Archive for December, 2013

Ten Wishes for 2014

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Wishes for 2014 …

  1. Reminders that the Christian life settles on loving, caring, and doing
  2. Presence to both the unanticipated joys and unwanted sorrows that await 2014
  3. Wisdom to humbly discern the need to move away from “fixing” and “helping” and instead move towards “serving.”
  4. Interruptions that call us out of self and towards others
  5. Balance between work, family, and the quiet spaces
  6. Perspective to keep the storms that surround us in their right place, neither nothing nor everything
  7. Faith that centers on where we always know God to be … “a love that stretches towards the future”
  8. Discipline towards the hard work into those areas where self sacrifice, self discipline are needed
  9. Joy abounding around the gracious opportunities God has placed before us in the New Year
  10. Generosity, simplicity, connection, service

And of course another Super Bowl for the Steelers would be beautiful too!

Blessings my dear friends on 2014.


Christmas After Christmas

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

“Advent” settles around the rhythmic waiting for Christmas, the time of patience and prophecy anticipating Christ’s birth.  ”Advent-ure” … the other end of it all. And yet ‘the other end  of it all’ at times feels so depressed, so barren.  The difference between 8:00 AM Christmas morning and 2:00 PM Christmas afternoon is palpable, the inevitable let down.

Much of that letdown for me is that I mistakenly employ Christmas to welcome, consistently, the wrong kingdom.  The Christmas I welcome centers around gifts, and food, and the annual “this is the year I finally loose weight” promises that melt come February.   So Christmas then “ends.”  And God, in His gentlemanly fashion, consistently offers a different coming of the Kingdom, one more of a beginning.  This is how Emanuel Swedenborg captured that coming.

The Lord’s kingdom consists in mutual love, in which alone is peace. (Heavenly Secrets, 1038)

Contemplate those words for a minute.  The Kingdom … mutual love … in which ALONE is peace.  And I can humbly receive the gift of mutual love and peace to the degree I humbly offer the gift of mutual love and peace.    That is where the advent-ure might just begin.

Compulsive Mental Grids

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

Our minds often commit themselves solely to the defense of our egos.  As Emanuel Swedenborg noted, “We can freely justify anything we please.” (Divine Providence, 286)  That is exactly what we spend much time doing… laboring to critique, to explain a world that fully justifies all our behaviors and casts others in less than favorable light.  That misplaced labor in turn creates, as Richard Rohr noted, “compulsive mental grids”, well defended, well ensconced.

If this is the problem as it were, can we sense then why freedom is such an incredible spiritual gift?  It is not the freedom as the ego  defines freedom… a freedom of being able to do anything, have anything the heart desires.  It is the God-given freedom of a soul able to live in and out of the world, able to breath freely in the soft space that values the other, that remains open to dialog and conversation.

No compulsive mental grid.  No compulsive mental gridlock.



The Challenge of Leadership in Churches: Thoughts on Mandela’s Legacy

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

Thomas Friedman wrote brilliantly in a recent editorial centered on Nelson Mandela’s leadership legacy.   Mandela’s leadership flourished because …

  1. It was based on moral authority
  2. He challenged both his supporters and opponents in order to get both sides to do something big and hard together
  3. He trusted people with the truth, even the unpleasant truth
  4. He did big things by making himself small, creating a hopeful space where enough people trusted each other so they could unite and then do the hard work of transition together.  He did not make himself the hope of South Africa but instead worked at inspiring hope in others
  5. He asked people to transcend their past, not wallow in it
  6. His endeavor was to elevate people not just shift political constituencies

The article closes with these words.  People “are craving genuine leadership – leaders who lead by their moral authority to inspire, to elevate others and to enlist us in a shared journey.”   Those words speak movingly for a role of leaders in the church in general and in NewChurch LIVE in specific.  If you are reading this, you are one.

There is no escaping a simple, joyous observation.  Mandela’s model, those 6 points, echo Christ’s, a rather effective leader in his own right!  It invites us to yes, have our particular interests and passions, but most importantly to think for the whole, to be the breath of inspiration and hope, and in the end to truly lead in its greatest sense by allowing others the space to hear their call of a life beyond just themselves.

Compulsions vs. Intentions

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

A vast gulf separates “compulsion” from “intention.”

Our compulsions are born from pleasure centers.  Growing out of self-centeredness, compulsions tend to be known by the fevered neediness that drives us to choose paths that become increasingly irrational and increasingly destructive.  Compulsions fail to see the bigger picture beyond hedonistic survival and thrills.

Most people, particularly young people, have no knowledge that the purpose of their life is union with Divine Reality. They have been told that the purpose of life is to get a degree and make money and have kids and die. That’s the narrowed-down secular understanding of reality, which is de facto followed by many Christians. Most are no longer connected to the perennial philosophy, and just waste time fighting their own religion. This is not wisdom at all—it is low-level survival. We’re now living in a largely survival mode in most Western cultures. No wonder so many of our kids turn to drugs, drink, and promiscuous sex, because there’s nothing else that’s very exciting or very true.  Fr. Richard Rohr

The counter to it is understanding and cultivating intention.  Our intention is often the foil for compulsion.  Most of us (all maybe) hold within ourselves a deeply embedded desire to serve, to help, to live a life of self-less purpose.  This occurs when “our love for ourselves becomes a love of service … our love of power for our own sake becomes a love of power for the sake of service…. Goodness and service are the same things.”  DP 233

I think Swedenborg nailed it when he wrote that our job to deliver to life our best intentions on God’s behalf.  Service is the glue.  So thank you to those willing to live out of intention, an intention to draw alongside suffering and serve those in need.


Getting ready for Christmas on CyberMonday

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

Christmas is about the birth of Christ in our lives. Not the arrival of a sacarin sweet baby Jesus, but the arrival of God’s divine interruption into our normal way of life as the Kingdom breaks through in its wonderful power.

And what is that breakthrough?

It is nothing less than a remaking of our minds in the the image and likeness into which they were created by God from the very beginning of time.  And from the re-created mind, comes re-created lives.

The mind we mostly function under concerns itself predominantly with survival.  I love the phrase many authors use to describe this lower mind … the lizard brain.  The lizard brain is content with warmth, food, sex … the creature comforts.  But it holds little concern beyond that and definitely little concern for others outside of warmth, food, and sex.

That lizard brain is ok, as far as it goes. But when its penchant for mere survival becomes the modus operandi of our lives, we  find our lives swinging way out of balance, pulled part by addictions, fear, anxieties, all deeply honed in the lizard brain. , driven by a toxic blend of pleasure seeking and anxiety around survival.  It loves the scarcity mentality that drives Black Friday!

There is however something more, a deeper way of thinking and thus of living, a “peace beyond all understanding” that in turn reshapes our lives into the image and likeness they were created into.

Christmas is about THAT birth.  It is about the very incarnational nature of it all, where God-in-the-form-of-Christ comes to Being.  The gifts of the Three Wisemen?  They were offerings to God not slick purchases to stuff loved ones with.

What do we want for Christmas?   A nice question.  What gifts can we offer God this Christmas?  That could change your life and the lives of those you love.