The Plunge: About Transitions

Some say transitions are like waterfalls.  Plunging over is not the extent of it.  You have the turbulent waters before and the turbulent waters after.  So when you move from one community to another,  or when you uproot from one country to the other, expect some anxiety.  Expect your stomach to feel unsettled.

This makes Jesus’ words in Matthew 6 all the more important: “Do not worry.”  And it makes me attempt an answer to his question, “how are you trying to add more hours to your life?” Worry grows on my heart like a vine.  One counselor called it, “Adolescent Paranoid Personality Disorder.”  That’s a fancy way of saying, “sir your have a fortress built around your life.  Loosen up.”

For me, one worry is about belonging.  It takes two to tango and time for people to get to know you.  Right now it is time for patience.  I wonder when I’ll feel like Merton who knew he was part of a family of which he had, “no illusions.” I look back on my former days, when time and time again, it was the illusions in community, which caused the most bursting heartache.

Now is the time for the plunge.  And with it comes deep transition.  From the US to Scotland.  From family to new neighbors (it hits me that my family hasn’t lived in Scotland for over two hundred years).  From overtired administrator/ minister to new possibilities for a contemplative life. Back to being a student.  I feel tossed about by transition these days when like Jonah, “the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me.”  The plunge is coming.

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Chapel/ Blog

Welcome to the Chapel space for contemplation and direction.   Below you will find resources for worship.  Worship transforms our hearts and brings us to union with God.  As Quaker Thomas Kelly put it: “God plucks the world out of our hearts, loosening the chain of attachment.  And He hurls the world into our hearts, where we and He together carry it in infinitely tender love.”

Like any chapel, we meet for weekly reflection.  Contributors will share devotions on a regular basis as well as link you to other good meditations.

For now here are a few good resources for socially conscious worshippers

Would it Be Possible for God’s People to Transform a Trail of Tears?

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about this phrase: transforming what was meant for evil into the salvation for many (Genesis 50).  I’ve been wondering, “God does this.  So, in a ministry shaped in the image of God, should we be doing this too?”

When we turn towards historical injustices in order to transform them, we attempt to repair the past.   But how exactly is this done? Repairing the past for the sake of the future is a complex matter and likely never finished.  Primarily, there is a spiritual element with which we must reckon.

In his book on God’s passion for ethnic diversity, Cherokee pastor Randy Woodley courageously discusses our stained American past and reflects on the nature of historical injustice.  Reflecting about a stretch of land once stained the blood of a Cherokee-British battle, he notes: “In one particular area we noticed that the trees were deformed, even gruesome. Not one of us could explain it, but I believe it was a visible result of the battle that claimed so many lives.”[1]  Elsewhere he outlines the systematic removal of his people from their lands, forced to march over long stretches of trail.

It makes me wonder.  Do we have to just live with these things in our past, or can we somehow engage them.  I mean, we can’t undo the past.  Nor can we really repay it.  But can we transform it?  For example, why have we never organized a mission trip to hike together on one of these trails?  It would be a mission of repentance.  Can you imagine not only how it would build awareness and empathy;  but think about the possible relationships that would be forged.  Done well, this mission trip could be a powerful way for future justice. Not only could we work on repairing the past together, but we could work on transforming it for the salvation of many including the future of God’s people now divided by a wall of hostility.


[1] Randy Woodley, Living in Color: Embracing God’s Passion for Ethnic Diversity (Downer’s Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2001), pp. 154.

Raising Healthy Christian Men

Livno, Bosnia

Today, it is not easy to raise a healthy Christian man. After fifteen years, most parents have handed down significant flaws to their boys.  And, many feel out of touch with the decisions their sons continue to make.  Fathers and mothers, from all classes, struggle. If it is not gang violence in our cities, it is substance addiction in the burbs.  Somewhere in the middle, the average mother, who loves her honors son, hopes he feels like more than a proud shelf of achievements.  And, if fathers are happy with their successful corporate sons, they should take a second look.  He is probably not free.  It is the boys who have gone through significant crises that end up truly thriving.  But even our diamonds in the rough seem lost without a map in a trackless desert.

What if mothers and fathers did not have to raise a man alone?  What if the body of Christ could help? What if our church found a way to connect our young men with the influence and experience of our elders? What if we were more proactive, as a community, offering our young Christian men a vision of manhood during an undeniable experience of Christian formation?  What if we could trust that God was transforming our sons’ deepest scars into gifts for the community?

The Contemplative New Testament: Luke 1

As a PhD candidate in Christian Origins, I spend a lot of my time in the Bible. What this means is that if you would trust a first year med student to operate on your brain, you will feel comfortable using these for your devotional life.  I have translated the texts with two main angles always in mind:  God’s Kingdom and Christian Spirituality.  I trust you will find these new paraphrases enlightening as you live out God’s counter-intuitive ways on earth as it is in heaven.
 

Luke 1.39-45

Then Mariam, filled with hope from Gabriel’s words, eagerly left for the hill country, into a city of Judea.  She went to the house of Zachariah.

And when she drew near, she greeted Elizabeth.  And it happened that as Elisabeth began hearing Mary’s greeting, the baby kicked hard in her womb.  And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

And she shouted back two spontaneous things: “blessed are you among women,” and “the fruit of your womb is blessed.”

“How is this happening to me?”, Elizabeth went on to say, “How is it that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  For here is a sign: as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby kicked hard with great joy in my womb.

“Blessed is the one (you Mariam) who believed God’s words to her would come true.”

The Contemplative New Testament: Luke 1

As a PhD candidate in Christian Origins, I spend a lot of my time in the Bible. What this means is that if you would trust a first year med student to operate on your brain, you will feel comfortable using these for your devotional life.  I have translated the texts with two main angles always in mind:  God’s Kingdom and Christian Spirituality.  I trust you will find these new paraphrases enlightening as you live out God’s counter-intuitive ways on earth as it is in heaven.
 

Luke 1.26-38

Then, in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God into a city of Galilee called Nazareth.  Gabriel was sent to a young woman who was engaged to a man named Joseph.  He was from the house of David.  The name of the young was Mariam.

And when he got to her, he said, “Greetings, grace-filled Mariam.  The Lord is with you.  And she was so startled by the speech.  She thought to herself: what kind of greeting might this be?” And the angel said to her, “Don’t fear, for you found grace with God.

Behold, there’s going to be a conception in your womb.  And you will carry a child full term.  And you will call him Joshua.

“And this child will be historic.  He will be called Son of the Most High.  And the Lord God will give the throne of his Father David to him.  He will rule over the house of Jacob for eternity. And the age of his rule will have no end.”

And Mariam said to the angel: “How will this be, since I am not, you know, active with a man.”

And in response, the angel said two things to her.  “The Holy Spirit will come upon you.  And you will catch a portion of the Almighty’s shadow and its most high power.   And therefore the holy child will be called the Son of God.

And if you want a further sign, your cousin Elizabeth also conceived her son in her belly. The one who was called barren is six months along.  With every word, nothing is impossible for God.”

And Mariam said, “if you want a sign, I am the servant of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.”

And the angel left her.