines are what’s within our power to do which can enable God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves, namely, to become more like Christ.” The singular cry from well-meaning pulpits in many Christian churches around the world is to become more like Christ. The truth is we cannot make ourselves more like Jesus. As Dallas points out, what we can be about - the disciplines - creates space in our soul for the Spirit of God to carry out that most important work in us! Concerning our human tendency toward legalism he says,

“External manifestation of ‘Christlikeness’ is not, however, the focus of the process; and when it is made the main emphasis, the process [of becoming more like Jesus] will certainly be defeated, falling into deadening legalisms and pointless parochialism. This is what has happened so often in the past, and this fact is a major barrier to wholeheartedly embracing Christian spiritual formation in the present. We know that our particular modes of dress, behavior, and organization just are not the point.” [ROTH pg. 23]

Let’s return now to Jesus’ example set for us in Luke. The final verse from our reading effectively illustrates just what happened to Jesus following this time of escaping, testing and connection with God; “Jesus returned to Galilee powerful in the Spirit.” (vs. 14) In the following verses we see Jesus clearly stating His mission from God and then immediately going about it with accompanying actions on God’s part - signifying His approval, blessing and promise. It was in the wilderness that God prepared Jesus for His mission. It was in coming out of that wilderness that God provided Jesus with what He needed to complete His mission - the Spirit. Now if you’d like to understand more about the Spirit of God, please check out the book of John chapter fourteen. It gives insight into the Spirit’s role and function in our lives, but a holistic understanding comes from the entirety of the Scriptures. Just as God did for Jesus, so He does for us. One of the most decisive issues in our lives is the acquisition of our true identity and thus, it is the area of our biggest battles and deepest confusion. God reminds us of who we are in His sight when we make space to connect with Him and the way we act flows immediately out of our understanding of who we are. This is the crux of spiritual transformation.

Let’s recap:
* Jesus saturated Himself in the Scriptures (where God is most clearly revealed)
* Jesus escaped (regularly) into a period of silence and solitude
* During that time he was tempted and tried but He found deep connection with His Father

What was the outcome of connecting deeply with His Father?
* He came to know His ‘Abba’ (Daddy) better
* He came to know Himself better
* He gained clarity on His life’s purpose

As for Jesus, so for us.

It’s in these most precious moments of stillness before God that He restores our souls - putting us back together - bestowing hope, true peace, encouragement, challenge, understanding and therefore . . ‘life to the full’ [John 10:10].

“When successful, spiritual formation (or, really, reformation) unites the divided heart and life of the individual. That person can then bring remarkable harmony into the groups where he or she participates.” [ROTH pg. 30]

Another esteemed historical figure apparently knew the significance of the role that silence and solitude plays in the formation of individual identity when he said,

“Every prophet [one who communicates God’s message] has to come from civilization, but every prophet has to go into the wilderness. [S]He must have a strong impression of a complex variety and all that it has to give and [s]he must serve a period of isolation and meditation. This is the process by which ‘psychic dynamite’ is made.”
- Sir Winston Churchill

So, where do we go from here? How is it we can respond positively to God’s invitation to transformation? How can we be active participants in our own re-formation without being able to be directly responsible for it? Here we have again some help from Mr. Willard. He offers up an acronym that is extremely helpful as we consider our movement into the character of Christ. The acronym offered to us is V. I. M. ‘V’ stands for ‘vision’. We must have a compelling vision of who that person is we desire to become. Without a clear vision, we are lost - with no direction to move in, not even a road to travel upon. While we cannot fully know who we could become individually, we do have our supreme example ‘Yeshua’ - Jesus - God’s saving grace for humanity. Jesus in every way is our example of what it means or us to live our lives to God’s pleasure and fame. ‘I’ stands for ‘intention’. We must have the intention, will, desire to become more like Jesus. No one can give us this. We alone own our own heart’s deepest longings. The good news though is this: even we do not have desire for God - but we desire to have it - God Himself can provide it for us if we ask in faith. The final aspect is the ‘M’ which stands for ‘means’. Thankfully, through the examples in the Scriptures and the wisdom learned through the ages of the Church, God has provided this for us as well, in the spiritual disciplines. While they are not what make us more like Jesus (an end in themselves), they are in fact the means by which God does His most marvelous work in our souls! There you go, V.I.M. - Vision / Intention / Means - the ‘system‘ in the process of spiritual transformation. That’s about as formulaic as I get!

Spiritual formation is the process of becoming those people God dreams we can be, that He designed us to be and has destined us to be in Christ. It’s a holistic, or whole person, response to God’s grace to us. The key to this personal transformation, this catalytic conversion, is the submission of our heart (spirit / will) to God’s good intentions for us. As with the previous V.I.M. acronym, the process is contingent upon our desire and choice to enter it wholeheartedly. This ‘releasing’ ourselves to God is often a staged release, as we learn to progressively trust in His goodness to, and love of us. Unfortunately, so much attention in our world today (Western culture) is centred around the prominence of our feelings and not our choices. Feelings are the new ‘sacred standard’ by which true existence is measured. Personal responsibility has nearly been annihilated as shown in situations such as the person who sued McDonalds for causing them to be obese. Thus, it does not surprise that pleasure often replaces God and His good for us is thwarted. Willard speaks to this as well,

“. . life must be organized by the will if it is to be organized at all. It can only be pulled together ‘from the inside’. That is the function of the will or heart: to organise our life as a whole, and, indeed, to organize it around God. And of course life must be organized, and organized well, if one’s existence is to be even fairly tolerable to one’s self or those around. Every civilization of any type has recognized this. A great part of the disaster of contemporary life lies in the fact that is it organised around feelings. People nearly always act [solely] on their feelings, and think it only right. The will is then left at the mercy of circumstances that evoke feelings. Christian spiritual formation today must squarely confront this fact and overcome it.” [ROTH pg. 35]

So many complex outcomes from the mutation of one simple truth. Get with God. We have no shortage of encouragement from the Scriptures. In psalm 46:10, God challenges us to, "Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything." The NIV is not easily forgotten, it says it like this, “Be still, and know that I am God . .”. A particularly compelling promise is given us in Isaiah as well. God is saying He’ll put us together and re-create us into those most glorious beings that were his intention from the beginning through this invitation in Isaiah 30:15, “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength . .“ . Repentance indicates a change of direction in our soul. It stipulates a paradigm shift of sorts, a changing of our mind about something. Rest can be understood holistically as physical rest (appropriate sleep, intentional ‘unproductive’ activity, etc.), but it also describes a state of one’s soul. A deliberate reckless abandon of oneself to the loving care of the Father. Both this personal paradigm shift and this reckless abandonment are vital to our salvation. Salvation is not to be misunderstood here as solely ‘spiritual rescue’, but also a fulfillment of all God’s intentions for you in Christ. A healing of relationship with God, ourselves, others and the world; a right appropriation of our personal resources and a life lived joyously in God’s love. The biting truth follows though in verse 15, “. . but you would have none of it.” No matter how good God’s overtures of love are, no matter how generous are His gifts to us, no matter how much He extends Himself on our behalf - the final analysis is that the decision, the choice, lies with us to receive all that He makes available to us.

“God, the Master, The Holy of Israel, has this solemn counsel: Your salvation requires you to turn back to me and stop your silly efforts to save yourselves. Your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence on me—The very thing you've been unwilling to do.” [Isaiah 30:15, TM]

I’d like to finish with these words that have often been a challenge and comfort to me in these past years. They’re from someone who was once referred to as, “ . . a madman for Christ.” An accusation that is worth living into! His name is Ignatius of Loyola. He drew together a group of individuals to commit their lives to the pursuit of the One who passionately pursued them and to explore, emulate and share all Jesus gave of Himself to them. May God give us grace to respond the same.

“Few people could imagine what God would make of them if they would but wholeheartedly entrust themselves to His loving care.”

- St. Ignatius of Loyola

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Matters of the Heart

Being that it’s so close to Valentine’s Day, I thought it would be appropriate for us to consider some matters of the heart. It just so happens that ‘love’ is something worth looking into a bit further and the heart is, well, at the heart of the matter when it comes to issues such as who we were, who we are and who we might become. Our world is love crazy, but, as the old song says often we’re just ‘looking for love in all the wrong places, looking for love in too many faces.’ There’s a yearning deeper beneath this reckless chase after significance. There’s a hunger too strong to satisfy with temporary and exhaustible sources. What the world offers and tries to pass as authentic spiritual experience or ultimate enlightenment comes as no surprise today. Interest in alternative forms of spirituality, the re-emergence of interest in pagan beliefs and humanistic philosophies is on the rise. What has led to the growing distaste of Christianity as it has been practiced for centuries in the West? Respected author, Dallas Willard, speaks to this and to the greatest need of humanity.

“Genuine transformation of the whole person into the goodness and power seen in Jesus and his ‘Abba’ Father - the only transformation adequate to the human self - remains the necessary goal of human life. But it lies beyond the reach of programs of inner transformation that draw merely on the human spirit - even when the human spirit is itself treated as ultimately divine. The reality of all this is currently veiled from view by the very low level of spiritual life seen in Christianity as now placed before the general public. That low level explains why there are at present so many psychologies and spiritualities contesting the field - often led or dominated by ex-Christians who have abandoned recognized forms of Christianity as hopeless or even harmful.”
[Renovation of the Heart, pg. 20]

How will this trend be reversed? How can we truthfully and authentically represent Jesus, the Son of God, to the waiting world? How will those searching for the Answer come to know the One who imparts salvation (in it’s fullest sense)? The imagination of the people must once again be captured and captivated as they experience souls in passionate pursuit of the One who passionately pursues them. They must come to know a God that is beyond what they thought they knew - He who will make them into those people they as of yet do not know. We - as ever - are God’s best and first plan to reveal Himself to the waiting world.

What is discipleship?
Discipleship is a willful submission of ourselves to the will, influence and example of another. In the case of the Christian it is Jesus Christ. Jesus is the highest example of what it means to live a truly ‘human’ life. He, being fully God and fully man, is our prototype for God’s intention of what life lived best - or to the ‘full’ - is to look like.

Why commit ourselves to the process of discipleship?
Dallas Willard shares how we are all ‘formed’ by our environs: our relationships, schooling, parental influences (or lack thereof), perceptions, status, wealth and our natural human tendency toward self-centredness. But, in order to experience God’s best for us, we must be re-formed - or transformed. To this Willard says,

“Spiritual formation, without regard to any specifically religious context or tradition, is the process by which the spirit or will is given a definite ‘form’ or character.”
[ROTH pg. 19]

Who is involved in this process of discipleship?
Discipleship is a collaborative effort between ourselves, others and God. We bring who we are before God and He does the work of transforming our lives in the pattern of Jesus. In order for us to entrust ourselves to God, we must first be convinced that God is good to the very core of His being and that He truly loves us. Here’s where I offer another ‘serious’ question . . ‘What is love?’ There is so much confusion about the nature of love in our world which has led to incalculable damage done to countless lives. All of us have been touched by this collateral damage of ultimate misunderstanding.

As best as I can discern at this stage in my life, the most truthful definition of love is this: ‘always working for the best interests of another’. That choice to love another occurs regardless of how we ‘feel’ about that person at any given time. Now, since God really and truly loves us, we can know that every thought He thinks of us, every word He speaks to, or about, us and every action He takes concerning us is ALWAYS in our best interest. God is good and therefore we most certainly can entrust ourselves to His care.

How does this process of transformation take place?
The process of personal transformation into Christ-likeness comes about as we set our wills to following Jesus’ example and the Spirit of God gives us grace to enact emulation. Let’s consider Jesus’ example as shown in the book of Luke chapters four and five. Verse one of chapter four begins our study of Jesus.

Luke 4:1-14 (The Message)
Tested by the Devil
1-2 Now Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wild. For forty wilderness days and nights he was tested by the Devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when the time was up he was hungry.
3 The Devil, playing on his hunger, gave the first test: "Since you're God's Son, command this stone to turn into a loaf of bread."
4 Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: "It takes more than bread to really live."
5-7 For the second test he led him up and spread out all the kingdoms of the earth on display at once. Then the Devil said, "They're yours in all their splendor to serve your pleasure. I'm in charge of them all and can turn them over to whomever I wish. Worship me and they're yours, the whole works."
8 Jesus refused, again backing his refusal with Deuteronomy: "Worship the Lord your God and only the Lord your God. Serve him with absolute single-heartedness."
9-11 For the third test the Devil took him to Jerusalem and put him on top of the Temple. He said, "If you are God's Son, jump. It's written, isn't it, that 'he has placed you in the care of angels to protect you; they will catch you; you won't so much as stub your toe on a stone'?"
12 "Yes," said Jesus, "and it's also written, 'Don't you dare tempt the Lord your God.'"
13 That completed the testing. The Devil retreated temporarily, lying in wait for another opportunity.

To Set the Burdened Free
14-15 Jesus returned to Galilee powerful in the Spirit. News that he was back spread through the countryside. He taught in their meeting places to everyone's acclaim and pleasure.

As was His regular practice, again here we see Jesus retreating to a solitary space to be alone - away from others. It was Jesus’ regular engagement with God during times of silence and solitude that were indispensable for His life and service to others. Those were intimate moments of deep connection for Jesus and His ‘Daddy’ (Abba). Many of the documented times Jesus entered spans of silence and solitude weren’t easy or pleasant (in the desert, Gethsemane, etc.). Neither will they always be for us.

Another respected author on the spiritual life, Henri Nouwen, in writing on the practices of silence and solitude shares that it is there we face our ‘inner demons’ - those aspects of ourselves we struggle to come to terms with. It’s in those moments of despair, difficulty and pain that we’re encouraged to remain . . bringing our whole selves before God trusting in His good care of us.

Over two years ago I had the privilege of spending eight days in one of Ireland’s most well-known significant Christian sites at Glendalough in Co. Wicklow. Not often can we take eight days away in such conditions and this exceptional experience was largely due to the grace and generosity of my wife Christy. It was a thoroughly enjoyable and extremely difficult time. I had gone there to engage with God in a sincere time of reflection and listening in silence and solitude. I knew no one there and there was only one other person with whom I spoke on a few occasions during my stay. A miracle happened while I was there - yes, a miracle! It didn’t rain once during those eight days in Glendalough! The rain came as I crossed the Wicklow Mountains to the West on my drive home though.

While in Wicklow, I read an account of St. Kevin that spoke - and still speaks - volumes to me. As some of you may know, St. Kevin arrived in that beautiful valley and established his ‘cell’ and ‘bed’ at the far end near the larger lake. This was his place of rest, of sanctuary and of communion with his God. On a particular day, well before the Monastic City was at it’s height, Kevin was making his way from the place where he served the needs of people to the place where he escaped away with God. On his way there, he had to pass by the 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 the 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 to be with his God.

The principles that we (and particularly I) gain from this story are significant. 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 referred to 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. Instead, he 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 and silence) to receive from God what Kevin could never give himself.

** End Pt. One **

Saturday, February 07, 2009

A monk's life... but just until Monday

With Britain becoming an increasingly secular society, the number of people devoting themselves to the monastic life has been in freefall.

But now several monasteries and convents are fighting against the trend by offering taster weekends in the hope of bringing fresh members into the fold.

With little more than a crucifix on the wall and a Bible by the bed, the guestrooms at Worth Abbey are designed to resemble the monks' quarters.

"They have a comfortable bed, which they'll enjoy for the night," says the weekend co-ordinator, Fr Luke Jolly. "6:20am is our first monastic prayer," he says.

That is the first of five prayer services that visitors are asked to attend each day in the modern circular church, its interior bathed in natural light from the glass-domed ceiling.

At lunch the food is plentiful, with lasagne, tomato soup, cheese and salads.

No talking is allowed at any meals and instead the monks listen to a reading - today it is from a biography of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

But there is plenty of time for a chat afterwards, over coffee and chocolates or while taking a walk.

A look inside one of Worth Abbey's 'cells'

The quiet garden is set amongst the rolling hills with a bridge over a reflective pool, where weekenders go to contemplate life in a religious order.

The Monastic Taster Weekend is designed for men who want to explore whether a life of obedience, stability, poverty and chastity could be for them. Meanwhile, both young men and women can come on the Compass Project - a series of nine weekends. Neither has a specific charge to attend, although donations of up to £70 are accepted.

Finish the BBC article . . .

Friday, February 06, 2009

$200 Conversions

Some stimulating thoughts on the role of desire in life from old acquaintance Peter Rollins . . .

What does this bring up for you??

Amazing Grace Stylistic 'Mashup'

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Secular Morality / Religious Conviction

"Secular morality always runs the risk of becoming exhausted, or transforming itself into fanaticism, when it is not supported by a hope which addresses the human aspiration for infinity. It is in the interest of the Republic that there be a form of moral reflection inspired by religious conviction."

- Nicolas Sarkozy, French President

Trends in 2009

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Who's Speaking Into Your Life?

I'm 'borrowing' a post from Andy Kirk, a worship leader in Oklahoma City, USA.

He asks the question - and now I through him:

'Who, or what, is “speaking” into your life these days?'

So what speaker, pastor, actor, musician, friend, author, film, etc. is just blowing your mind right now and moving you - facilitating you - to become the person God is inviting you to be? What is it about what they’ve said, written, sung, done or exemplified that challenges or inspires you and leaves you wanting more?

I’ll start.

Here we go:

Dallas Willard on spiritual formation [Renovation of the Heart]

Henri Nouwen on the same [Way of the Heart]

Flynn Adam on living courageously w/ God [song 'Such A Time']

Dr. Os Guinness on character and integrity [When No One Sees]

Mark Batterson on following God's call on your life [Wild Goose Chase]

Neville Barnes on 'How to be a true friend' [personal friend]

The Heroes TV series is also doing something good to me as a follower of Jesus, but I have yet to discern exactly what it is.

and last but not least . . .

Friend and mentor, Michael Guido, on passionately pursuing God]

Monday, February 02, 2009

A Journey Into Hope

Here's a first hand account of the Inauguration (w/ excellent pictures!) from my friend and rector Canon Stephen Neill. He left our little home of Cloughjordan, Tipperary for the big smokes of New York and Washington, D.C. for the experience of a lifetime - President Obama's Inauguration. Here's his detailed and exciting account of the experience . . .

The 4th Screen

Calling All Artists

As an artist, what is your response… 27 million HUMANS in this world that are slaves?

Giving Children Hope is responding to the critically acclaimed rockumentary, Call + Response by hosting an art exhibit which will feature local artists’ response to human slavery.

Be a part of the solution. Take your paintbrush, clump of earth, or 35 mm film, and tap into your heart to create a tangible response to slavery.

If you are interested in participating in this event, please download the Artist Registration Form and contact Melissa Strauss by e-mail or at 714-523-4454.

Deadline for all art responses for “My Hands Have a Voice” will be Friday, March 27, 2009.

Continue reading the call . . .

There You Are!

Well, more than a month and a half ago I reached out to see who's out there - passers-by or engaging with what elements of life I share on the blog - and you answered! After giving (more than) sufficient time for responses to come in, please let me introduce you to the Fellowship, nine vagabonds, connecting via Nascent Narratives from the Edge of the World.

Aaron Lerch
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
Emergent-y spiritual thinker and software developer who likes reading blogs written by friends from my past :)

Stephen Neill
Cloughjordan, Co. Tipperary, Ireland
Church of Ireland priest/minister/pastor whatever...
Friend and co-conspirator of Shane's
Restless but excited follower of Jesus
Visit me at

Caffeinated Mommy (aka Kristin Thompson)
Springfield, Missouri, USA
Spiritual explorer, mom, wife of minister, and coffee lover

Stella Tushabe
Rome, Italy
Graduate student, discovering the Lord's goodness everyday, lover of travel, food and people from different parts of the world

Bob Heffernan
Cork, Ireland
Graduate student in Mathematics

Miz Melly
Co. Wicklow, Ireland
Actor, Theatre Maker, Film Maker, God chaser, Mother and Lover, Fellow Dreamer

Pete Waugh
Bangor, Co. Down, N. Ireland
Youth Pastor, writer, dreamer, thinker, provocateur, warrior, scared

Rebekah Anderson
Charlotte, North Carolina, USA
Playing with lots of little kids while getting ready to move to Ireland in 2009

Rodney Neill
Bangor, Co. Down, N. Ireland
Married no kids, civil servant, drawn to contemplative path of faith in my middle years

Thanks to each of you, whether we've met or have yet to meet, for taking a moment to give a little shout out here at Nascent Narratives! Here's to deepening future conversation should you choose to plug in again!

[Note: Nascent Narratives cannot be held responsible for any undesired publicity, unsolicited stalkers, cheezy product promotion placements or fifteen minutes of fame slots you may acquire from being highlighted herein - your problem! ;-) ]

Mission Into Popular Culture

photo of Andy Hunter

“The spiritual and intellectual qualities of American life are seriously degraded, and the soul of the nation is in jeopardy.”
- ‘When Nations Die’, Jim Nelson Black, cultural commentator / author

I believe the Arts (film, drama, music, television, the visual arts, literature, etc.) are a gift uniquely and strategically poised to affect culture at-large at this time in history. The Arts can serve as the prophetic, or growing edge of culture. This extremely influential arena must be entered into and engaged intentionally, creatively and sensitively in order to convey Christ in all His multi-faceted beauty - poetically, authentically and generously. Gifted people are currently employing their crafts to earn a platform for themselves in the marketplace of the world through the excellence of their work and the integrity of their character as they nurture a relationship with Christ. Others are sincerely interested and seeking, but without a guide and friend to walk with them. I desire to encourage and facilitate these individuals in their respective journeys with Jesus. This is my passion, vocation and purpose.

The need has never been greater to connect with and serve those in the public eye as they continue to influence and shape culture through their various platforms. In a public lecture by Dr. Peter Kreeft entitled ‘Christianity in the Lord of the Rings’, Dr. Kreeft shared some staggering statistics regarding major discrepancies between those who shape culture through the media and the majority of the American population. He stated that, in an American poll in 1995 by the Worthland Group in Baltimore, people were asked about their moral and religious values and then a cross section of the general public’s values was compared with the values of those in the art and entertainment industry. Fifty-five percent (55%) of the general public say they attend religious services regularly but only nine percent (9%) of people in the entertainment industry ever do. Eighty-two percent (82%) of the general public thought that abortion, at least sometimes, was morally wrong whereas only three percent (3%) of those in the industry do. Only five percent (5%) of the population felt that is was morally acceptable to commit adultery - to lie and cheat on your spouse - but forty-nine (49%) of those in entertainment industry do. The study speaks for itself and with statistics from nearly fifteen years ago, one can only imagine the discrepancies in values between those in the industry and the general public are still in contrast but not without significant effect on the worldview of normal citizens.

The need is great for those living life in the pattern of Jesus to be more accessible and available to influencers and shapers of society, and yet, that is not enough. Those in the public eye must first of all desire the assistance of authentic ‘soul friends’ and recognise their need of them. For those who do seek out and welcome help as they journey through life a “. . Gallop Poll showed that 66 percent of the people surveyed said that if they needed a mental health professional, they would prefer going to one with spiritual values and beliefs.” [1] For those who do have a faith in Christ, “More than 80 percent preferred to have their own values and beliefs integrated into their counseling process.” [1]. People know a principled person when they see one. Because of lives lived in honesty and truth before God, soul friends - or spiritual directors - can help address this need for those who will listen, serve and speak the ‘truth in love’ to those in the entertainment industry in action and words. After ten years of praying, preparation and waiting, I believe God is beginning to position myself and my family to serve Him as soul friends to those on a stage either figuratively or literally. We are not to ‘go it alone’. God has a team He’s assembling to carry out His purposes and we are part of it, needing to lean on others for support throughout as they also lean on us.

Specifically, I'm seeking to have conversations with individuals, communities of faith (churches) or organisations that have a heart for influencing the wider culture through serving those in the public eye, and who would be interested in supporting those who are called to do that very work. The three major ways (that I can think of at the moment) in which support can be offered are relationally, spiritually and financially. I'll say a little more about those three areas now. Relational support can be offered by those who come alongside us, as a mentor, in a particular vein of expertise or through their own experience; such as operating an organisation efficiently, pastoring individuals, generating interest and support for the work or as a soul friend to the soul friend! Spiritually-focused support can be offered as it normally is given - through committed, prayerful involvement in the lives and work of those 'on the field'. Financial support is the one that seems to be focused on most intensely when people are raising it, but in actuality, (like God feels I believe) it's not necessarily desired if those giving are not already invested in the work at an intellectual and affective level. If one chooses to support the work financially, you'd expect that they are in some way convinced of it's efficacy or are hopeful about it's impact.

Entering the type of work that I am, I feel the necessity of having people who are in it with my family and I 'heart and soul', as opposed to solely having financial investors. The reason I'm soliciting financial investors is because in the work one does alongside the 'cultural elite', it adds a whole other dimension to the relationship (oftentimes destructive) if they are invoiced for your time and service as you seek to serve them. It's true that some of them do choose to support the work through financial gifts, but it's not usually enough to facilitate the ongoing expenses of an effective ministry service. Therefore, financial support is sought out from those who believe in the importance of ‘influencing the influencers’ as they are shapers of culture in our world. It’s a matter of those that God is preparing to enter this field connecting and communicating with each other in anticipation of all that God will do as we respond in faith and expectation of Him. It’s the hunger and expectation for God to ‘show up’ in our lives that sets the stage for Him to do just that.

Is there someone God is bringing to mind that may be interested in this type of work? Could they themselves have a vocation to serve cultural elites as a soul friend? Have they already undergone study, engaged in passionate prayer and other preparations to make themselves available in this way? Are you thinking of others who would be glad to bring the needs of those in the public eye constantly before the Father and especially of those individuals walking with them in their faith journey? Is it possible someone may be on your heart that would be ecstatic about giving of their resources to invest in lives that shape the minds of others around the world through their influence? Is there anyone who might be qualified to give of their own time and experience to mentor these soul friends as they make themselves available to others? Could you be someone who might feel your heart resonating with any of the possibilities mentioned above? Please share with me about it if so.

My sole purpose in life is to help individuals have a better understanding of, and a more intimate relationship with, Jesus. I am enthralled and thoroughly fulfilled when I see people switched on to who they are, who God is and what He’s inviting them into.

May we ALL have the courage to recklessly abandon ourselves into the care of our God who is Love.

“Few people could imagine what God would make of them if they would but wholeheartedly abandon themselves into His loving hands.”
- St. Ignatius of Loyola