The Resurrecting Power of U2

IMG_0278

I suppose things started to turn around when I decided to see the long road trip I was about to take as a gift. Yeah, it’s going to be a seven hour drive, but I could use the windshield time… maybe work a few things out.

I love driving alone.

For the first silent ninety minutes I just thought and prayed. After stopping for a coffee I then listened to a ‘new’ U2 ‘best of’ CD that Fran had gotten from a thrift store last week. Amazing what some good music can do for the soul. Five out of the first ten songs were songs I’d either preached on or played at church in some other context. Each one came with the memory of a theological truth. Then a song that I’ve always loved the melody of, but never really listened to, came up… and in the listening something happened in me; something new.

The song is called Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of and it felt like a back and forth conversation with God… and it lifted me up;

ME: I’m just trying to find
A decent melody
A song that I can sing
In my own company

GOD: I never thought you were a fool
But darling look at you
You gotta stand up straight
Carry your own weight
These tears are going nowhere baby

GOD: You’ve got to get yourself together
You’ve got stuck in a moment
And now you can’t get out of it

ME: I will not forsake
The colors that you bring…
I am still enchanted
By the light you brought to me
I listen through your ears
Through your eyes I can see

GOD: And you are such a fool
To worry like you do
I know it’s tough
And you can never get enough
Of what you don’t really need now

GOD: And if the night runs over
And if the day won’t last
And if your way should falter
Along this stony pass
It’s just a moment
This time will pass

And then this huge stone hit my brand new windshield!

And what was beautiful about that moment was what I said next. Instead of saying what I would normally have said and then being pissed off for way too long, I said ‘Screw you…’ (to the rock chip!) and kept on singing. There was nothing I could do to change the situation, and I didn’t want to step out of the song I was singing. It was too hopeful and good.

Now less than a day later I keep feeling like something has changed. Life feel freer. The beauty of this place has brought me to laughter several times already. Glimpses of glory have  overwhelmed me. Last night I slept very well and woke up with an appetite.  And instead of dreading the incredibly busy fall season that lies ahead I’m feeling excited and thankful. While I’m so reticent to write this down, it feels like the clouds have lifted.

This morning I read a conversation that Moses had with God;

MOSES: You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you.

GOD: “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

MOSES: “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”

GOD: “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”

MOSES: “Now show me your glory…”

(excerpts from Exodus 33, NIV)

Needing strength

I’m tired.

I’m not sure why. It could be the church merger, the familial worries of this past year, the strain of first time teaching, finishing the book, parenting an adult with a disability, twenty years at this job, or just plain getting old (I turned 55 this summer).

Whatever the reason, I hate the feeling. I don’t like being weak. I can’t stand feeling demotivated. The lack of discipline in this place is unsettling. I want my edge back.

I keep thinking that this is just for a season; that it will all come back. I’m sure it will. But I do still worry… and of course pray. The upside of downtimes is an awareness of your need for God. Which is probably why the Exodus story I’ve been reading this past week has felt so personal, and why every psalm I read feels like I wrote it.

Last week Fran found this 1964 photo of my maternal grandfather (‘Pake’) holding me (with my ‘Beppe’ beside him and my bother Alan on my mom’s lap).

john and pake

I keep coming back to this image… a 2-1/2 year old toddler in the arms of a 65 year old man; an icon of the God who has always held me. My Pake, my dad always says, was a huge fan of the theologian Abraham Kuyper (with his huge view of God, creation, providence and revelation). Loving Kuyper’s worldview as much as I do right right now I often wish I could talk to my grandfather about him.

Looking at the photo I’m reminded of my Pake’s huge hands. I’d totally forgot about them. He was a baker and always carried about him a kind of innate strength. He immigrated to Canada at aged 52 and started over! His faith (I’m told) was unshakeable.

I want to be like him.

This morning I read these New Testament words;

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17, NIV

The words, eternal encouragement stuck out for me. I was reminded of the true nature of my life; known by God before the universe came to be and created to know God forever. That perspective puts things in perspective. The encouragement I need today is connected to an eternal encouragement that God has spoken into my life, and calling.

For now, that is more than enough.

 

 

 

“As we have heard, so we have seen”

Blue_eye

“As we have heard, so we have seen” Psalm 48:8, NIV

Reading these words this morning I am struck by how succinctly they encapsulate the vision God has given our church.

After naming how God’s power has protected his people in the past (in verses 3-7), the writer pens words that connect God then to God now; God heard about to God seen. God then (in the bible) and God now (in our lives today). God heard about (through written and spoken words) to God seen (with your own eyes). God described to God experienced. God known cognitively to God known via all of your senses (touched, felt, incarnate).

At the end of the book of Job, God answers all of Job’s existential questions by revealing himself through the mysterious wonders of nature (God’s answer to Job’s pain filled queries came from the book of creation!), leading Job to conclude, “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you.” Job 42:5, NIV. 

This is what our church is all about; seeing what you’ve always heard about. God everywhere present. Jesus standing right in front of you.

image – By Steve Jurvetson from Menlo Park, USA (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Human Body (as text)

Leonardo_da_Vinci_-_Superficial_anatomy_of_the_shoulder_and_neck_(recto)_-_Google_Art_Project

For the past six weeks I’ve been saying to myself, ‘But what if we don’t get the grant?’ Now that we’ve been awarded the grant I’m thinking, ‘Oh no… we got the grant!’

The proposal we submitted was pretty fulsome; eight sermons on various human body parts, the development of a Lectio Scientia (a ‘way’ for scientists to engage God at work), the inclusion of dozens of doctors, biologists, researchers, students and local pastors in the research process, attending and presenting at two conferences, and the writing of a book.

This week I began reviewing all of the quotes/thoughts re: science and faith that I’ve been accumulating over the years. So much good stuff for this project, like this quote,

“When Christ took on human nature, the DNA that made him the son of Mary may have linked him to a more ancient heritage stretching far beyond Adam to the shallows of unimaginably ancient seas. And so, in the Incarnation, it would not have been just human nature that was joined to the Divine, but in a less direct but no less real sense all those myriad organisms that had unknowingly over the eons shaped the way for the coming of the human.”  (McMullin, Ernan. “Plantinga’s Defense of Special Creation.” Christian Scholar’s Review XXI.1 (1991): 55-79. as quoted by Rich Mouw in http://biologos.org/…/learning-to-celebrate-creation-togeth… )

I took the idea further and thought that if we’re all made of stardust, then Jesus took on the universe when he took on a human body.

Then, as I was re-reading Lesslie Newbigin’s Proper Confidence, I realized that perhaps the best way to know an embodied Jesus is through the whole of our physical bodies. Yes, we can know him through words (read and heard), but can we also know him through our hands, eyes, knees and lungs (touched, seen, moved through and breathed in)? What would a full embodied engagement with Jesus look like?

Then I wrote a fully formed paragraph for my book introduction… and then some of the outline started to become clear. Then a conclusion presented itself and two pastors emailed saying they’d like to be a part of the project.

Then I realized that God has this whole thing in hand. And I am so excited for the year that lies ahead.

Engaging God Everywhere

IMG_0428

Getting the message out there is one of the biggest challenges our church now faces.

I’m not talking about writing more books, generating more web activity, stimulating more communal outreach or seeking more media attention, I’m talking about planting the unique vision that God has given our church into the whole community.

Deeply.  So that it can really grow!

How can we help people engage God everywhere more: at work, in their families, with their friends, at leisure, in the theatre, via nature, through their bodies, when they eat and drink, when they enjoy art, read books, and do all of the things that make up their lives?

Last night I spent two hours meeting with two guys who are big into automotive restoration. On June 12 I’m preaching a vocational sermon on what they do; on how they image God’s strip it down, rebuild from the inside out, better than it was before heart. While the topic was fascinating, what I enjoyed most was the interaction, the conversation, the epiphany moments when they’d say one thing and I’d hear another.

Two days ago one of these guys sent me a text telling me how excited he was to learn about how God was at work through the automotive restoration process.

Sitting there last night, on an old Volkswagen van bench seat, in the corner of a garage, that’s exactly what happened.

As each of them would talk about what they did and why they did it, I made God connections; naming God’s presence at that moment when they first saw a wreck that could be made new, when they made that hard decision to cut into the body to make it better, when they ripped the guts out of the vehicle, when the dreamt about how amazing that car or truck could one day be, when the poured their life into the renewal process, using every bit of creative energy they had, letting it pour from their brains to their hands in a turbocharged kind of way, and then coming up with that new engine, body or component configuration, that new automotive finish, that new frame, level of horse power, way of handling, look, sound, smell and feel.

“Well that’s like when God showed the prophet Ezekiel those dry bones… that’s what resurrection is all about… that’s what God must feel when he makes things new…”

It was an amazing visit.

And it made me wonder if this is the way it needs to happen; getting the vision out there. One on one, personally entering into the lives of community members, meeting them at their work, in their homes, or at the gym, and naming God’s presence in their lives right there, on the spot, just in time, via a personal, intimate, intentional, Spirit led conversation.

This happens all the time for me. Last week in a coffee shop with a concerned father (“Well God must feel that for your daughter too… what would it mean to know God as he feels this with you?”), with a judge in his chambers (“I think your decision to give verbal judgments so that you can look people in the eye when you speak to them, and sometimes modify your judgment based on that relational moment, is like a God who incarnates, who looks at us when he judges.”), with a PhD scientist talking gut biome, a nurse talking technology, a Wal-Mart greeter, an athlete.

So what if New Hope Hillside spent the next two years investing in people who could do this for others; maybe staff members or key leaders or people who we don’t even know yet, individuals who would enter into the lives of others in these kinds of ways.

Who could incarnate.

I feel as though I can see it. A person called to name God at work in moms, others with vocational exegetical gifts, and still others who have the eyes and ears for the arts, community, sport and leisure.

While on one hand, this seems incredibly inefficient, on the other it seems perfect. I’ve got to think that those two hours with those two guys last night, engaging God in what they are most passionate about, on their turf, in their time, may have more and lasting impact than years of Sunday services, or church classes.

Every person in our community is unique. Would it take this kind of process, this kind of coming along side engagement to get the message across? Is lovingly engaging people where they are at the only way to get close enough to see and name what God uniquely wants them to see?

‘Ends of the Earth’ (sermon research crowd sourcing)

Next Sunday I’m going to preach on the Lord Huron song, Ends of the Earth, and I thought it might be fun to do a bit of sermon research crowd sourcing.

So, here are a few questions I’m asking about this tune;

  1. What basic human yearnings does this song give expression to? (i.e. what resonates with you?)
  2. Are there places where these same yearnings are expressed in the bible?
  3. How are the yearnings expressed in this song like our yearnings for God?

If you have any thoughts, post them as a comment below. Thanks.

A Science based (next) book

anatomy

I love how my next science-based book is coming together (Lord willing!)…

  1. Last night I woke up with the concluding chapter running through my head.
  2. Two days ago I was talking with a couple of pastors and the introduction presented itself.
  3. Three weeks ago I bumped into a scientist/orthopedic surgeon who agreed to help me with a chapter of the book (on the biomechanics of the knee).
  4. Four weeks ago I met with a gut biome researcher who wants to help me with a chapter on the gut (along with his Phd supervisor) and I was connected to another researcher at the university who works in the same field (and was recommended by another friend).
  5. Five weeks ago I sent a one page proposal for my book to my publisher and there’s some interest.
  6. Six weeks ago I saw a FB post introducing a new John Templeton Grant program. As the concept for a proposal came together I realized that this would be great research for a unique kind of faith/science book.
  7. Over the past three years I’ve preached several science based sermons that will now make up specific book chapters.
  8. Four years ago our church got its first John Templeton Grant which lead to preaching on the topics for three other chapters.
  9. Seven years ago I was invited to participate in Regent College’s John Templeton grant project and the vision to preach/engage God’s revelation via science was kindled in me. I wrote a sermon on wound healing back then and it will now form a chapter in this new book.
  10. Over the past ten years I have been accumulating many books, ideas, and quotes on how God reveals himself via the scientific text. But I wondered, who am I to write on this; there are more than enough scientists of faith to address the topic… until the idea for this new book came along, along with a very cool introduction and conclusion, all founded on three John Templeton grants, and several serendipitous meetings, and scientists that have been a part of our church community, and a publisher who’s willing to listen, and a God who has a ‘just right’ time for everything.

Image – Grey’s Anatomy