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spirituality

576.152.https%3A%2F%2Felc.netadventist.org%2Flocal%2Feditor%2FIMG_0828-1 I like reading blogs.  I like reading my friends’ status’ on Facebook.  It gives me a sense of connectedness even if just through the computer screen. In our world, friendship has taken on different forms.  The internet makes is so easy to become friends with people we might never be in the same room with.  I am, specifically thinking about the friends I have made through reading their blogs, and Facebook.
I have found that vital to my success and productivity as a
Pastor (grassroot theologian – as contrasted to a theologian in the halls of ivy?)
Tribe leader (my churches are my tribe(s), see also Seth Godin’s Tribes (thanks Jeff G.),
hopeful Innovater (Pastor’s must learn to re-invent, re-capture, re-present what has been true for thousands of years and yet is brand new to a new generation of Christians and non-Christians)
Futurist (Pastors must be futurist,  attempt to observe current trends and what is just beyond the horizon).  Someone should write about these and the many other facets of a Pastor’s life.

I have been Pastoring now for just over two years and I have learned that:  90% of what I have encountered as a Pastor, I have had to learn on the Job.  Which means that I was only really equipped to handle 10%, that 10% was that I had to preach every Saturday, hold board meeting once a month and things of that nature.  For the remaining 90% I have turned to mentors, friends, blogs and Facebook to learn from those who trekked this course before me.  If you are reading this and tempted to think, “Man, anyone can become a pastor” that’s not necessarily the case.  I have the ‘qualifications’ if any exist to be a pastor.  I have an undergraduate degree in Religious Studies/ Pre-Seminary and a Master’s of Divinty (which is a two and half year degree) and I worked as a Youth Pastor for two years under the direction of a Senior Pastor who served and continues to serve as an excellent mentor.  The reality is that in our always changing world the skill-set I learned in seven years in institutions of higher education have become useless which is why I say I was only really prepared to effectively handle 10% of my job responsibilities (for a more in depth understanding of this constantly changing world and the skills needed to lead well in this context look at Leonard Sweet’s Soul Tsunami, Alan Roxburgh’s The Sky is Falling and The Missional Leader and Erwin McManus’ An Unstoppable Force– if you have other titles send them my way).

All of this to say, that blogs and Facebook and other websites have provided a wealth of information.  Specifically, BOOKS.  I know everything can’t be learned from books but they sure help.  Books help us understand in specific ways the world we are experiencing on a daily basis.  The reality is that some people are good with putting words to a concept and that helps.  So here is a list of books that I just purchased thanks in large part to my online community of friends and the books they were reading.

1. What Would Jesus Deconstruct?  The Good News of Postmodernism for the Church by John D. Caputo
2. GloboChrist:  The Great Comission Takes a Postmodern Turn by Carl Raschke
3.  Finding Our Way Again:  The Return of the Ancient Practices by Brian McLaren
4.  In Constant Prayer by Robert Benson
5.  Evil and the Justice of God by N.T. Wright
6. The Great Emergence:  How Christianity Is Changing and Why by Phyllis Tickle

The only problem is finding the time to finish reading all of these books.  I think I still have a few books that I haven’t finished.  Am I the only with this problem?

Finally and perhaps more importantly, as great as reading is there is one things that books cannot do.  They cannot act, they cannot move foward in faith, they cannot risk.. that is our job.  For me the best advice I have been given is “stop reading” with the connotation to start doing something (Thanks Samir).  Ironic I know, but true.

This week’s rhythm comes from the book Soul Cravings by Erwin McManus.  This excerpt talks about a common reality among so many of us.

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“There are cravings within me… that pull on me like an addiction.  They have always been with me and have even at times tormented me.  They go far deeper than any physical addiction ever could.  Beyond my flesh, beyond my mind, beyond my heart, there seems to be a place where my deepest and most powerful cravings lie.  And they do not lie silently.  My soul, it seems, always desires and demands, and no matter how I try to satisfy it, it always craves more.  No, not more, but something I can’t seem to understand.”

Ceinterview2 I am not easily impressed by many churches.  It is not because I have the most innovative, more creative, biggest, best (the adjectives can go on) church.  I am the first to admit that my churches have their own struggles and deficiencies and that’s ok because we work hard to be the church that is needed in this time and place.  If you are a pastor you will know that, that is no an easy task.  I read somewhere that the turnover rate for pastor’s is extremely high and the average pastor stays at the same church for no more than 5 years.   I believe that.

I have found that in our current context (21st century, Postmodern) it is not easy being a pastor.  I, like many of my pastor friends struggle to put into words what has already been true for thousands of years in a way that a 21st century mind can understand.  I am not always successful, but I keep trying.  So when ever I come across someone that does it well it impresses me.  I was introduced to the ministry of Erwin McManus several years ago at a time when I was at the tail end of my formal education in the seminary.  I was becoming disillusioned with the church I had been a part of my entire life and being exposed to Mosaic gave me hope.  Hope that there are churches who take seriously the message of Jesus and are effective at communicating it.  A few weeks a I came across a fairly recent interview with Erwin McManus and it gives insight into why he has been so effective as a communicator.  Here is the beginning of the interview/article.  At the bottom of this post is the link to the rest of it.

Erwin McManus calls himself a cultural architect. His college major was philosophy, and he spent most of his early, secular career as a futurist working with companies and organizations — and still does as he pastors Mosaic Church in East Los Angeles. The title of cultural architect came about when he and his team were on a boat in Big Bear Lake. He told them he was writing his first book and needed a metaphor that describes in a fresh and accurate way what he actually does as a senior pastor. One of the guys said he was an architect.

“There are two sides to my job,” McManus says. “One is the engineering side; I have to find the way through the structures, systems and processes that help people get what they need.  [To read the rest of the interview click HERE]

I have been working with the Clean Air Coalition in the Imperial Valley for close to a year now. Our main goal is to draw attention to the air quality in the Imperial Valley and ways in which we can become a part of creating everyday solutions to make the air cleaner. As a member of the faith community I have found the words of Jesus when he says, “Love your neighbor as yourself” as motivation enough to try and make our planet a more enjoyable place to live in. Our current project is tree planting in the City of Heber. This is where all of you come into the story. You can’t not help make the air cleaning in our city. If you live in the Imperial Valley then this means cleaner air for you. If you don’t live in the Valley, then you can enter into solidarity with us by donating a tree or a few dollars. One people, one planet, one purpose.

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Life on Monday’s isn’t always ideal. Monday for many is the worst day of the week because it comes after two days away from work (for most) and Monday begins this endless cycle of work and responsibilities. To quote a line from the Carpenter’s (They are before my time but I still like their music) “Rainy Days and Monday’s always get me down”. In hopes to try and remedy this blue feeling one of the things that I want to begin on this blog in 2008 is a post for every Monday that gives us hope, nourishment and encouragement for the week ahead and life in general. This week I want to post from a book I picked up last week, this book is not the usual kind that sits on my shelves but I was intrigued so I bought it. Joel Osteen’s “Become a Better You”. As I have read through it I have found myself quite surprised at how easy it is for me to pick up this book and enjoy reading it. The following I found to be profound and now I share it with you.

“Here’s the key: The dream in your heart may be bigger than the environment in whichyou find yourself(limited environment). Sometimes you have to get out of that environment in order to see that dream fulfilled. Consider an oak tree. If you plant it in a pot, its growth will be limited. Once its roots fill that pot, it can grow no further. The problem is not with the tree; it is with the environment. It is stifling growth. Perhaps you have bigger things in your heart than your present environment can facilitate. That’s why, at times, God will stir you out of a comfortable a situation. When you go through persecution and rejection, it’s not always because somebody has it in for you. Sometimes, that’s God’s way of directing you into His perfect will. He’s trying to get you to stretch to the next level. He knows you’re not going to go without a push, so He’ll make it uncomfortable for you to stay where you are currently. The mistake we make at times is getting negative and sour; we focus on what didn’t work out. When we do that, we inhibit the opening of new doors.(Page 16)”

For Advent this year our Advent Series was entitled “Hope Rising”, because we believe that in the darkest of times whether it be historical, spiritual, emotional, or mental – Hope Rises with the belief that with the Advent of Jesus he brought hope with Him. Hope of a new way to live that leads to the best possible life. This is the final sermon of our series that wraps up the series and introduces our new series for 2008. Click on the link to listen it might take a few seconds please be patient We’ve Only Just Begun

The phrase “the dark night of the soul” is a powerful phrase, those words reach down ot the deepest sense of our being, the soul. When I attended the seminar titled “The Dark Night of the Soul” presented by Mark Yaconelli I was not sure what this dark night was really about.

According to Mark the dark night is not, misfortune, suffering, it is not restricted to holy people, being over taken by evil or even temptation. Is seems that according to these things, the things that lead us to this dark night of the soul are not things that come at the hand of our own decisions. Instead its almost as though it is just one of those things happen in the life of person. As we journey, it is almost as though in this process an inevitable stop is this dark night. That can at times last as long as a fortnight. But I think we could all agree that even if it lasts one night on one hundred nights, it is still one night to many (night is of course a metaphor).

Mark made a strong point about what happens during this period, of what I would call “spirathy” (my word, combining spirituality and apathy). He said that during this darkness nothing sounds good. Whether it is things that are to fufil any desires of the flesh or spirit. It is a numbing experience. As he discussed all of this, I recollected in my mind of times when I had felt this way.

As a sort of remedy, or perhaps antidote he led us in contemplative prayer. Where in the silence we would focus on one word, just one word. For me the word was Shalom, and all we did was focus on that one word. If our minds began to wander, shalom was my centering word. And we just did this for several minutes, but I found it to be a powerful prayer. You should try it.