Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Weekly Smorgasbord

Time for another round up of links! Lots of good stuff here from how the church dying isn't awful, to sweat as an purposeful aesthetic, to stories and simplicity. Enjoy it! 
On Faith:
Posted: 16 Jun 2015 08:23 PM PDT
"Well, I've been dipping into this post-Christian world over here in the UK, the place where America is heading, and I wanted to share a few things. It is true that, compared to the US, the churches here are smaller. And those smaller numbers do present the expected sorts of problems and hardships. But what Jana and I have experienced, over and over, is that the small churches in this post-Christian context are vibrant, passionate, Spirit-filled communities. Christianity isn't dead in Europe. Christianity isn't in decline. Checked boxes on demographic surveys of "religious affiliation" cannot capture the winds of the Spirit. Currently, Jana and I live in Texas. It's a place where just about everyone is a Christian. Which means, to echo Kierkegaard, that no one is a Christian. Here in the UK nominal affiliation has melted away leaving churches behind that, yes, are smaller but churches that have been distilled, a Christianity that has been purged and reduced to a potent spiritual concentrate. The believers and faith communities in a post-Christian context are powerful thing to behold."
Posted: 16 Jun 2015 07:00 PM PDT
"You and I would do the same. Were God to show himself in the ways we so often think he should – were he to do things the way we would do them – we would probably never be able to accomplish our mission. We would continually be wanting to die in order to cross over. We would be like Flash, having empirical involvement in the world to come, but still having one foot in the current world. However, unlike Flash (who had Superman and Wonder Woman pulling him back!), we most definitely would cross over. Why wouldn't we? The mysterious would be unmysterious. The lines between this life and the next would be so blurred that we would not hesitate to take that extra step of death, even by our own hand. At the very least, if God were to talk to us face to face, we would never get enough."

Posted: 03 Jul 2015 11:43 AM PDT
"But more so these days there are scenes seen over the seventeen thousand odd days I have been becoming John. They all play now in my head, the silent movie of my low-budget technicolor life. I know it is now time for my voice to put words in other people's mouths, to describe the pain on the walls of the only past I've ever known."

Posted: 03 Jul 2015 11:19 AM PDT
"Nevertheless, fragility is ever present, sapping our soul of honesty, integrity, and authentic caring. To make matters worse, Christian sermonizers–preachers whom Cathleen Falsani calls "spiritual bullies"–man their pulpits like a captain on the bridge; they manipulate our already innate anxieties and turn timidity into terror. The perpetual fear of eternal damnation turns a fragile soul into a petrified self. We fragile ones go through the motions of life, but we don't really live it." 

I have about a million things on my "to-read list" but this looks fantastic.

On Relationships:
Posted: 11 Jul 2015 08:27 PM PDT
"Perhaps we're all guilty of over-estimating our good advice and underestimating the value of connection. People don't need a fixer, they need a journeyer. I know this because it's what I need, too."

 Love this.

On Stories:
Posted: 16 Jun 2015 07:19 PM PDT
"We [writers] decry too easily what we do, as being kind of trivial — the creation of stories as being a trivial thing. But the magic of escapist fiction … is that it can actually offer you a genuine escape from a bad place and, in the process of escaping, it can furnish you with armor, with knowledge, with weapons, with tools you can take back into your life to help make it better… It's a real escape — and when you come back, you come back better-armed than when you left. Helen's story is a true story, and this is what we learn from it — that stories are worth risking your life for; they're worth dying for. Written stories and oral stories both offer escape — escape from somewhere, escape to somewhere."
Posted: 20 Jun 2015 02:13 PM PDT
"Yes, we need to own a million heartbreaking stories of discrimination and prejudice, and make millions of changes, and hold space for a million tough conversations. But, if each one of us owns one story and makes one change and has one honest conversation where we listen more than defend or offer false comfort – we can do this. There is a way to write a brave new ending to one of the most painful stories in our history. What remains to be seen is if we have the will and courage."

On Simplicity:
Posted: 03 Jul 2015 11:39 AM PDT
"I am transformed by two simple lessons. The first? I have enough. It sounds so simple, so obvious. Rewind back to the moment that I contemplated making this resolution, though, and you'd find me anxious. Anxious that I would not have access to something I needed. Anxious that prohibiting myself from the shiny, glorious convenience of Target would cause some sort of actual pain in my life; that in depriving myself of new things, I would in some way deprive myself of joy as well."
Posted: 03 Jul 2015 10:42 AM PDT
"My desire for stuff, and the choices I make when I spend money have far-reaching implications. You know this. I know this. But who has the time, the energy, the knowledge to make only perfect choices? It's all so complicated. So hopelessly complicated. When what I want is peace. What I want is simplicity."

Posted: 07 Jul 2015 01:29 PM PDT
"All the things that I considered ridiculous up to this point in her book had been easy to ignore, or replace with a faith-based alternative. But this last bit sounded too sad for words. In the end, a tidy home afforded Kondo her "greatest happiness" - being surrounded by the things she loved. Not people. Not a relationship with the living God, or any god. Not faith or hope. Not love."

Interesting thoughts. I think this is a little heavy handed and preachy (if you want a Christian organizing book, good grief, read a Christian organizing book- I'm sure there are several). But it did make me think. About how (honestly, even if you focus on the writer's more noble reasons for a tidy home) it can become an idol. Put in secular terms, I wouldn't ever want a minimalist journey to take precedence over a life of love and grace.

On Hospitality:
Posted: 02 Jul 2015 08:40 PM PDT
"We always try to make our home an open and inviting space, even though our house is small. We are very happy to transform our master bedroom into a guest room and camp out in the living room, and our kids love playing host in their own room to visiting little friends— the more the merrier as far as they're concerned."

On Caring for Oneself:
Posted: 05 Jul 2015 01:29 AM PDT
"It's become imperative that I schedule in not quiet, but loud. I need the loud of movement and music and friends, of being outside and waterfalls and boat rides and swimming. Oh goodness I love immersing myself deep into the water where the sound goes away and the water glides over my back and the light—the blessed light sifts in and dances under the surface."

On Blogging:
Posted: 20 Jun 2015 02:15 PM PDT
"Where else is there such a powerful reader/writer connection — a conversation, a call to interaction, a buffet of topics and ideas and thoughts and insights? It's an invitation into the living, breathing, fighting, wild, loud, raucous international family of humanity. It's the coolest thing."

On Sweat:
Posted: 03 Jul 2015 10:46 AM PDT
"I think the key items to this look include: a good highlighter for your cheekbones, a slightly slippery lip gloss, and a complete disregard for wintertime values like matte skin and a comfortable internal body temperature. What bodily functions are you making peace with this summer? Tell me!!"

Noteworthy Quotes from the Week(or Month):

"It's hard for me to admit when I'm wrong. It's partly my personality, partly good-old-fashioned sinful pride, partly just what it means to be human. But I've been thinking today it's also got something to do with this lingering sense that God punishes us for being wrong. Growing up, I heard a lot of Christians say that if we get our theology wrong, if we make mistakes in how we understand the Trinity or atonement or religious pluralism, we risk getting spewed out of God's mouth and sent straight to hell for all of eternity. (I didn't pick this up from my parents so much as the broader religious culture. My parents always spoke of God in loving, parental terms, and they approached their own faith & theology with great humility.) It's a frightful thing - thinking you have to get God right in order to get God to love you, thinking you're always one error away from damnation. It's a kind of legalism, really. And to this day, I fight like hell to prove I'm right about religion and politics, partly because in the back of mind I sense there are dire consequences to being wrong. How ironic. The very condition of humanity is to be wrong about God. The moment we figure God out, God ceases to be God. Maybe it's time to embrace the mystery and let ourselves off the hook." -Rachel Held Evans 

My life is a witness to vulgar grace–a grace that amazes as it offends. A grace that pays the eager beaver who works all day long the same wages as the grinningdrunk who shows up a ten till five. A grace that hikes up the robe and runs breakneck toward the prodigal reeking of sin and wraps him up and decides to throw a party no ifs, ands or buts. A grace that raises bloodshot eyes to a dying theif’s request–”Please, remember me”–and assures him, “You bet!” A grace that is the pleasure of the Father, fleshed out in the carpenter Messiah, Jesus the Christ, who left His Father’s side not for heaven’s sake but for our sakes, yours and mind. This vulgar grace is indiscriminate compassion. It works without asking anything of us. It’s not cheap. It’s free, and as such will always be a banana peel for the orthodox foot and a fairy tale for the grown-up sensibility. Grace is sufficient even though we huff and puff with all our might to try to find something or someone it cannot cover. Grace is enough. He is enough. Jesus is enough.
-Robert Farrar Capon

"If all of your friends hold all of the same opinions that you do, you need to widen your circle of friends." Condaleza Rice 
Pentecost! It is the biggest day of the entire year at our church. Why? Evangelicalism today seems to be fond of saying things like "Jesus is enough." But He wasn't, and isn't. Not even Jesus thought that. He said that Another would be sent. And in Acts 2 the gathered believers had the opportunity to see what He meant. Somewhere E. Stanley Jones wrote that there is a line that runs straight through Pentecost Sunday. On one side of the line you have denial, betrayal, hesitancy and the believers behind closed doors. On the other side of the line you have courage, witness, conversions, a Great Commission march. I know which side of that line I want my church to be on! "There was a time when the Christian Church celebrated Whitsunday, the anniversary of the coming of the Spirit, more than it did Christmas, the anniversary of the coming of Christ. Now Whitsunday has largely dropped out. Did we find it was easier to celebrate Christ's birth than it was to be born again? Was it easier to commemorate his coming into the world than it was for us to go with his message into the world? Did it cost less to give gifts at Christmas than to give ourselves at Pentecost? Christ is the festival of God with us. Pentecost is the festival of God in us. Is he more with us than in us? "Go through Palestine and you will find that the Christian Church has fastened on almost every important event in the Old an New Testaments and has commemorated them by the erection of a Christian shrine. But none has been erected in commemoration of its own birthday, Pentecost." (E. Stanley Jones, The Christ of Every Road) We erect no shrine today on Pentecost Sunday. We don't plot to commercialize the day like our culture has done with Christmas and Easter. But we celebrate the birthday of the Church and anticipate the best days that are coming for her witness in the world. And they are coming because of the Holy Spirit, our precious Jesus and "our Father in heaven." Happy Pentecost Sunday! -Matt Friedeman
"The gospel is absolutely scandalous, but that doesn't mean we sweep scandals under the rug." -Nate Pyle

"We are created in the imago dei. We are transformed into the imago Christi. That's the Holy Spirit, discipleship, sanctification, and grace."- Nate Pyle

Something that has become clear in the last couple of weeks: so many people, I would even say most of us, are dealing with brokenness and crapstorms and situations and things falling apart, but we look fine on the outside. We know how to camouflage into a world that prefers everything on the rails. We know how to say "fine, thanks" and act normal enough to pass. Sometimes we don't know how to explain our truths, sometimes we are afraid of the inevitable reaction, sometimes we don't want to admit where we are actually at. If we knew what was really going on, we would be so much kinder, gentler, and more understanding with each other. We would understand that fear sometimes looks like anger, and that sadness sometimes looks like cool detachment, and that pain sometimes looks like cynicism. The exaggerated reaction usually belies something very raw underneath. We would be less careless with our words and ideologies and blanket statements and casual judgments, because we would understand that the wounded are constantly among us. Sometimes they are sitting right next to us pretending to smile and nod while we nonchalantly pour salt into a hidden wound. Or we are the wounded, holding back tears and trying to blend into our environment. Life is hard and people are struggling. We would do well to assume most folks are far more tender than they are letting on. We should treat people with a disproportionate amount of grace, because the worst thing that could happen ISN'T that they didn't really need it when we offered it...but that they really did need it and we failed to notice. -Jen Hatmaker 

Noteworthy Images from the Week (or Month):







Hope you enjoyed! 

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