Category Archives: Gospel

Making Commitments

The other day I was watching the movie Once. If you have not seen this film, I highly recommend it. It is an odd sort of tale in the sense that it acts like a love story but does not follow some of the predictable patterns of similar stories. You can almost say that the affection is geared mostly towards the music that is created, or perhaps it is more about the art that is created when there is an honest and dedicated love underneath it all. More than anything though, I think it is a film about loyalty. The characters are loyal to each other, to their other loved ones and to the music that is being created.

My favorite scene occurs at the very beginning. The black screen opens up to a street performer playing his guitar with the case at his feet, and he is presumably alone on Dublin’s Grafton Street just belting his heart out. He sings a song that could be directed at a lover or the divine, either way there is a desperation and vulnerability that is gut-level honest and utterly human. Sometimes I have no idea why this scene impacts me so profoundly, yet I know that somewhere in that scene I can see myself so clearly. I can echo those words he sings because I have been there, sometimes I am always there. More so, he is dedicated to his craft, to his love. He sings as if performing for a vast audience, yet only finds one in the moment. It does not matter either way, for the creation of the art is the upmost importance here. He has made a commitment, and whether he stays on the street or moves on to different venues, he will continue to show up and to create.

I desire to be like that. No matter what, just showing up and creating. The results do not matter as much as the process, because the process is the true story. That is the story that changes us.

As we begin this new year, my hope and my prayer is to keep showing up and creating.

Here is the scene:

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The Perfect Space

“I wanna have friends, that I can trust…

That love me for the man I’ve become, not the man that I was.” 

– The Perfect Space by The Avett Brothers

 

For those who would like to keep up, I am going to attempt to update this blog as much as possible concerning my life in Kansas City and the transition I’ve gone through to be a teacher in the KCMO school district. I would also just love a space to post random thoughts and reflections throughout the week. Obviously, posting my be sporadic as life is chaos at the moment. But I also wanted to make ways to connect on the quick for those who might be interested. So, friends old and new…. hope you enjoy. 

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Get busy livin’….

“You don’t think your way into a new kind of living. You live your way into a new kind of thinking.”

– Henri Nouwen

One of my heroes is Henri Nouwen. If you don’t know who he is, read everything you can get your hands on. Nouwen wrote tons of books on the spiritual life and how to develop disciplines: not a disembodied experience that is other-worldly and transcendent, but a very earthly and active lifestyle that is centered on God and others in this world.

Out of all the quotes I could mention off the top of my head, this one above has had the most impact as of late. Many times I give myself over to the more analytical side of life, staying in my head with my various thoughts, dreams and imaginations. But l realize more and more life is not lived in that realm. Sure, it is an important and integral part of life, but it is not the center. The center is our doing and actions, the real decisions and practices we commit to. As Donald Miller says, a character is what he does. We love characters and heroes in movies because of what they do, not what they are thinking about doing. Therefore, it doesn’t matter who “I think I am”, it matters what I do. People will understand and know me by my decisions, not what I aspire to be in my head.

Nouwen understood this completely. We are changed by our “lived-out” lives, not by our thinking. We tell better stories when we live them out. Many of us want to have our convictions and understanding set right before we move, but that is basically impossible. And a lot of times, it just justifies our inaction. I don’t want to do that anymore, I want people to know me by what I do, not what I am thinking about doing. My insecurities, my judgements, my flaws will only be changed when I start taking action to them and when I stop trying to think about them differently.

– Daniel

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Taking Time in the Work

Image

God is an amazing artist, and he’s completely fine with taking his time in the work.

That is my take away this past week as I traveled through the American West after seeing the Grand Canyon. Over a process of millions of years this place was created and formed, and for hundreds of years it has made those silent who would witness it’s beauty and majesty.

We walked around for hours at the South Rim of the Canyon, stopping to take in more views and gaze at the expanse. And over that period of time I began to think about the time and consistency it took to create this place. The various processes at work, the slow and glacial pace and the changes that happened underneath that could not be seen. And so I thought about people, and about myself, and about all the changes that happen that we often don’t see occurring. I thought about how easy it can be for us to give up on things, on God, on others and on ourselves because we don’t see what processes are at work and we think things will always be the same. We think we will always be stuck in the same place and will never be able to get out of it.

And in that moment I became hopeful in a way I have not been for some time, because all it takes sometimes is time and consistency. In an instant society, those are words that induce anxiety. But we have to be patient and we have to be intentional. These are hopeful terms, not meant to discourage us. It’a a soft whisper that the divine speaks in our ear if we would just listen. Stop trying to control everything, just take time and keep working away… Eventually, you will see the changes. Take time to work on yourself, to be intentional with your relationships and patient with people. Keep hoping that there is a force at work that is weathering you out, and though this process can be painful sometimes, it also creates such beauty as well.

Trust in the process, and yet be consistent. Take time in the work you have been given to do…

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Lent (Days 27-29): The Language of Faith

 

Being part of a community of faith makes you realize the different trajectories of life and faith that are going on simultaneously. Sitting in one Sunday morning service you will have at one time: people whose lives are peaceful and restful and are present to the rightness of things, others who are experiencing deep tragedies and loss and who wonder where God is in the midst of it all – and probably are very angry with him at the same time, and even still others who are coming out of their own chaos and pain but who are re-experiencing the coherence of life and God one day at a time. These experiences are not always so neatly marked off from each other, due to the fact that in many ways we can live in all three of these areas at any one time. However, they do offer some clarification about seasons we experience in the life of faith. The Psalms match these varying trajectories quite well, leading one Old Testament scholar to even categorize three different strains in the Psalms that makes sense of these simultaneous realities in our lives.

There are Psalms of Orientation – (example: Psalm 65) we experience that everything is right in the world, God is at work restoring and providing for many and for ourselves; there is justice, there is color, essentially we see things coming together and being ordered well. In these Psalms we agree with the author that life is sweet, we are meant to enjoy it and to be satisfied by the God who has created such beauty and order. We are content and happy for it seems that God, others, and ourselves make sense at this time.

There are  Psalms of Disorientation – (example: Psalm 88) our experience is that life is out of control, utterly chaotic. Justice is perverted, all appear guilty and God is noticeably absent. All we can see is the grayness that covers over everything, there is no hope for life to be better and we are in despair. We seek, we question, and we beg but there is no answer to the pain of life. We are tired and angry, and yet there is still no end to the pain. The previous life that seemed so sweet is given a bitterness as we experience loss, grief and death (can be both literal and metaphorical). The foundations we had built upon have crumbled and disappeared, life is a heap of ruin.

There are Psalms of Reorientation – (example: Psalm 22) this strain only occurs after a period of disorientation. One reality has died and in its place there is a new reality being born. It is a time where tragedy and comedy, pain and joy, loss and hope are intermixed. There is the pain of the loss of what we had previously hoped and longed for that has come to pass, but in its place is a new hope is born and a new way of life is being organized. This is a process of course, it rarely happens in an instance but is a journey that we take one step at a time. However, with each step forward we move into a path that is more straight and coherent, thus leading us to a deep hope and trust in the power and provision of God.

Note: these are not clean steps that we take and we always know which one we are in presently, often times these things will happen at the same time and we will be very confused in the process still. However, I believe articulating all of this gives just a little more clarity to our present situations, and it also gives us a language for how we approach and live into our faith. So often when we experience disorientation, we simply want to shut down and withdraw, but there is powerful and evocative language in scripture that can guide us and help us realize that we are (a) not alone in our suffering and that our tradition is filled with people just like us that have experienced the loss of their perceived reality, and (b) that we can pray to God in our anger and confusion and that God does not fear our questions and honest struggle.

Jesus himself prayed a prayer of reorientation when he echoed the author of Psalm 22 in saying “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”. The beginning of this prayer is so disorienting and matches the feelings I am sure Christ had as he was on the cross. And yet, if you read the rest of the Psalm, there is a deep and abiding trust that the God who has seemed absent will save as he has done in the past. And that prayer is so pivotal for all of us during this season of Lent, we can easily sense in our own lives when we have felt this way. So let us be honest in our faith and in our prayers.

  • Lord Jesus, lead us in prayer…
  • Today I would encourage you to read Psalm 22 and to pray over it and make it more palatable for your life. Consider reading the Psalms throughout the rest of Lent, learn from the authors a deeper sense of faithful language.

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Lent (Days 25+26): Fruit We Bear

As we looked at the fruit of the Spirit this last week, I wanted to include a song that captures the point of what all this is about. Bearing fruit in our lives should point others and ourselves back to what matters…Christ. I love the lyrics of this song, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. This is Lost and Found’s “Fruit We Bear” (and I was actually at this concert so it is really cool to experience this again):

 

 

 

LET US AGREE, THAT WE WILL BE
SIGNS OF THE LIFE TO COME
AND MAY WE BELIEVE, AND FREELY RECEIVE
ALL THAT GOD HAS DONE

MAY THE FRUIT WE BEAR BE CHRIST
MAY THE HARVEST BE RIPE
OH THE FRUIT WON’T FALL SO FAR FROM THE TREE
ABIDE IN YOU, ABIDE IN ME
AND THE FATHER IS GLORIFIED
MAY THE FRUIT WE BEAR BE CHRIST

AS WE LIVE, MAY WE FORGIVE
GRATEFULLY EACH DAY
AND FOR PEACE, FOR LOVE TO INCREASE
HOLY SPIRIT, WE PRAY

 

 

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Lent (Day 8): Repentance

Okay, so I will officially be back tomorrow. But here is a quote from the author Frederica Mathewes Green on repentance:

Repentance is the doorway to the spiritual life, the only way to begin. It is also the path itself, the only way to continue. Anything else is foolishness and self-delusion. Only repentance is both brute-honest enough, and joyous enough, to bring us all the way home.

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