Finding the right words

N.T. Wright on "Discovering Help in Prayer" from Simply Christian:

"Help is at hand not least in those who have trodden the path ahead of us. Part of our difficulty here is that we moderns are so anxious to do things our own way, so concerned that if we get help from anyone else our prayer won't be "authentic" and come from our own heart, that we are instantly suspicious about using anyone else's prayers. We are like someone who doesn't feel she's properly dressed unless she has personally designed and made all her own clothes ... We are hamstrung by ... the idea that things are authentic only if they come spontaneously, unbidden, from the depths of our heart."

I deeply appreciate the recent move in evangelicalism over the past few decades toward conversational prayer with our Father; however, I believe that Wright has a very valid point. So valid, that he could have written this paragraph about my own life. So often, prayers in our evangelical communities turn into "Father Weejus" prayers (check out the Spring issue of "Leadership" magazine), when we pray "Father, we just ask you...Father, we just want you..." Many of the prayers that have been prayed down through the centuries by the "great cloud of witnesses" that have gone before us, are prayers that are concerned more with directing our focus toward God's name and God's glory, rather than a preoccupation with being a creative wordsmith in our conversation with God.

Without a doubt, if our prayers become a heap of legalistic phrases, rather than a cry of the heart, then we should move on to new forms in prayer. Wright gives a few suggestions for guided prayer, not the least of which is the Lord's Prayer, a prayer that Jesus gave directly to his followers. When they wanted to learn to prayer, Jesus didn't give a seminar on finding the perfect words, but instead he offered a prayer directly to them.

Our Father in heaven
Hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts, as we too have forgiven our debtors.
Do not bring us to the time of trial,
But rescue us from the evil one.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours,
Now and forever.
Amen

I'll be the first to confess that prayer is difficult and I have great lengths to grow. Sometimes, the simplest prayers are the most authentic, as the tax collector revealed to us: "
God, have mercy on me, a sinner."

Noteworthy

"Jesus--the real Jesus, the living Jesus, the Jesus who dwells in heaven and rules over earth as well, the Jesuse who has brought God's future into the present--wants not just to influence us, but to resuce us; not just to inform us, but to heal us; not just to give us something to think about, but to feed us with himself."
-N.T. Wright, Simply Christian

Up a bit earlier than usual

I beat the sun up today. That doesn't happen very often.

I read an article yesterday. An editorial really. It made me laugh. Outloud. I was at the bus stop and I was just sitting there, laughing outloud, everyone else thinking in their head, "Who laughs outloud at the newspaper?" Here is the excerpt.

"I recently ran across a survey by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago that took a look at which professions had the most job satisfaction...Members of the clergy topped the list with an 87 percent job satisfaction rating. That makes some sense that they're happy. I mean, they are working for God and all and you can't really argue with his benefit package. Sure full medical and dental care are nice, but everlasting life, that sort of thing is a whole hell of a lot nicer than even a company car. On the downside, I bet they really get tired of working weekends all the time..."

If you're curious about the rest of the results, firemen came in second at 80%, authors (74%), teachers (69%), Psychologists (67%), the list goes on.

I don't consider myself one of the clergy, for sure. I'm just a rookie at this whole ministry thing, but I have to agree with the weekends part. Although, I only work Saturdays, not Sundays, which isn't half bad.

Post script

For all the Rolands in the world, when I say "it's good to remind myself how rich I am"... I mean it's good to face the reality that I am much closer to the wealthy man whom Jesus warns rather than the poor beggar on the side of the street. I don't remind myself of my rich-ness so that I can remember to go and swim around in my pools of money like Scrooge McDuck and then go nuts at Best Buy (or Amazon.com, which is much easier for me to mindlessly dump $25 bucks into...but you get "Free super saver shipping"...i know, i know....Of course, I'm on Amazon Prime now. sheesh).

Gut check

It's always good to remind myself of how rich I really am. btw...if you haven't watched "Rich", one of Rob Bell's latest Noomas, I highly recommend it.

$8 could buy you 15 organic apples OR 25 fruit trees for farmers in Honduras to grow and sell fruit at their local market.

$30 could buy you an ER DVD Boxset OR a First Aid kit for a village in Haiti.

$73 could buy you a new mobile phone OR a new mobile health clinic to care for AIDS orphans in Uganda.

$2400 could buy you a second generation High Definition TV OR schooling for an entire generation of school children in an Angolan village.

See how rich you are at the Global Rich List.


New Zealand is full of sheep

You never heard the real truth about Dolly, the cloned sheep.

I have a new movie coming out (look closely), which brings to life everyone's greatest fear: killer sheep. I'm not kidding. Check it out here.

One year already?

It's hard to believe that it's been about one year since I wrote the last post about the Invisible Children. In the past year, there has been progress and a great deal of awareness raised about the devestating circumstances that thousands of Ugandans are living in. These three guys have shown the world that we can do something. It started small, with just a vision to go to Africa and report back to America on some of the "invisible stories" that the media doesn't tell us. It's true that the mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds, but grows into an enormous plant.

Do we have the faith to step out? To stand up for justice? To "lay down our lives for our friends" in the name of love? In the name of Christ?

Invisible Children has moved us. It's shaken us. It's inspired us. This movie (among many other documentaries and literary pieces) has shown that the world is small. We live in a global community. We must care for our neighbors across the street and across the Atlantic.

We can all take action once again. Last year, the makers of Invisible Children created a "Global Night Commute" to remember and share the voice of the night commuting children of northern Uganda. This year, there is a similar opportunity with a different name. Displace Me. Visit the site to understand more and be a part of a movement that is taking a stand. A movement that is calling all Americans to fight for the rights of the poor and needy.

I'll end with a quote that I just read this week: "Live simply so that others may simply live."

Glory that doesn't fade

Maybe you've heard of "Faded Glory," ya know, the Wal-Mart clothing line. We're not talking about that kind of glory here. Although, maybe we are, in a sense of the word. There is this sort of glory that men and women the world over are striving after, a glory that can seemingly be obtained by possessing the right stuff. That is the glory, which is fading.

My good buddy, Fred, gave a teaching last night on 2 Corinthians 3:1-11. He spoke about "glory" and he got me thinkin.

Did you know that the Advertising industry in America spends about $145 billion each year. Just to get us to buy more stuff. Stuff that is supposed to make our lives more "glorious." Huh.

I've been reading a really good--and long--article in the Washington Post over the past couple days. Maybe you've heard about it. It's been on the news. But after last night, thinking about fading glory versus glory that lasts, the real life story has taken on an altogether new meaning.

The article is about a man named Joshua Bell. Maybe you've heard of him. He's only, like, the best violinist on the planet. The Washington Post got an idea in its head that it would ask Bell to bring his $3.5 million dollar violin to the L'Enfant Plaza Metro Station of the D.C. subway and set up for a little recital. He'd open up his violin case, play some magical violin music and see how the busy D.C. commuters would respond. Bell, who doesn't seem to take himself entirely too seriously, at least not enough to balk at such an idea, agreed. Donning some blue collar clothing and a baseball cap, he set up shop at the L'Efant station and prepared to wow the unsuspecting subway crowd, a bunch that likely is subjected to varying degrees of musical artistry in the subway tunnels on a daily basis. It was a free concert with a world-renowned violinist this time, though. How do you think the crowd responded? If you don't want to know and would like to read the article for yourself, stop reading this post.


Bell could have taken any composition and played it masterfully, but instead, he chose one of the most difficult pieces ever written, "Chaconne" by Bach. Bell says of the piece, "it's not just one of the greatest pieces of music ever written, but one of the greatest achievements of any man in history. It's a spiritually powerful piece, emotionally powerful, structurally perfect." Bach's "Chaconne" is also considered one of the most difficult violin pieces to master. Many try; few succeed. But Bell played it and he played it well.

So, what happened?

The people barely noticed. That's what happened. A few at least paused in their stride, to hear a few notes. The man is a musical genius, playing one of the most beautiful violin pieces known to man, and the busy commuters barely noticed.

Says Bell, "It was a strange feeling, that people were actually, ah...ignoring me."

"At a music hall, I'll get upset if someone coughs or if someone's cellphone goes off. But here, my expectations quickly diminished. I started to appreciate any acknowledgment, even a slight glance up. I was oddly grateful when someone threw in a dollar instead of change."

Bell played something that was really, fundamentally, glorious. The music was beautiful. It displayed the creativity of a master. But hardly anyone seemed to care. Focused on reading their newspapers, checking their daily schedules on PDAs or finishing up the latest Sudoku, the D.C. commuters ignored the glory and beauty of Bell's violin playing, and traded that glory for the temporal, fading glory of the everyday, benign pleasures of this world.

How often do we do this very thing, each and every day? Trading the unsurpassing, marvelous glory of our Creator for the fading glory of the world?

I'll leave you with a final thought, a quote from Fred last night: "In a world that praises glory that is fading, we, as Christians, must re-calibrate our lives to recognize glory that is unseen."

the joy of Easter


In a garden God first put us
to live in peace and joy.
In a garden God suffered tears
and sweat of agony.

In a garden
God rose to life
and restored to all creation
life and joy and peace.

O gardens with new life
Rejoice with us. Alleluia!

When Christ rode into Jerusalem,
the stones were ready to cry out
and proclaim him Lord of all creation.
When Christ died on the cross,
the earth shook and the rocks split
sharing the loss and devastation.

After Christ was buried in the tomb
the stone was rolled away,
rejoicing and revealing
the glory of our risen Lord.

Now is Christ risen from the dead
Alleluia!

O let all things visible and invisible,
earthly and heavenly,
all people, tribes and nations,
saved by the blood of Christ
join with us to praise and glorify
the Lord of all creation.

He left his heavenly throne
to suffer with us and release his damaged creation
from death, sin and decay,
that we might be in Paradise with him
and live forever in his joy and peace.

Alleluia! Glory to our Risen Savior
Alleluia! Glory to our God

Science as Worship.

Here's a simply written column by the well-respected scientist, Dr. Francis Collins (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Collins, http://www.genome.gov/10000779). He discusses how he landed at the intersection of Science and Faith. Read it here.

A few excerpts:

"Challenged by one of those patients, who asked "What do you believe, doctor?", I began searching for answers. I had to admit that the science I loved so much was powerless to answer questions such as "What is the meaning of life?" "Why am I here?" "Why does mathematics work, anyway?" "If the universe had a beginning, who created it?" "Why are the physical constants in the universe so finely tuned to allow the possibility of complex life forms?" "Why do humans have a moral sense?" "What happens after we die?"

"By investigating God's majestic and awesome creation, science can actually be a means of worship."

Fotos

See. Honduras.

Here.

Fernando & Eddie

Not too long ago, I wrote a couple posts about "becoming a kid," inspired by Jesus' statement that in order to enter into the kingdom of God, we must become like little children. Obviously, not in the litteral sense. It's about humility, dependency, healthy fear of God, wonder, love, the absence of self-suffiency.

So, I guess I shouldn't be surprised by the fact that God continued to communicate this message to me when I was in Honduras. I met Fernando and Eddie during our first day in Honduras. They are brothers who live next door to Esperanza and Carmello, whom I wrote about in my previous post. Their father died when they were very young, too young to even remember him. When I visited their home, their mother, Maria, pointed out his picture, which hung right next to the front door.

From the moment I met these to young boys, who are 8 and 10 years old, I knew that we were going to be friends that week. Fernando especially took to me. He learned my name immediately and each day, he would periodically call it out, just hoping that I would turn and smile at him. "Jon-a-tin." He'd smile and say it again twenty minutes later. Fernando has never had an earthly father, so my heart especially goes out to him, as does the Lord's: "...his name is the LORD—and rejoice before him. A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling..."

Each day, Fernando and Eddie would show up to help us in our work. They wanted to help us dig holes for the new fence. They wanted to help paint. They wanted to help carry rocks. They just wanted to be included. I quickly learned some key words and phrases. "Me turno," I'd say and then I'd start digging. "Se turno," and then I'd let Fernando have a go for a little while. They were also fascinated with our gloves. I'd let Fernando wear them occassionally throughout the day, but I'd have to say, "Guantes, por favor," and then he'd return them without question. But far and away, Fernando wanted to wear my sunglasses more than anything else.

One day, after I had finished cutting some of the pieces for the fence, I walked inside to find shade and some water. I was covered in saw dust, which clung to my hairy arms an filled my ears. Fernando followed me in and unsollicited, he began brushing it off of me and even stuck his little fingers in my ears to clear out the dust.

Periodically, each day, Fernando would walk up beside me and just grab my hand, hold on and follow me. If I left my camera sitting out, he'd put it back inside of my backpack for me.

One particular day, Fernando, Eddie, Kyle and I sat down in the middle of the dirt road. We had finished up most of the work for the day, but the physical labor was secondary in importance. We sat there and the two brothers began teaching Kyle and I some Spanish. We'd point to things and mutter, "como se dice?" They would patienty and repititously say the proper word in spanish, sounding it out phonetically. I was so impressed by their teaching skills. I discoverd that if you give your undivided attention to these kids, they have all the patience in the world. But then again, they don't have video games, internet, email, mp3 players and TVs to distract them and make them bored with us.

By the end of the week, I had grown quite attached to Fernando and Eddie, but especially to Fernando. Through the course of the week, he had shown me what it means to love someone and to come to the Lord like a little child. On Saturday night, after the church service (after becoming a Christian the previous day, their mother brought them to church!), I walked outside of the crowded church building. I was looking for the two boys. I didn't get to say a final goodbye. I didn't spot them, but found another friend instead and was busy talking with him through a translator when I spotted Fernando out of the corner of my eye, running toward me. He came up and threw his arms around my knees and embraced me. "Adios, Jon-a-tin. Adios." Not quite ready to say goodbye to this little guy yet, I asked the translator to convey a few thoughts to him for me. He eventually left with his mom, but not too soon thereafter, he came running back again, "Un mas photo!" He wanted one more picture with me. I slung him up so that our heads were at the same level and we took our last photo together. I made my way inside to find the group and there came Fernando and Eddie again! But this was the grand finale. We took our last pictures and said our last "adios."

I learned a lot from Fernando that week. How to love. How to serve. How to listen. How to be patient. How to be a friend. How to be a child before our mighty King.

Thanks, Fernando. I miss you, buddy. Hopefully, I'll see you next year!