A quick alert post!
My article is Trust: The New Commodity of Leadership
Enjoy it, read it, pass it along!
A quick alert post!
Enjoy it, read it, pass it along!
This is the 2nd week of the Discernment Series.
This time it’ll be good to know about the terms Consolation and Desolation as described by Ignatius of Loyola in his work Spiritual Exercises.
BUT FIRST…some of you who know me know I’m not a Catholic. I’ve been trained at a decidedly Evangelical Seminary, called…not-so-creatively “Evangelical Seminary“. So why am I going on about a 500 year old book from a counter-reformation Catholic?
In short, because your soul will be blessed.
Because the tensions from that time (1491-1556 CE) aren’t here in force now so we can learn some very useful things that align with basic Christian theology. The major hostilities at the time made listening to what God was saying “on the opposing side” quite difficult. (Things were hostile to the point of murder on both sides, no less….how Jesus of them?!ugh.) So, from the point of my tradition, Protestants rejected both grimy bath water and baby.
In general, Catholics rejected what they considered a heretical and a rebellious front to the unquestionable authority of the Church, and didn’t see what was coming from Reformers as helpful or biblical ideas for doing church differently. (It took about 500 years at Vatican II to incorporate many of those needed Reformation era ideas, but a surprising number of them went through and were accepted. Masses conducted in a language understood by the people listening being just one of them. Then, it takes 50 years or so, so I’m told by Catholics, to see them flesh out at the parish (local church) level.)
We’re at a point (I’m generalizing here) where we don’t have to fear reading other streams of Christianity from that time. No one will be tied to a stake and torched, not literally anyway. I think we’re okay accepting that God has much truth to impart from devoted believers with various backgrounds, and this willingness to hear can aid our spiritual growth.
Ignatius was convicted and motivated to “find God in all things”.
I like that about him. This is the way we live incarnational lives. This is how our worldview and our true selves get put right by the love and dominion of our Savior and Creator, and his Son, the enfleshed God, Jesus Christ. While I find some of the ideas, concepts, doctrine, and long-ago language of Ignatius foreign to me, I don’t let it unsettle me. Instead, I let the Holy Spirit speak to my heart and guide me while I read. I pray with the ideas and ask for guidance. I admit I have a lot to learn. I leave some things behind and take in what is transformative and what will make me more like Jesus, the Christ.
Not every but of it will help me or you, but enough will that I bother to write about it and include those outside of my tradition and experience in my blog to open our eyes to some great advice and sage wisdom for understanding how to discern God’s will in transformative ways.
Ignatian teaching has it that these are two terms that help us decipher what is from God, and what is not. At first blush, we may assume that consolation is “happy…yeah God…feelings” and so forth. Desolated might be unhappy ones. But, hang on while we dig a little deeper.
For Ignatius, Consolation is a word to describe interior stirrings that are aroused in the soul that has been inflamed with love for God as Creator and Lord, and too every creature made by the Creator. It’s marked in every increase in faith, hope, love, and interior joy that bring a filling of peace and quiet. A drawing closer to God. A soul in consolation may weep too at the recognition and repentance of sins, and also the relief of the abiding grace of God. A godly grief may be a Consolation, though a difficult patch to get through. Most importantly Consolation is a gift. We don’t arrive there by techniques or things we do. God graces us with consolation.
Desolation is indeed the opposite of consolation, but note how Ignatius writes about it,
“I call desolation what is entirely the opposite (of consolation), as darkness of soul, torment of spirit, inclination to what is low and earthly, restlessness rising from many disturbances and temptations which lead to want of faith, want of hope, want of love. [In desolation] the soul is wholly slothful, tepid, sad, and separated, as it were, from its Creator and Lord.”
Desolation then is all the stuff that stirs our souls and draw us away from God, regardless of the subjective feelings. Some in desolation will not recognize it as that. They will be oblivious. And plenty more will not associate what feelings they have with interior stirrings of the soul. Maybe they’ll blame the government, the economy, circumstances, or other things instead.
So, now that you know which is which, listen and tune in to your interior stirrings. Consolation and Desolation are not mere feelings. They have to do with a conflation of responses and influences that are the movings at the soul level (our core).
Next time I’ll talk about the uses and aims of both consolation and desolation in God’s work on us.
(Don’t miss the next installation of the series. Use the sidebar to get the next update.)
I’m happy to have Addie over at the blog, and I know you’ll enjoy this, my friends! Thanks, Addie. To read the other articles in this Series by some amazing people, click here.
The Ways Blogging is Healing Me
In the spring of 2011, I hauled my 8-month-pregnant body to the podium at Hamline University to give my graduate reading. The baby’s feet were jammed up in my ribcage, and my lungs had so little space left for expanding that I had to pause after every couple of sentences to catch my breath.
The manuscript that I read from that night was my memoir, How to Talk Evangelical. I’d started my MFA program as a young, evangelical wife, freshly back from a year of teaching in China. I didn’t know that I was already up to my ankles in the slow-sinking sand of Depression. I didn’t see that wild, angry crisis of faith coming. I smacked into it at full speed.
My manuscript is a reflection of a five-year journey away from and back toward God. I was writing into the anger, into the pain. I was digging through the past, pulling sharp shards of memories out of my heart and into the light.
It was messy and raw and a little volatile, and when I was done, I felt very weak – like someone who has just gotten better from a long bout with a terrible flu and is maybe ready to try eating…but probably just half a piece toast.
One year later, when my agent told me that I needed to start a blog, I felt defeated before I even started. I thought, I am not a blogger. I thought, I have two really little kids and NO TIME EVER.
I thought that “platform” was about numbers and followers and selling a book. But it turned out to be something entirely different.
And here it is: I’d spent five years ripping up the rotten, mildewed boards of my warped view of God. A theology that could not sustain the weight of my pain.
But as I began writing my blog, I realized that we were not so much building a platform for a book as a new platform of faith. A sturdier foundation. Something I could stand on; something that could hold me up.
In keeping with the theme of my book, I began to write, twice a week, about evangelical terms. Cliches. Things like Jesus freak and on fire and feeling God’s presence. I wrote to shine a light on the ways we miss it in the evangelical culture, but instead, I found the light turned in on my own dark places. My own failings and doubts. My own unhealed pain.
The discipline of putting something out there twice a week, every week, feels like a kind of faith in itself. These days, the old ways of “quiet time” feel foreign and forced, but the blog has given me an unexpected way back in.
Term by term, day by day, I get up and look at the pond while the sun rises. I write a sentence. Erase it. Write two. Erase. Painstakingly, word by word, God is giving me new language, a new way to talk about longing and struggle and doubt. A new way of seeing him.
Where I’ve struggled to be honest about my pain in church and small groups and the usual places where Christians gather, I am finding a new place in the borderless internet. I am finding voices who echo back my heart, and reading them every day is like eating good, hearty bread.
I write, and it feels holy. I read, and it feels like community. And yes, there are days when it’s hard. When my heart gets bogged down with numbers and stats and rejection and the who-said-what of it all…
But most days, it feels like we are all building it together. Like we’re pounding it all out, nail by nail, board by board, with a carpenter from Nazareth. Like every day, I am finding my footing a little bit more.
My contribution concerns prayers of desperation and covers a bit of spiritual formation. I haven’t posted too many prayers, so if you have a moment, I’d appreciate your comments or feedback, below or over there.
Thom’s post (re-posted here) gave my heart a needed pause and conviction on my impatience. I hope you find it as much of a blessing as I did.
Please feel encouraged to leave comments below if these thoughts somehow touched your heart, or share whatever the Holy Spirit brings to your heart/mind.
Enjoy your weekend everyone!
08 Sep 2011 12:30 PM PDT
I remember the first time I heard the bizarre statement that repetition took away from worship. It was, not surprisingly, in a Baptist church. I had, probably naively, asked why the church didn’t practice communion more often. The response was that repetition made spiritual practice meaningless and unimportant: “If you do something too much it no longer has any value, so we only practice communion every now and then to keep it fresh and exciting.”
That is an American response.
That is the response of a person who was raised on instant gratification.
That is the response of a person who expects new, exciting forms of entertainment.
That is the response of a person who values change over consistency.
That is the response of a person who values feeling more than commitment.
Most importantly, that is not a Christian response.
The Christian response is that our spirituality and worship are everyday, every hour, every minute happenings. We are admonished to take communion each time we gather, to pray without ceasing, to pray in a certain way, to sing songs, confess sins, listen to the reading of Scripture, meditate, teach, learn. These are all things we repeat. Unceasingly.
Repetition is not unholy. It is a deep, elongated experience that should make us into disciples.
Repetition in worship is just like when you tell a family member you love them.
Repetition in worship is just like when you take a drink of water.
Repetition in worship is just like when you eat breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Repetition in worship is just like when you go to sleep.
Repetition in worship is just like when you go to work.
Repetition in worship is just like when you turn on a light so that you can see clearly.
Yes, I can readily admit that we can stumble into laziness or unfocused action in repetition, but that is not the fault of the spiritual practice, just as much as it is love’s fault when a spouse just mumbles the words “I love you” without any thought or care. We need to learn to embrace repetition in worship, the normalcy and comfort of sameness in worship, just like we accept this normalcy and comfort of routine in the rest of our lives.
I repeat: we need to learn to embrace repetition in worship. And when we do, we will become aware of the slow and steady movement of the Spirit in every aspect of our life. When we do, we will become aware of how God is steadily working on our holiness: through repetition.
There’s probably a good reason why there are no females on this poster. And, no I’m not going to say because Evangelical Christianity is basically a boys club with bonus points for popularity. It’s probably because for some reason we can somehow respect a goofy guy, and still take what he says seriously.
Is there a double standard? Take Tina Fey. She’s obviously brilliant, and she’s also cute, and incredibly funny. But, what if she cranked it up a notch, and started a devotional series, or starting sharing her suggestions on worship music, or maybe exegeting Romans 12. Would her street cred take a dive? Would everyone just start scratching their heads? Maybe that’s a bad example.
Let me try it the other way. What if Beth Moore did a poster spoofing Carol Burnett? Would this help women rely on her more thoroughly while getting out of their pits, or becoming more secure?
What is it about leadership or ministry and gender roles? I’m puzzled.
I may have to test it out personally. A Zena Warrior Princess outfit may in my future.
How should we read and study the Bible?
Debates on this will rage, but one thing we often assume that we can simply read the Bible and understand it. Essentially, the Holy Spirit just pops the correct meanings into our brains. Right?
If that were the simple truth, we’d all be, at least mostly, on the same page in Christianity, and we ARE! Um. bzzzz. No…not. at. all.
The Holy Spirit will convict our conscience of sin, and the Holy Spirit help us understand certain things about God’s nature and his grace. Yet, some huge obstacles lie before us concerning the details of Scriptural text.
These details can, and do turn into doctrine or false teaching that fall outside the intent of the text. In clumsy hands, dogmatic presumptions of the Holy Spirit’s opinion have led to all manner of errors, deceptions, injustice. And this study method, if you will, has even started more than a few whacky cults. Yes, and some involve koolaid.
If you forget EVERYTHING about this post, please don’t forget this. When interpreting the meaning of the Bible (a.k.a. engaging in hermeneutics) remember: A scripture passage cannot mean something different than its original intent.
Let that red text sink in. Please…Re-read it.
Seriously. It’s a huge deal once you truly comprehend it, and even bigger when you apply it.
A scripture passage cannot mean something different than its original intent. (That’s a needed re-refresher. Please bear with me.)
Understanding the Bible involves a continual tension between discerning…
Our understanding and the writer’s intent.*
Here are just 5 a mere few of the obstacles that can hinder a proper understanding of scripture:
– Language barriers (Ex. Jesus spoke Aramiac, The New Testament was written in Greek (a dead form of the Greek language now,) and English was taken from the Greek. This book collection HAS TO be divine and God-breathed to still transform individuals, whole communities, and cultures through its message of the Good News!)
– Historical distance barriers (Now is later. Stuff has changed. ‘nuf said.)
– Cultural barriers (We don’t wear the same stuff, and do the same things, at all. period.)
– Circumstantial differences (But one example: Every church has “its stuff” unique to it. Particular concerns and problems.)
– Our lens/perspective, education, and experiences (I hope this is self-explanitory. If not, maybe this blog is too much for you. No worries. Just search this blog for “humor” and forget about this post entirely.)
Quick & Hot Tips for the Good Book
When reading, and attempting to understand a Bible passage,
– include paragraphs and sections, rather than a sentence, a phrase, or a lone sentence. (Nothing can twist scripture more than attempting to find meaning in a small phrase of scripture, instead of taking the complete thought and verbiage into account. You wouldn’t want to be taken out of context, so you know, do the right thing.)
– Read a few translations (Don’t parse words. Just don’t. It’s major mistake! Chances are the translators had to give it their best guess. Plenty of words in ancient Hebrew, and Greek, won’t and can’t translate out of the original language. Translators disagree. A lot. So, don’t assume you have read the perfect word choice. The word may not have been used or known outside of that one, or just a few, times.)
– Consult commentaries (These folks have dedicated their whole life to studying the Bible, the ancient culture, the history, etc. They’ve studied deeper, longer, and harder than you, and probably have some great insights from their research.)
Yes. This post was a “BOOM post”. It may come off sort of… um… strong. I see people all over the place butchering what the Bible says simply because they are naive. They haven’t bothered or known how to read the bible in a way that will get things at least mostly right. They start to sound goofy pretty fast. Next time you hear someone spouting off about a Bible passage, inquire if they’ve done the passage good justice by learning it intelligently in these few ways; then (as nicely as possible) challenge their mode of learning and teaching.
Bible study is a vital spiritual discipline, and like prayer, fasting, giving, and all the rest should be done through being better informed. Learning is a continual process. Keep up with it!
*Some of my information is straight from Stuart and Free’s fantastic book: How to Read the Bible for All its Worth. Many agree that it’s the book par excellence, for understanding and studying the Bible. Give it a whirl.
Did this post help you think of the Bible in a new way?
What has helped you understand what the Bible says?
Servant leadership is a common theme within Vineyard churches with the emphasis on function rather than position or title. With mega-churches to simple church networks covering the spectrum of faith communities in the Vineyard, how the function works out will vary depending on the size of the church. I have reservations with churches adopting business models of leadership. The church is not a business with a CEO but the Body of Christ with Christ as the head.
The life of Jesus is the oft cited example of servant leadership. Some have raised the question though of service over leading [TheJesusVirus.org] Authority is often the issue under consideration regarding matters of leadership. Jesus puts it to rest as far as hierarchy goes: not so among you, the greatest is the servant of all. He presents the upside-down view of the Kingdom of God regarding authority.
Kingdom authority is different than the leadership offered in the business world. The world system is (often) beastly with no worries of serving others (although this is changing on some fronts). Those within the Body of Christ are called to submit to one another and to Christ. This would seem to include those in leadership.
Now with this level playing field of mutual submission, what of Hebrews 13 and other references to leadership? If we interpret these passages in light of the example of Jesus Christ, I believe authority and leadership will look different from commonly understood. Consider the following:
1. Recognize those in leadership as gifts to the church. (Eph 5) We often recognize the manifestation of certain grace gifts (charisma) in practice so why not recognize those people as gifting the church?
2. Reflect on their influence. As I’m seeing leadership, influence and persuasion are key. The words shared by them are not ultimate but should lead us to contemplate on the final Word, Jesus Christ. The ultimate authority is in Christ and any other authority is derivative of Him and reflecting His character.
3. Look to their example. In a few places the Apostle Paul encourages an ‘imitate me as I imitate Christ.’ I’m sure such imitation will not be 100%, yet we should be able to see something of Christ reflected and modeled in their life.
3. Help them and befriend them. Often in traditional churches, those in leadership face crushing loneliness and spiritual fatigue. If the opportunity presents itself, be a friend and support them as a friend, not as a leader. Allow them to be a simple brother or sister in Christ.
4. Reserve judgment. Too often when someone in leadership falls for whatever reason we tend to rush to judgment. Remember, they are frail human beings like the rest of us. They too can stumble and fall. They are not out of reach of grace. If you face this in your congregation, help to lovingly restore them in a spirit of gentleness.
5. Always look to Christ. Any leader in the church should point others to Christ, who is the True Shepherd. If the leader creates dependence on themselves rather than Christ in the church, the authority of Christ is being subverted. I’ve heard too much talk of leadership, authority and submission lead to fear and control. Those in leadership are to be a sign to others, guiding them to freedom, love and service found in Christ.
Only Jesus Christ is the head of the church, the question before leadership is this, are you willing to give up control for the sake of an authority found solely in service? When did ministry become means of authority rather than the place of service?
Well, friends, let’s continue the discussion. What are your thoughts on Leadership, and servant leadership? Do you embrace the “Upside Down model” Jeff mentions?
My alma mater Evangelical Theological Seminary has an ongoing initiative called Center for Leadership Impact with events and training for leaders in the community and business world. You may find it helpful.
Today a recommendation:
Here is a distinctively Evangelical slant at praying the Scriptures for our children by Thom Turner, using an Eastern Orthodox lens. It is an interesting place to begin exploring this topic, and enact practices like these for our offspring, (or the children in our lives). In this way, we learn how Christians have prayed blessings for children over the centuries, and God is honored by our petitions and praises.
UPDATE new post from Thom:
|A Prayer for Our Children: Song One
Posted: 31 Mar 2011 12:09 PM PDT
This is the first prayer of “A Prayer for Our Children.” This prayer should be read slowly and meditatively, pausing on each phrase and line break. A brief silence should be held between the call and response.
Almighty God, you nurture all Christians.
Raise my children (insert name of child) to be worthy of your kingdom.
Just as the Archangel Gabriel was sent to Mary and Joseph to protect Christ from harm,
I pray especially for God to intercede in our lives. Be my help, so that I:
Raise my children to be earthly angels.
Sometimes going to church doesn’t seem worth it. For heaven’s sake, wouldn’t it be better to just have breakfast with some family or friends, and forego irritating people, scheduling problems, overblown or petty dramas de jour, personality conflicts, politics, dodgy doctrinal positioning, and the rest of machine the local church can be? Is the Cracker Barrel growing a bit more more alluring each Sunday morning?
Seems like a no brainer, right?
If this is kind of thing is happening for you, in your local church, maybe church shopping is around the bend? Well, wait just a minute. Here are 5 Mistakes you can make (or have made) regarding your local church.
1. Making theological judgements for what are personal preferences.
2. Mistaking the “local church” for The Bride of Christ.
3. Misunderstanding the idea of “community.”
4. Implementing a consumer approach with the spiritual and transcendent.
5. Overlooking what is happening in the sacraments.
Being from a more independent faith tradition, I grew up with the sense that church, in the local setting, was mainly about worship and fellowship. Well, it is, but not in the small sense I understood it to be. Now a bigger view of Church guides my life, and my relationship with my God and Savior.
Simply put: Church is hardly about “the local church” or about any human individual.
Jesus saved humankind through his Bride the Church. That means our preferences have very little to do with what God is doing, and the workings of Church.
The Church is something universal, invisible AND visible, international, and local. It is bound by culture and history, and yet handily transcends them both. It may exist in a location temporarily, but exists eternally in every location. Yes, it’s bigger, in every way than you think, or have the ability to imagine.
We apprend it in such tiny ways at times…
Perhaps, we get caught up or annoyed by such things a personalities, worship styles, programs, or issues related to our doctrinal formulations, opinion, or personal preference.
We may go “church shopping” and miss the point completely.
How correct to say, “Church is not about me.”
It’s about WE.
In the sacraments, the community of God (Trinity) intertwines with the community of man (humanity). We receive divine grace. God is with us. God is with his Bride, the Church. Locally the church celebrates what the collection of Christians, past, present, and future is enacting, together.
Each Sunday, worldwide, Christ’s Bride gathers, and meets together. The church is with “him”, as it has done from the beginning.
Even as the earth spins, the variances in time zones cause prayer without ceasing, and the fellowship and communion of the saints occur, globally.
And with Christ, Father, and Spirit, we celebrate the reality of koinwnia (koinonia) with the Divine. Thomas Aquinas wrote, “the Eucharist is the sacrament of the unity of the Church, which results from the fact that many are one in Christ.” (Eucharist means thanksgiving.) Koinwnia is what Christ exercised divinely with humanity, by grace, through his work in his ministry, on the cross, and in his resurrection. It is how we commune with each other, and worship God in Spirit and Truth.
Through a local church body, we live out, and enact the Gospel and participate the actual in-breaking of the Kingdom of God here on earth. The local church is people, and people are flawed. What God has done, is doing, and will continue to do, is not.
This whole concept is all summed up nicely in the Apostles Creed, in which followers of Christ unite in spirit and truth. Many of us may not know the creeds, or declare them together with other Christians. But, this particular creed, well-established in the 300s A.D. (C.E.), and is the/a manifesto (see ref. link) of the Bride. It is a speak-act and agreement of followers of the divine Father, Son, and Spirit, for a way of living and being; and understanding the world.
To take this creed fully to heart will expand your idea of church, unify you with Christians of the last 2,000+ years, and may even help you forebear with the frailties of local church you attend, here and now.
From the Book of Common Prayer -
I believe in God the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth:
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
Born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, dead, and buried:
He descended into hell;
The third day he rose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven,
And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost;
The holy Catholick Church;
The Communion of Saints;
The Forgiveness of sins;
The Resurrection of the body,
And the Life everlasting.
Your comments are welcome.
When my friend and former classmate, Karen Weiss, sent me this information today, I knew I had to share it.
Lent is coming. This year the season of Lent begins soon, on March 9 and continues for 46 days until Easter Day. As Karen says, it offers us “an excellent time to clear away the clutter and delve into our faith. This devotional is designed to stretch and encourage you to look at life in a unique way through the eyes of saints that have walked before us. With the assistance of twelve different devotional classics, we can discover God in a new, relational way and grow stronger in our faith.”
I highly encourage you to take time this season to regularly reflect on the themes of Lent, especially in conjunction with a friend, family member, or small group. Make lenten reflection part of your spiritual journey this year. Explore this guidebook, or another devotional guide, that will take you deeper in your walk of faith. And please, keep me updated!
Karen’s devotional is only $7.50!
BUT-JUST WAIT! As a special treat, this “Freebie February”, the first 25 people who respond in the comment section, will get a promo code for an additional $2 off. WHAT? Only $5.50? Moly Hoses! Yes, folks, that’s how I roll. Happy February, ya’ll!
I will be graduating this May, and I cannot say enough about the wonderful school I have been attending!
The students, staff, and professors form a beautiful community, rich in love, thoughtful in understanding, and dedicated to helping others live–not just know–the gospel, and the deep, high, long, and wide love of God. The transformation God has done in my heart, by way of this place-during my years here, is difficult to sum up. But, my life is forever changed and renewed. My character, and love for others is stronger, my understanding of my God and my purpose and meaning in this world has blossomed. And, I am far better prepared for the next adventure God has for me since I followed a call to come to ETS. What an immense joy it has been. I’ve loved it the whole time, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Perhaps you’re at a crossroads, or may you feel the tug of God to go deeper to learn, serve, grow, and love your Creator and Redeemer. This school, my school, Evangelical Theological Seminary, would be a fantastic way to move along on your journey. The upcoming Open House is a great way to find out if this path would be a one for you. April 8th you can talk to and hear from students and faculty, tour the campus, ask questions, and learn more.
Here is a bit of information, (and the day’s schedule) for the upcoming Open House, April 8th.
Leave any questions you have here, or contact the ETS office 777-866-5775.