A Way to Pray Through the Day!

Looking for a new, or at least, deeper faith walk this year?

If you’re like me, then you are just now coming to rest after a busy holiday season.  In the midst of the chaos, I rediscovered a way to pray that aligns perfectly with Paul’s encouragement to:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  I Thessalonians 5

This way of praying is one way I am experiencing the presence of God, who is alive within me and active among us!  It’s another step in our journey at Pillar.

An adventure, really.  An adventure called, “Set Sail with Us as we Explore, Experience, and Enjoy, the With-God-Life Jesus proclaims and makes possible.”

One of the ways I am connecting with the presence of Christ and the with-God-life is through the practice of Fixed-Hour-Prayer, or as I like to say, “praying your way through your day.”

If you’d like to settle into the presence of Christ throughout your day, check out this brief video and then download the prayer page!

Youtube Link: A Way to Pray Through The Day

Prayer Page: [download-attachment id=”5456″ title=”Pillar A Way to Pray Throughout the Day”]

It might be helpful if I define the term Spiritual Rhythms (Disciplines) so that you know exactly what I mean:

Spiritual Rhythms empower us to live fully into the present reality of God.  They are not an ‘end’ in and of themselves.   They are a means to an end.  They don’t earn any favor with God or serve as some arbitrary measure of our spiritual success.  They are practices of grace, to be experienced over and over again (habit), that awaken us to the presence of Christ in our midst.  As we are awakened, we are then invited to abide with Him.  As we abide with Him, we then begin to live a Jesus-way of life.  A way of life that will experience God’s goodness in our world as we receive His goodness within our hearts and bring His goodness to others.

In other words, Spiritual rhythms help cultivate a life around the reality that Jesus is in our midst and that He is inviting us into an interactive and ongoing relationship with Him.

That means that Jesus is inviting our children and youth to experience him in their home, the hallways at school, the lunchroom, neighborhood, bedroom, etc.

It’s a life lived with Him at this very moment, in this very space.

Our emphasis in January and February is on living a Generous life and the impact our generosity can make on our communities!

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Does Eminem Get the Gospel?

Does Eminem Get the Gospel?

Legend has it that The Times once sent an inquiry to famous authors, asking the question, “What’s wrong with the world today?”

To which G.K. Chesterton responded:

“Dear Sir,

I am.

Yours, G.K. Chesterton.”

Eminem’s 2013 smash hit, Monster, topped the charts in no fewer than twelve countries.

Featuring guest vocalist Rihanna, the heart-thumping rhythms and hard-driving vocals were greeted by worldwide applause and assault.

Many within the Entertainment industry applauded Monster, while many in the Christian community assaulted Monster.

Admittedly, his lyrics are often filled with images that ignore much of what those within the Christian community hold dear.

Yet, his lyrics also remind us of the hunger and thirst that both shape and direct desires.

It’s these desires that cause us to form and fashion a bevy of New Year’s Resolutions every time January rolls around.

Eminem isn’t the first to expose the truth that the human heart is fueled by desire.  Many of the world’s most prolific poets, artists, theologians, and musicians who’ve come before him have as well.

In fact, desire is a topic Jesus often addressed.

In that way (identifying what lurks within), Eminem gets part of the Gospel right.

It’s not all of the Gospel, mind you.

But, it is part of it and it’s a part of the Gospel that many of us wish to ignore!

Continue reading “Does Eminem Get the Gospel?”

Football, Formation, and Faith, Pt. 5: Vision Precedes Victory

Football, Formation, and Faith, Pt. 5: Vision Precedes Victory

The past few weeks, temps have swelled above 90 degrees with humidity over 70% and a heat index that often makes it feel well over 100 degrees down here in South Florida.

Yet, throughout the South Florida region, football teams are running two-hour+ practices to get ready for the upcoming season.

Why expend so much effort during the most unbearable part of the year?

Vision, that’s why.

Continue reading “Football, Formation, and Faith, Pt. 5: Vision Precedes Victory”

Football, Formation, and Faith, Pt. 3: It’s Always More than Friday Night!

Pt. 3: How Well We Perform Does Matter, But’s It’s Always More than Friday Night

Every high school football player knows that the goal is to win on Friday night.  That’s why they practice.  They repeat plays and schemes over and over and over again so that, come Friday night, they behave on and act from the habits they’ve developed in practice.

I’ve watched as the Defensive Coordinator and his staff, have run a particular defensive scheme over and over again.  At times, it seems, they’ve focused on one or two schemes for an entire practice.

Every team participates.  The first team gets the most reps, but the 2nd and 3rd teams get in there as well.  And, while this development is preparing them for Friday night, the astute coaches know that it’s also preparing them for life.  It’s teaching them that:

  1. Every down is important.
  2. Every role, position, or job helps the team achieve its goal.
  3. Every player has a part to play.
  4. Every player needs to listen, respond, and carry their weight if the team is to succeed.
  5. You can only play one down at a time.

Those five outcomes will eventually seep into the blood stream and become part and parcel of who the player is becoming.  In short, they will contribute to the larger journey every young man is on: the journey of growing into a responsible adult ­– one who is a faithful man in his community, a faithful husband to his wife, and a reliable and dependable father to his children.

Who We Are Becoming Tomorrow Matters More Than How We Perform Today

Yes, performance matters – especially on Friday night, when the lights are on.  And, while that’s never the end goal, it’s a way to mature and determine the path our life will take.  This is the place where we tend to lose the ball in the weeds.

Like most fans and parents of players, I sit in the stadium every Friday night.  When one of the boys misses a play, busts a route, or loses the ball, the fans go nuts.  You may even hear a choice word or two directed against the child you love.

I get it.

The first three letters in the word fanatic are, after all, fan.  We get a little crazy.  Our reaction is directly related to our sole desire for our team to win.

Down on the field, however, the coaches’ reaction (though often no less animated) is as much about how the boy will respond given the next opportunity as it is about what the mistake caused in the moment.  This is subtle but important distinction between the two reactions.  One is totally focused on the moment; the other is completely directed toward the next play, moment, or opportunity the player and team will face.

The latter (exhibited by the best coaches) firmly corrects the player in the hope of a long-term accomplishment; the former (displayed by the fanatics) derides the player for his lack of performance and the loss it caused the team.  Indeed, development is honed in the crucible of performance but not measured in lone moments of mishap and failure.

Toward What End is Our Life Striving?

I’ve intentionally tried to accentuate the tensions that exists with football specifically, and sports generally, in modern America: They’ve become something we worship rather than something that develops our loves toward noble and truer ends than success, acclaim and popularity.

How I relate to sports (particularly my children’s involvement in them) will shape how I view them and what I learn from them.

In short, the attention we give to football begs the question: Toward what end is my life striving?  Or, perhaps a better way to put it, “Do we measure success by what happens on Friday night or by who the boys will become twenty years from now?”

I’m going to be paying attention to my son’s team.  I will be watching all summer long, in anticipation for the fall season.  I will pay attention to as many of the boys as I can and watch as our dedicated coaches teach them how to play a game that can, very well, help them become men.

As I do, I suspect that I’ll be surprised by the many who grow at a break-neck clip as well as those who seem to progress more slowly, perhaps with some level of difficulty.  But what I’ll try to be on the lookout for are those moments when manhood begins to take shape ­– moments when future employers, employees, husbands, fathers, and neighbors are being crafted.

In those moments, I will be quick to thank the coaches for their willingness to impart more than a game and the vision required to do so.

I’ll also say a prayer for the boy I see and the man I glimpse.

Formation (development): Lasting change that takes place over time, happens daily, play-by-play, drill-by-drill, and scheme-by-scheme.  It’s just not so easily measured in the short run.

Football, only for those who have eyes to see, reveals this reality and points us in one direction or the other, depending on how we play the game.

Disrupting to Renew!

The Marvel of Mystery In the Majesty of God

My wife and I are fans of Masterpiece Theater’s  hit series, Downton Abbey. We used to be HUGE fans.  Since the untimely and unfortunate death of our favorite character, Matthew Crawley, we are now mere fans.  Fans who, of course, watch every episode of each season.

This past week’s show featured the invention and use of the wireless.  Otherwise known as the radio.  An astounding invention firmly resisted by both Robert and Violet, the shows resident guardians of all that is pure and true.  In other words, all that represents the traditions they so love and the life for which they deeply long.  The cumulative moment of this most recent episode occurs as the entire Crawley family gathers with their servant family to listen to the King deliver a speech.

As the speech ends, Robert proudly concludes the evening hailing the King and the virtues of His very voice booming through the Abbey.  Mrs. Hughes, who seems to represent all that is reasonable and loving on the show, somberly intones that hearing the King has suddenly made him more human.  More, she concludes, like one of us.  To which Violet whispers in faint days gone by voice, “Is that as it should be?  Should he be more like one of us?  If we loose the magic and the mystery of the Throne, what will remain?”  Yes.  Even as Mrs. Hughes recognizes the importance of this moment, Violet grieves the both lasting and unintended consequences this moment is sure to bring – the loss of magic; the loss of mystery.

James K. A. Smith, in his prescient work, How Not To Be Secular, frames our modern culture’s lack of belief within a world that has lost its sense of magic and mystery.  Fundamentally, he asserts, we are an Immanent society.  A society closed to that which is transcendent; shrouded within a cloak of immanence. Such immanence (a world in which all we see is all there is) occasions the current apathy toward and life without God.¹

Smith further intimates that this world trapped in immanence appears to be the world we inhabit and may explain the unrest that inhabits us!  It’s as if this fully immanent world has somehow made us less fully human.  Aunt Violet has mourned the loss which we now feel.  When magic and mystery is lost, what then remains?

Smith further asserts such lack of mystery impacts the practice of belief within the church.  As a minister of the Gospel, I have noticed how little room we have for mystery.  We resist that which we cannot understand, control or render useful to our immediate needs or current crises.  This resistance of course, would include our relationship with God.

Copyright:  / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: / 123RF Stock Photo

When we cannot control, fully understand or limit God’s presence in our life to that which is useful, we resort to crafting a personal infrastructure limited to the immanent and impenetrable to the transcendent. This infrastructure consists of programs such as ‘seven steps to your best life,’ or ‘forty days to your next breakthrough’ or ‘ten tips on raising perfect children’, etc. ad nauseam.  No magic.  No mystery.  No majesty.  Just us and our Immanent infrastructure.  Just us and our abridged answers.   When magic and mystery is lost, what then remains?

Perhaps it’s time we regain the marvel of mystery in the majesty God! Such wonder and mystery have been woven into the fabric our tradition. They have been passed on to us from our Hebrew forefathers. Displayed vividly in the Gospel’s. Experienced richly by the early church. Expressed most recently through beautiful writings of Tolkien, Lewis, MacDonald, Chesterton, etc.

I am both challenged and encouraged by such authors as James K. A. Smith and others. They are helping re-frame the faith into a more biblical and fully human experience. I am also learning to be content in and open to the mystery bound up in the majesty of God. I am maturing in my desire to taste the transcendent through personal practices of silence and solitude, Examen, and contemplative reading.   My desire to taste the transcendent is also growing through corporate worship practices such as Communion, Scripture Meditation and moments of inter-generational experiences.

Musicians within the Christian faith tradition are also growing in their desire to taste the transcendent.  The Getty’s (https://www.gettymusic.com/), Sandra McKraken (http://www.sandramccracken.com/), Josh Garrels (http://joshgarrels.com/), Travis Cottrell (http://traviscottrell.com/) and Gungor (http://gungormusic.com/deluxe/), to name a few, are offering Immanently Transcendent experiences for we who long for more (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWlUs5E7NpA)!

I have learned that once I control, fully understand or limit God to being useful in my life, God has ceased to be God of my life and has become a tool in my life. Rather than being the End of life, God becomes a means to an end in life. It’s an end in immanence even as I taste the limits of immanence.

Disrupting to Renew!

Biz

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¹Smith, James K. A. (2014-04-23). How (Not) to Be Secular . Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. Kindle Edition.