My friend Dave and I are wondering…with all the great songs being written in our day, how is it that we are not hearing "songs of lament"? How is it that it is always hope and praise and not what many of us feel many times in life…despair and searching? I would love to write more…it has been years since I have been in the habit of writing music. If I were to write these days, I would like to try my hand at expressing some more of the frustrations of living and how my soul searches for God in the midst of the wilderness. I don’t know about you…but it seems to like songs of struggle and lament might be songs that we would sing more sincerely than those of praise. Aren’t expressions of praise that much more "sweet" when we have faithfully but truthfully walked the road of exile and suffering? Give it some thought…
Here are some words of lament…can’t you identify with some of these honest expressions?
1 Save me, O God, *
for the waters have risen up to my neck.
2 I am sinking in deep mire, *
and there is no firm ground for my feet.
3 I have come into deep waters, *
and the torrent washes over me.
4 I have grown weary with my crying;
my throat is inflamed; *
my eyes have failed from looking for my God.
I’ve known Mikey for many, many years. I know him well enough to have witnessed numerous times of ups and downs in his life. I still like to see him get emotionally giddy about the talks/messages that he has the honor of delivering and sharing. It is day three of the Legacy conference in Calgary…he is talking Kingdom today…recasting a vision of heaven and seeing it not as something "out there" but as the reality of God breaking into our world and lives. Until we all start to see that the Kingdom is more about living here and now instead of the great "by and by", we miss the point of the Gospel and the core of our identity as followers of Jesus. We can live eternally now…we are starting Kingdom and heaven now…we are agents of experiencing and bringing the reality of the Kingdom into focus wherever we may live, breath, work or relate. Christian living is not about escaping reality or getting to heaven…living as Christ-followers is being filled with the reality that God has broken into time and space and into human existence and desires for us to experience the Kingdom now. God cares about the here and now…God isn’t wasting time until he can obliterate earth and usher in perfection. God is working now…breaking into the now…wanting to see those who love and follow him help all people see and experience a taste of Kingdom now. Remember that great question…"if heaven weren’t part of the equation, would you still follow Jesus?" The Kingdom isn’t JUST about tomorrow…it is also about today! How are you living it?
DeVries, Aaron and I just spent some time at dinner…talking about Mike’s talk tonight @ the Legacy conference. He’s speaking on "restoration"…trying to clarify and recast a vision for "constructing" a theology of the Gospel. "Good News"…that’s what the Gospel is…is it a message to be proclaimed OR is it something we join in or participate in? Isn’t the Gospel, the real Good News, an actualization and entering into what God is doing in the world and in people’s lives? Is the Gospel about spiritual benefits? Eternal life? Healing? Those victories that come with believing God OR is it action that God plans on once people answer the call and follow Jesus? We need a more holistic theology of the Gospel…it isn’t JUST an infomercial..the Gospel isn’t JUST something that takes care of your problems and my problems with brokenness and sin…the Gospel IS MORE…it is a lifestyle…it is action…it is the good news that God has not only restored my heart but now wants me to become an agent of restoration to the world He so desperately loves. As Scot McKnight once wrote,
"The question the gospel of embracing grace asks is not “what can I do to get in?” but “will I be a part of God’s work?”
You see, the good news is not about what we get out of it but how we get in on what God is doing…we can have the honor, the restored relationship, the trust of the God of the Universe to partner with God in restoring a broken world.
"The gospel is the staged drama of God’s work and we get to take part; God is the central character and, to quote someone more famous than Donald Miller, “all the world’s God’s stage."
We told Mike, cast that vision and you will be serving the students well…
Before Mike speaks in a minute, Aaron and I are listening to two stories…two young adults are telling their narratives…sharing pain, brokenness, addiction, self-abuse, promiscuity, family dysfunction…stories of restoration but not sugar-coated, "look at what Jesus has done for me" stories…but rather "this is my life and God still calls me to Himself and to participate in His mysteries and His Kingdom as it breaks into my world". You see, we are healed and restored but we are healed and restored for a PURPOSE!
Reflecting the image of God has been smashed by sin…DeVries just broke a mirror on stage here in Calgary. It is part of his talk on being broken and filled with hurt and shattered. I was thinking about it as Mike was talking…remember that section in 1 Corinthians…"now we are seeing life like looking in a dimmed or shattered mirror…but then we shall see face to face….what we know now is only partial…" Our brokenness shatters more than our relationship with God…it shatters our perspectives, our knowledge of living, our judgments, our decisions. We think we are living life with a clear view of what is really going on…but we’re not. Our view is skewed by the brokenness of our human condition. That’s why community is so important. Brokenness is something that should not only drive us to God but should drive us out of hiding and into the light of relationships. I can’t see myself clearly..but you can. Today I need to live my life embracing my brokenness but also understanding that I will have the kind of life that God promises once I walk into the loving arms of a waiting Father but also into the relationships around me that will remind me (when I’m thinking I can piece life together on my own or when I resign myself to the brokenness and start looking for quick fixes to feel better) of who I really am.
Ok – so Aaron and I ended up in Calgary Alberta today. There is a huge youth conference called, "Legacy", sponsored by the Alliance and Nazarene University here in town. There are about 500 students in a church building on the outskirts of town…Ben Kroeker of YLI, TEAM conference fame hooked us up with this conference. Of course, Aaron and I are both sick…really, fevers, colds, the works. But we’ll survive!
Mike is speaking now on the "Image of God"…we are looking at him up on stage and hearing that "good ole boy" pour his heart out to the students. They really don’t know what they got themselves into when they invited DeVries…I told him, "you haven’t said anything orthodox for 10 years"…well, that’s not entirely true…but it is close! In fact, he’s talking about the "maleness and femaleness of God" and the truth that finite language is attempting to capture the mystery of the God we worship and serve.
Anyway, we’re here for the weekend hanging with real Canadians…lovers of Moose, cold weather, Tim Hortons, and the word, "eh".
I’ll keep you posted…we haven’t had an opportunity to see how much of student ministry in Canada outside of our special friendship with Redwood Church in T-Bay, Ontario. So, we’ll have some opinions about what we see…for sure!
Marko over at YS shared this news today…I guess they have it figured out why teens are so moody. Not that this is overly "shocking" news…but it is helpful for those of us who love students. There is TONS of information available to us on the Teen brain…NOW, I’d like more information on the brain of a woman. In my mind, that would be helpful (sorry honey, I said this in jest! Love me?).
Here’s the article:
By Will Dunham
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – This might help explain why teenagers act like, well, teenagers.
reported on Sunday that a hormone produced by the body in response to
stress that normally serves to calm adults and younger children instead
increases anxiety in adolescents.
They conducted experiments with
female mice focusing on the hormone THP that demonstrated this
paradoxical effect, and described the brain mechanism that explains it.
as the scientists suspect, the same thing happens in people, the
phenomenon may help account for the mood swings and anxiety exhibited
by many adolescents, they said.
"Teenagers don’t go around crazy
all the time," lead researcher Sheryl Smith, a professor of physiology
and pharmacology at the State University of New York Downstate Medical
Center, said in a telephone interview.
"But it really is a mood
swing where things seem fine and calm, and then the next thing is
someone’s crying or angry," she added. "And I think that’s why people
have used the term ‘raging hormones.’"
The emotional swings are not always benign, Smith’s team reports in Sunday’s issue of the journal Nature Neuroscience.
to stressful events are amplified, and anxiety and panic disorder first
emerge at this time, being twice as likely to occur in girls as in
boys," they wrote.
"In addition, suicide risk increases in adolescence, despite the use of adult-based medical strategies."
also called allopregnanolone, generally serves as a natural
tranquilizer. It is not produced immediately with stress, but rather
several minutes later, and calms neural activity to reduce anxiety and
assist the individual in adapting and functioning amid stress.
not the immediate fight-or-flight response," Smith said. "And it’s
thought to be one way that we all can compensate for stress, so we just
stay focused and don’t go crazy, sort of focus on our task."
Smith’s team examined brain activity and behavior in mice before puberty, during puberty and as adults.
researchers subjected the mice to a stressful event by suddenly placing
them inside a plexiglass container just slightly larger than a mouse’s
body — sort of a claustrophobic experience — and keeping them there
for 45 minutes.
"Twenty minutes after stress, both the young mice
and the adult mice showed less anxiety. But the pubertal mice showed
more anxiety," Smith said.
Further experiments attributed this
increased excitability to the effects of THP, the researchers said. THP
acts on brain cells via molecular doorways known as receptors.
adolescence, mice have the usual receptors, but also extra-high levels
of a second kind that brings an anxious, rather than calming, response
when THP attaches to it.
"The parallel with humans is that in humans there are similar hormonal changes going on in puberty," Smith said. "So
the beginning of puberty is a time when a lot of emotions and responses
to stress are increased. It’s nothing new that teenagers go through a
difficult time. Hopefully this will shed some new light on it."
"The church gets in trouble whenever it things it is in the church
business rather than the Kingdom business. In the church business,
people are concerned with church activities, religious behavior and
spiritual things. In the Kingdom business, people are concerned with
Kingdom activities, all human behavior and everything God has made,
visible and invisible. Kingdom people see human affairs as saturated
with spiritual meaning and Kingdom significance. Kingdom people seek
first the Kingdom of God and its justice; church people often put
church work above concerns of justice, mercy and truth. Church people
think about how to get people into the church; Kingdom people think
about how to get the church into the world. Church people worry that
the world might change the church; Kingdom people work to see the
church change the world… If the church has one great need, it is
this: To be set free for the Kingdom of God, to be liberated from
itself as it has become in order to be itself as God intends. The
church must be freed to participate fully in the economy of God." –
Howard A Snyder Liberating the Church: The Ecology of Church and Kingdom Pg. 11
Well, it may not have had the "church run" like "The Passion" and "Narnia". It wasn’t touted as the "greatest evangelism tool of the century" and I don’t know how many churches bought out entire showings of the film…but I can say without hesitation that "Amazing Grace" was amazing! What was great about the film was that it showed a passionate man on Kingdom mission…Wilberforce was a real human being filled with flaws and "habits" that would be regarded by some church types as "inappropriate". In fact, I don’t know how many local churches would have a guy like Wilberforce on their elder board. I mean, the guy did gamble, play cards, get addicted to opiates (of course, he was fighting a debilitating case of Colitis), and hang out with all sorts of politicians without demanding his "evangelical" agenda. He was giving his life for a human agenda…human dignity, freedom, racial equality…just a few things that, I’m sure, are on the heart of God. So, go see it if you will…there could have been more in the movie. What is interesting to me is that they made a case for abolition in the movie without showing what many other filmmakers would have shown…dramatized footage of slaves on ships (e.g Amistad). But the film was powerful enough by telling the story of Wilberforce. I also loved the way they portrayed John Newton. I would have loved to know that guy…after watching a bit of the film, I could be his pal! Anyway, that’s my quick take! You might not be singing the song "Amazing Grace" after the film but you will be thinking about what difference your life makes as you seek to be faithful to what is close to the heart of God in your sphere of influence!
I’ve been working on my doctoral project over the last couple of weeks…in the process of studying "liminality" and its impact on spiritual formation and leadership development, I have read some of Robert Moore’s work on male archetypes. That alone is netting some very challenging material in my life…but then I turned to the issue of "grandiosity" and how its insidiousness causes even the most centered and grounded of leaders to fall prey to its destructive tentacles. Here’s how one author defines grandiosity:
“…when you have larger fantasies and wishes for yourself than your real life experience can support so they either make you manic, running around trying to keep up with their demands or they make you depressed because your desires are so high and unachievable that it soon seems useless to try to do anything at all”
Then Moore goes on to say that, "our anxiety declines as our unconscious grandiosity declines".
All this caused me to start asking questions of myself…"when I’m anxious, what is the real reason?" Now you might understand why my work is causing me to stumble…think about those quotes for yourself! See what I mean?