Monday, April 23, 2007

Living Spirituality

I just finished reading Living Spirituality: Illuminating the Path by Dr. Greg Laughery, who lives and ministers in Switzerland at L'Abri.


I'll be honest: I'm not neutral about L'Abri. Wendy gave her life to Jesus Christ as a result of reading a book by L'Abri's founder, Francis Schaeffer, entitled The God Who Is There. And my parents were very involved in the beginning of L'Abri Canada, so I'm definitely a fan of L'Abri.

But on to Dr. Laughery's writing...

Greg (can I call you Greg?) builds this short-but-packed book around two thesis phrases: increased ambiguity and spiritual impoverishment. Right away, you realize that reading a book by any author out of L'Abri is going to be philosophical and challenging, and Greg is no exception. Here's an early quote on increasing ambiguity:
"One of the major, if not-so-obvious ways (Christians) contribute is through our tendency to succumb to false, but powerful absolutizing forces that may approach us or even reside in us. Some, for example, assume that Christian spirituality is absolutely anchored in reason, seeing, feeling, or experience. This type of asolutizing may seem to counter ambiguity, but it actually increases it by attempting to encapsulate spirituality in a one-dimensional manner and to do away with a necessary dialogical tension." (page 8)
Greg's depiction of impoverished spirituality includes a rather accurate, if stinging, assessment of churches that have become "institutionalized":
"This is partially due to the fact that Christians often seem to be primarily interested in themselves: propogating their programs, building their churches, even manipulating some of their own in order to achieve social status and accomplish their goals and aims. People are left behind in the wake of promising words that give the pretense of care and concern, but translate into intolerable levels of neglect and inconsistent waffling." (page 15)
Greg then takes us on an insightful journey, rooting his understanding of a "living spirituality" in the Creation account. From this "Creation map", Greg moves forward into Covenant, and deals with an assortment of theological and ethical implications for missional Christ-followers, as he admonishes us to "choose life, and not death". Here's a few gems:
  • On the problem of evil: "Furthermore God, as creational, personal good precedes personal evil, thereby restricting it to a parasitic status."

  • On Christian responsibility to steward Creation: "As God has not left creation or humans to desolation, decay, or ultimate death, neither should we consent to dying forms of spirituality that have no capacity to redeem the created."

  • On Jesus and the Kingdom of God: "In so doing, He defies Satan (referring to Jesus' temptation), begins to invade his territory and stronghold, thus signifying that God's rule is breaking in to defeat death and to bring about redemption... God's Kingdom usually refers to the explosive sphere of God's dynamic reign or rule that has both already arrived and is not yet complete."

  • On the effect of sin: "All that is sinful fails to contribute to life in any living way. Whatever its pretensions, or our assumptions, it offers us zero, brings us no real advantages, and leaves us aimlessly wandering away from the path to life."

  • "Christians are facing two dangers: become as entirely ambiguous, or exhaustively certain as anyone else on matters of knowledge. When it comes to knowledge, we too often tend to embrace the perspective of total ambiguity or complete certainty, in exchange for sufficient knowledge, which is truly spiritual... When Christians take the role of 'know-it-alls' or 'know-nothings', they are contributing to impoverished spirituality."

  • "Memories may haunt or revive you -- but either of these outcomes may contribute to losing the path. If you are always returning to your past and reliving pain or vanity, then you are following your own map, not God's."

  • "Our actions will never be perfect, but nevertheless we are to continue to seek to demonstrate love in the midst of sin... We have, generally speaking, become unskilled and illiterate map readers, and this is bound to carry with it grave consequences for our spirituality and our communities."

    And finally (SO many gems I wish I could include here!)...

  • "Reversing spiritual impoverishment is dependent on a growing awareness that, in the midst of the brokenness and sin, God already -- through Christ -- restores that which He made, and He will do so completely at the end of time."
To sum up, I really really enjoyed this book. The chapters are short and to the point, and something that I could picture in my mind's eye as I read were various L'Abri students (whose stories are sprinkled throughout the book) coming up to Greg and saying, "Yeah, but what about...???" And then Greg wrestling through answers for real people, and not just an intellectual exercise.

Aside from the spiritual depth of this writing (which is considerable), one of its most endearing features for me was this sense of authenticity; you can easily spot that much of what Greg writes has been tested and refined in the fires of conversations over a meal, in classic L'Abri fashion, with actual people voicing deep and penetrating questions.

All in all, I found this book to be insightful, thought-provoking, and very encouraging.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Pondering

Been pondering a lot recently. I'm well into my fourth year of blogging, and have seen quite a number of new bloggers with great skills appear, and also have seen (and heard of) some of the "oldskewl" bloggers retire and turn their time and talents to other projects. Note of Clarification: Do not infer from this that I'm considering hanging up my skates (hockey metaphors are so natural for Canadians).

As Emerging Grace noted in a recent post:
"Do you remember in Forrest Gump when he started running and had this need to keep running for "three years, two months, fourteen days, and sixteen hours", and then suddenly one day, he was done? That's how I see blogging. I started, and for now, I just keep blogging and blogging, but I think that some day, I'll just be done."
We pause now for a brief but poignant moment of shockingly honest and transparent confession: I've never seen Forest Gump.

And I agree with Grace's post on a number of levels, which is why I'm pondering how to invest my future blogging to be the most effective use of my time (which is in high demand during a Crossroads DTS).

While I respect the efforts and the writers who duke it out with various websites specializing in the misrepresentation of all things emerging/missional, I will continue to avoid such arguments here. It's just too taxing on my general attitude and sanctification. Those who can regularly read and interact with the so-called "discernment" sites are made of sterner stuff than I.

I am an avid reader, but sometimes I think that if I see just one more blog trumpeting the latest "must-read" book on the emerging/missional conversation, I'm going to run screaming into the woods. I just can't keep up. I have neither the time nor the money.

At the same time, I DO plan to keep on reading, and will also continue posting about books that are really stirring my thinking and praxis. But I hope everyone will understand if I'm not limiting my reading list(s) to only books written about emerging/emergent/missional.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

World-Changer

Eighteen years ago this very day, my world was dramatically and radically changed: my daughter Jo was born, and from the moment I first held her in my arms, I was hopelessly and deeply in love.

As she stumbled upstairs this morning, I gave her a quick hug and said to her, "Jo, eighteen years ago today, my world became a better place."

She hugged me back, looked up at me with her stunning blue eyes, and said, "I really gotta go pee, Dad..."

That's my girl.

Déja Vu All Over Again

We're mid-way through our first week of lectures for the Crossroads Discipleship Training School, and it's been awesome so far (last week's Orientation actually turned out to be a significant ministry time for several new students as well).
We're working our way through one of YWAM's most well-known teachings, The Father Heart of God, and it's humbling and encouraging to see the profound effect the teaching has on people from all over the world who have never been exposed to it before.

The school has barely begun, but we've already had some significant times of praying for some of the foreign students (actually, they're ALL from other countries than Canada). It feel like God is really using us. It feels like ministry. Like the Body is supposed to function.

Me like. A lot.



Speaking of "belonging before believing..."

One of our students arrived at our base last September to take the ESL school. She was so intrigued by the YWAM dynamic that she decided to stay on and attend our Crossroads DTS, and became a follower of Jesus last night! Party time at YWAM Okanagan, perhaps out-done only by the party around the Throne (Luke 15:10)!