Tim DeChant over at Per Square Mile offers a provocative post on how the presence (and absence) of trees in urban settings reveals the wealth of the neighborhood. He contends that wealthier communities tend to have more green space than do the poorer communities. In a follow up post, he offers several images from space to support this idea in which he compares wealthier and poorer communities in the same city with each other. The absence of flourishing trees in the poorer communities is quite apparent.
What I am left wondering then is a handful of questions around urban mission: Continue reading
I came across this article about Reformed Church of Highland Park and their commitment to creating sanctuary for several Indonesians while they seek refuge in the United States on grounds of religious persecution in Indonesia. Church’s like this one in Highland Park are setting an example of how we might walk with those caught up in systems and structures that have had a tendency to overlook the plight of orphans, widows, immigrants, and others who are often oppressed. The North American church would benefit from more attention on expressions of an embodied apologetic like this one, where the Church makes room for others even to the point of having the space, rhythms, and priorities of our lives altered by those we are serving.
Brian McLaren offered a blog post last week in which he shared his response to a question from a Hindu friend regarding the place of proselytism in a multi-faith world. His post has been running in the back of my thoughts for a couple days now.
McLaren suggested that there is a difference between proselytism and evangelism. Proselytism is where some “actively recruit people from other religions to defect from those religions and join their own.” Evangelism, with its missional character is concerned with the common good and, in it’s original sense (distinguished in his post from “the traditional sense of demanding conversion with the threat of eternal damnation”), occurs as “each religion is encouraged to bring its good news – its message about the common good, its transferable wisdom, its treasures to be shared.” Continue reading
While reading a chapter of Richard Foster’s book Prayer this morning:
“Do we really think we can experience integration of heart and mind and spirit with an erratic prayer life? Do we really believe we can, like Moses, “speak face to face” with God as someone would a friend by our unpredictable prayers? No, we develop intimacy by regular association. We develop ease as well. Why ease? Because we are forming fixed habits of righteousness. In time these “holy habits” will do their work of integration so that praying becomes the easy thing, the natural thing, the spontaneous thing – the hard thing will be to refrain from prayer.”
That last phrase is sticking with me this morning. What would it be like to be in such consistent communion with God that it would be difficult to “refrain from prayer”?
One of the core values at First Hamilton CRC (the church I am currently serving) is anticipating change. Those who served here before me poured themselves into forming a vision that not only made room for change, but saw change as a fundamental part of our Christian identity. The reasoning for this core value flows out of a cluster of convictions: the Gospel of Jesus Christ transforms us personally and communally; as we change, the neighborhoods, work environments, leisure spaces, and places we call home are transformed; God’s mission includes the prophetic reassurance that Jesus Christ is at work making all things new. Change is woven throughout the story of God’s people. Rooted in the biblical narrative (Creation, Fall, Redemption, Renewed Creation), these convictions are expressions of the Lenten-Easter motif of dying and rising with Christ. The Christian life is one in which God’s people are consistently being called to lay down their own lives in order to receive the life of Christ more fully with each other. Rather than resisting change, we are called to embrace a way of life that is marked by ongoing transformation with others in Jesus Christ.
I’ve been thinking about this particular core value while listening to discussions in my denomination (CRCNA) about what it means to have a confessional identity. In a few weeks, delegates from across the CRCNA will gather for an annual synod. This June, delegates will discuss (along with a few other topics) a Form of Subscription (FoS). Continue reading
Imagine being able
to remember honestly, vividly
without being imprisoned
by failures and successes in our past;
to dream deep and wide, long and high
without projecting present limitations
on future possibilities;
to be fully and peacefully present
without distorting what has been,
without manipulating what may come to be.
Such an imagination is necessary for us to be.
I’ve been playing around with Muddied Prayers for close to three years now. The first contours of what has emerged here were the results of a rather sleepless night. I wanted to write something catchy and still authentically in my voice. An initial attempt to organize a few random thoughts about prayer and encountering God in the ordinary moments dotted the landscape of those few original posts. I soon realized, however, that I was little more than a kindergartner grabbing a rather stubby piece of charcoal and rubbing it all over a new canvas: I was playing with a medium I really did not understand. Before too long, I put the blog back on the shelf and returned to the much more familiar mediums of sideline commentary with friends over food and a good drink and my academic coursework. Great ideas, but all kept relatively close and quite safe.
A second iteration of Muddied Prayers emerged a year later as I prepared to attend the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College. I held to a much narrower focus that time: prayers mingling that broken earthiness of life freshly fertilized by loss with the often tear-filled longing for a flourishing further than I could see. The dozen or so posted prayers reflected my responses to times when God’s apparent absence seemed more accessible than God’s presence. It’s now been more than a year since the last post went out.
As I return to these Muddied Prayers tonight, my desire for authenticity remains, as does a longing for all of life to flourish. I still find that God tends to open my eyes in the most ordinary and unexpected of moments. From that perspective, I imagine that some of the elements that marked the earlier renditions of my blog will continue to find their way into the posts that follow this one. Yet, Muddied Prayers will be a different space this time around, quite simply because I am in a different place. I’ve cleaned out all the old posts and changed the layout. I’ve been told that when company is coming over, especially for the first time, it’s good to tidy things up a bit. It won’t last – trust me. Things will get messy here. I’ve also started to integrate the other places I camp out online with this space. Over time, I imagine it’ll get cluttered with all sorts of useless stuff, but that’s to be expected. Have a look around, stay for a while, and feel free to keep coming back. Welcome to Muddied Prayers.