Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Are We Ready To Be Swept Off Our Feet?

This morning I read a great blog post from prolific author, speaker and coach @MichaelHyatt called 'How To Reframe Your Fear And Let It Work For You'.  First of all, if you don't know who Michael is, or don't read his posts - you're missing some caffeine for the soul.  Seriously, make the time to check in with him a few times a week online.  Michael's post today was simply another quiet whisper in my ear over the past couple of weeks.

We often face fear on some level before we leap into something that we perceive as significant or great.  Providing the opportunity before us is a good one, that fear we experience may be an indicator that what we've been inspired to do should be done posthaste.   In 'How To Reframe Your Fear And Let It Work For You' Michael offers us three steps to move through fear, "1) Notice the Feeling, 2) Objectify the Feeling and 3) Reframe the Feeling".  Good advice.  As a spiritual director and pastor, I would also encourage you to listen to what the Spirit of God might be speaking to you before, during and after moving through fear.  If you'd like someone to walk with you through this process, I can help.

This theme of facing fear and doing something great has been coming up again and again lately . . which usually means the Spirit of God is trying to get my attention.  Earlier this morning I heard the Spirit speak through the song 'Every Breaking Wave' on U2's most recent album Songs of Innocence. In it Bono sings, "Are we so helpless against the tide? / Baby every dog on the street / Knows that we're in love with defeat / Are we ready to be swept off our feet / And stop chasing / Every breaking wave".  In essence, the fear that causes us to stay in our comfort zones is the same fear that keeps us chasing our tail, happily distracting ourselves (procrastinating) from jumping off the cliff of opportunity just ahead.  The exhilaration of freedom that we'll experience flying through the air is what will help us make the leap of faith . . and the prospect of seeing that act birth light in the world.

Again, in the same blog post, Michael Hyatt offers some sound advice: "Whenever we have the potential to do something important or extraordinary, we’ll be tempted to stay inside our comfort zone.  But the truth is we never do anything of real significance in our comfort zone.  The base jumper who listens to his fears is just another hiker who walks down the mountain.  It’s when we’re stretched, face our fears, and reframe them that we can reach out and touch greatness."

The Spirit of God has been trying to get my attention.  I've heard and now I simply must act - in essence, I'm being called to 'poetry'.  The original Greek word from which we derive the English word 'poetry' is poiesiswhich means "to make (or do)".  There is such depth of relationship between that word and the role the Spirit of God plays in our lives that I will have to reserve that topic for a future post (see, I'm already planning on 'making' more words!).  Faith / belief / vocation only makes sense when it's acted upon.  There is no distinction between faith and action - they are one and the same.

Later in the song 'Every Breaking Wave' Bono exclaims, "We know that we fear to win / And so we end before we begin / Before we begin." The fear I've been facing the past four+ years has largely been the fear of failure.  Now that I've done that - failed - recently I've noticed that I'm facing a new type of fear, the fear of success.  Strange, right?  What happens once/if all that I've hoped for begins to happen, then what will my life look like?  What decisions will I be faced with?  There's no going back to life as it was!  Am I good with that?

Friends, I've jumped before . . and it was a big one!  My family and I left Ireland in 2010 to establish a non-profit in America, with no job or home to go to. Honestly, it hurt - but we're here, alive and living poetry.  I see another cliff coming into view just ahead and I don't want hesitation or fear to keep me from making another courageous leap.  Who knows if The Lord will use this little jump of ours to do something great in His wild, wonderful world?  Maybe someone else will find freedom for themselves, then pass it on to another in need of it?

So . . are you ready?

3 - 2 - 1 . . JUMP!

"Now to the God who can do so many awe-inspiring things, immeasurable things, things greater than we ever could ask or imagine through the power at work in us, to Him be all glory in the church and in Jesus the Anointed from this generation to the next, forever and ever. Amen."

- Ephesians 3:20-21, The Voice (Bible)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Out of Sight, In Plain View

Friends . . I have been absent and off the radar.

This has been a VERY difficult, exciting, hopeful, hazy, stretching, questioning and frustrating period in our lives.

As some of you may already know, after 11 years in the UK & Ireland my family and I (all five of us!) left our friends, home, full-time permanent job and the beautiful island we called home to relocate to the Nashville, Tennessee area in pursuit of a vision God laid before us.

On June 30th it all went down. We moved - leaving a home unsold in County Tipperary with renters agreeing to live in it for the next year. When we arrived in America with very mixed feelings and still very cloudy on all that lie ahead, the first thing we did was attend the funeral of a woman who is VERY dear to me. My Grandmother, Grace L. McMurray had passed a few days before we fly our of Ireland. She was more than a grandmother to me, she was a friend. My mother and I lived with her a while when I was very young and I had a lot of time with 'Mac' as we called her. She became a hero and legend to me. I used to brag about her muscles to friends and teachers when I was a kid. She had been a widow since 1961, had raised four young girls, managed a farm of five acres and worked - hard - to support her children, and grandchildren at times. We were in touch regularly and I always visited her when we returned to the States for vacation over the past decade.

Mac was very influential in Christy and I giving eleven years of our lives in Northern and Southern Ireland. She had created a sort of family lore about being Irish in America in our family. She often recounted stories about our relatives who had moved from counties Tyrone and Antrim in the mid-nineteenth century to Ohio in search of their own adventures. When I had a chance to visit N. Ireland on a short term missions trip in 1996 - she paid for it. It was on that trip I knew I'd be back. Three months later in May I returned with Christy and her university and it was then I proposed to her. When we left I knew we'd be back. Three years later in 1999 we moved to N. Ireland with only the clothes in our suitcases. We remained, eventually moving South - investing in young lives across the whole island for over a decade. Our three children were born there and will forever know their heritage and origin. We were changed by sharing our lives and by the 'Irish' (Northern Irish for some of you!) sharing their lives so deeply with us.

When we returned to the US and attended Mac's funeral with many family members we hadn't seen for years, we were to find out Grandma Mac had been thinking of us in her fleeting moments of clarity in the weeks preceding her death. She had been saving up her income and left us a gift to help our family resettle in America. We have been floored by her generosity, intentionality and tangible love for us - even as she dwindled away in the twilight of her life. We are forever indebted to her and will seek to live for others as she so clearly did in her time on this earth. I love you Grandma - and I always will.

A few days following her funeral, I began a month's odyssey of traveling to the area we were soon to call home every Sunday afternoon through Friday night the whole month of July. I did this to attempt to search for and secure a full-time job before moving the family down. I invested a lot of hours of networking, searching, interviewing and praying - trying to discern God's leading for our family. By the time the end of July came I had a strong interest from one employer for part-time work but no commitment to hire and we had no home to move to. Issues were further complicated because we had no idea where our eldest daughter Neve would go to school without a job to dictate an area to move to and a home to live in. In the first week of August we decided to jump from the protective covering of Christy's parent's home and move to Tennessee anyway. We packed our small UHAUL and jumped into the unknown - again. Many of our family no doubt felt this was an unwise decision but sent us off anyway.

When we arrived in Franklin, TN (just 20 miles south of Nashville) we set up our temporary home in an extended stay hotel where we lived for six days as I continued to interview and apply for jobs and we looked for a home to live in. We frantically narrowed down a the available options to a home in Spring Hill, TN as the first day of school approached. Neve would have not been allowed to begin school until we had a permanent address in a school district. Finally, the day before school began, we agreed to rent a home for one year (without any promise of income to cover the bills) and I took a part-time job with The Battle of Franklin Trust for pennies of what we truly need to survive as a family of five here. So, the past six weeks have been an intense period of settling in securing insurances of various kinds, new driver's licenses, locating doctor's and trying to get plugged in with people in the area.

We are very, very happy with the church we've landed in only the second Sunday after our arrival. It's a new churhc plant in a local high school called Conduit. More info here: www.ConduitChurch.com Basically, what we really value about this small gathering of 'followers of the Way' is that they are new to it all - like us to the area and the US, they travel lightly by not incurring a lot of overhead costs in order to give more away to those in need locally and internationally (which they're doing to GREAT effect) and they (like us) don't really know what God is up to or where this is all going. Yeah, we're there too. It's truly a God-thing we've landed in with Conduit Church! Here we are . . I'm working part-time Tuesday through Thursday and seeking full-time salaried work every chance I get. Neve (who's seven) is enjoying the second grade at our local elementary. Aidan (five) is at home most days enjoying LEGO and super heroes and meeting kids his age at church, in the neighborhood and gatherings. Keely (one) is growing quickly, talking a lot, making ridiculously funny faces and Christy is patiently waiting. She's waiting to see where God appears in this chaos and haze of major life transition and upheaval. She's waiting to see how our family will be provided for, how our children will settle in a foreign environment, for friends she can share life with and for someway to invest herself outside of our family environment - a vision. In fact, we're all waiting . . waiting on Him . . waiting for Him.

One of the main reasons we moved to this part of the world and US was to follow a vision God placed before us to pastor Creatives (anyone invested in the arts or entertainment) as Soul Friends. A Soul Friend vocation is similar to the traditional role of a spiritual director or life coach. 'Soul Friend' is a translation of the Irish phrase Anam Cara. The Irish have a long history of Soul Friends. A Soul Friend is someone who intentionally walks beside another as they journey together - both into unknown territory. As they journey through life, a Soul Friend helps another to become more aware of where God is showing up - speaking in fact - all the time encouraging them to recklessly abandon themselves into God's good, capable, care-full hands. This is the process of transformation . . of becoming that person God created us to be and has dreamt we could become from moment He conceived us in love.

We came because we are following although we don't know the way. We came to know Jesus Christ more fully. We came to obey. We came to see this adventure unfold. Will you consider joining us?

All our love to all of you friends. Please share your lives with us even as we have opened our to you and we'll journey onward - together.

"There's no dream that mustn't be dared."
- George Mallory, Everest Climber, 1924

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Hysterical and How True! -> 'Sunday's Coming' Trailer

A friend and fellow Dreamer - Melanie Maxwell - posted this on the Dreamers' site (are you a Dreamer?) and I laughed because it's so like what many churches in the evangelical tradition of non-denominationalism and beyond offer . . not all but many . . enjoy a laugh on them ->

"Sunday's Coming" Movie Trailer from North Point Media on Vimeo.

Executive Producers - David Blakeslee & Brad Bretz
Writers - Evan McLaughlin, Tim Cooper & Katherine Volk
Creative Director - Evan McLaughlin
Producer - Jeff Earnhardt
Director - Steve Young
DP - Josh McKague/Whisper Productions (http://www.whisperproductions.com)
Sound & Lighting - Whisper Productions
Line Cut - Jeff Earnhardt
Editor & Graphics - David Robertson
Voiceover - Mark Gibson
Music & Words Written by Reid Greven

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Church for Artists

Kerry and Twyla Jackson from Kerry Jackson on Vimeo.

Kerry and Twyla Jackson, church planting missionaries with the North American Mission Board, share their passion and vision for planting Bezalel Church among the arts community of Atlanta, GA.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Join Project AK-47

Please take 5 minutes to watch this video and reflect on what is in your heart and hand that you could use to help children forced to fight adult wars.

JOIN THE FIGHT for children's lives.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Characteristics of a Missional Church: Tim Keller

Massacre in Nigeria

Open Doors representatives in Nigeria say the atmosphere in Dogo Nahawa south of Jos remains tense after the slaughter of as many as 500 mostly Christian villagers. Staff members testify that the macabre scene of mutilated bodies, many women and children, is hard to take in as they go around comforting the bereaved and encouraging the wounded.
Security forces that have been deployed in the area stood watching as mass burials started. Many locals are accusing the government of not reacting to rumors about the impending violence in the early hours of the attack.

We had a special interview with Open Doors’ Africa Director. He helps put the attack in perspective:

Q: Did the Christians of Dogo Nahawa suffer the attack because of what Jos Christians did to Muslims in January?

A: We understand that what is happening in Nigeria is first and foremost a spiritual battle between darkness and light. The battle has many disguises and faces.

Some are saying the attack was revenge for the January fighting. Others say it was the result of fighting over farmland. There are also those who say it is a fight for the control of the city of Jos as capital of Plateau State. All of these may very well be part of the general motive, but it would be oversimplified to say that any one of these is the sole reason for the most recent attack.

The villagers of Dogo Nahawa had nothing to do with the January violence. Additionally a great percentage of those killed were women and children. Our coordinator explained, “One group of 65 bodies we saw included only nine men. The rest were all women and children.”

Q: How do we help Christians in the West understand this and the other attacks in the past?

A: I think it is very important that we as Open Doors remind people that this is a spiritual battle. And in the realities of this battle, some Christians react to the honor of God and others don’t.

I think it is also important to understand that the Nigerian Christians are not super human beings. We need to understand that those Christians in northern Nigeria face discrimination, humiliation and attacks on almost a daily basis. They have built and rebuilt homes and churches so many times. They have gone to morgues to look for the bodies of their loved ones so often.

Is it realistic to expect them not to snap at a certain point in time? The question is: “would I, in a similar situation, defend my family and community?”

Our coordinator testifies that the youth of Dogo Nahawa are livid over this attack. When a pastor encouraged them to forgive, they were extremely offended. This is not to be commended, but it has to be understood.

Q: What is Open Doors doing to help the victims of the attack?

A: Our team is on the ground, visiting the bereaved and also those that have been injured and are now in the hospital. A high priority for us is to respond to the immediate need for food and water.

Open Doors has been pursuing every avenue available to us to help the church equip their members to always be able to give an answer to the hope they have, to reach out to Muslims in love and to react to their adversaries in a way that is pleasing to God. We also help ostracized Christians find others ways to earn an income.

[All names changed for security reasons.]

Help Send Emergency Relief to Nigeria Victims

**This article was originally posted at Open Doors**

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Missiologist Ed Stetzer on Anglican Missional (Ad)Ventures

I'm listening to Ed Stetzer's Anglican 1000 talk 'If I Were an Anglican' and I'm loving it! I'm hearing things that I've been thinking for a number of years now but have not really heard a large portion of the Church - Anglican or otherwise - endorse to my great frustration. I really hope the Church (big 'C'!), especially Ed's immediate audience, take this to heart and act on what the Spirit says to them. I for one would love to embed or root a ministry I've begun to creatives in the historical/inherited church - if the partnership were a symbiotic one!

Enjoy (but you'll need to take the time to watch/listen - or download to your mp3 device)!

Golfers' Faith Hits a Hole-in-One with FCA

I'll be the first to confess that while I like some sports (especially full contact for the unrestrained force they entail!), golf has always been at the bottom of my list of sports which I would actually *qualify* as a sport. In fact, it may be just above other activities such as ping pong (table tennis), shuffle board (or whatever that strange Olympic rocks-scooting-across-ice thing is called), wife-carrying and bog snorkeling. I must admit though that I did, at one time, caddy at a golf course near my home in Westerville, Ohio, USA while in high school. It was a painful waiting game just getting work, showing up at 6:30am to try to be the first caddy there to get out on the course. I remember one day waiting from 6:30am until 2:30pm just to get out! Then you have the regrettable situation of wealthy golfers not tipping or not tipping well. Ugghh . . it probably tainted my experience of the game of golf from early on.

Anyway, last summer my curiosity for the game was renewed when my father-in-law and two of my brother-in-laws asked me to play a round with them and other family and friends. I admit, I really went just for the relational investment and not golf itself. After the first 9 I managed to surprise everyone (including myself) by going head-to-head with my youngest brother-in-law Chad who was M-A-D I played as well as him . . and I never play the game! I was more pleased about that than my game itself. ;-)

I bring all of this up because next Monday I'll be meeting with a friend of a friend who will be here in Ireland coaching a team of Irish youth on their golf game and spiritual journey. His name is Ben Bost and he works for the FCA coordinating TourLife, a ministry to golfers, both amateur and pro. I'm really looking forward to hearing more of his story, the work he does and dreaming with him how we might collaborate on some future work supporting athletes AND artists in their life's journey. Some of you may know I recently launched a ministry to support 'creatives' (artists/musicians/actors/writers, etc.) called Soul Friend. More on that soon.

Here is a video of Ben working with golfers on tour, encouraging them in their journey with Jesus Christ. Please leave some comments and questions if you'd like me to ask him any on Monday.

Friday, March 12, 2010

My dreams are bursting at the seams: Fireflies by Owl City

I've only heard this song once (thank you Stella!), but it immediately spoke to me on a number of levels. Firstly, the music is very intricate and interesting. It doesn't come across as being built for radio play on rotation, but it definitely could be by it's own merit. I was intrigued and deeply satisfied with the musical aesthetic Owl City created with 'Fireflies'. Secondly, the music video was superb. I can assume that it means something more for people my age (mid 30's) and older from the Americas due to the hundreds of toys and gadgets animated in the video from the 1950's through the early 1990's. The visual aspects played into the song lyrics wonderfully and help to create a world within a world (bedroom) which is what the song itself is meaning to convey.

Finally, the themes the song itself carried are close to my heart . . . wonder, mystery and dreaming. I sense God is behind all of these elusive realities. They are like a breadcrumb trail leading to a hidden feast in the forest. Our God is a God of wonder, mystery and dreams. There is so much in Scripture that illustrates this well and so much in creation that affirms this truth. It seems my own vocation / calling in life is one of entering into inspired dreams and helping others enter into theirs as the Spirit of God leads. My greatest hope is that my wife and especially my children, will know this wonder-full, generous and good Father of all who invites us on the adventure of a lifetime with Him.

Journey on friends . . the best is yet to come!

"I'd like to make myself believe, that planet Earth turns slowly. It's hard to say I'd rather stay awake when I'm asleep . . cause everything is never as it seems . . because my dreams are bursting at the seams."

Friday, March 05, 2010

Twilight’s Subtle Soliloquy . . All That Glitters Is Not Gold

A number of months ago I wrote on my experience of watching the two Twilight films which have become monetary cinematic ‘successes’. I watched them in reverse order due to my strong desire to briefly escape a conference I had been attending when the ‘New Moon’ installment was released. New Moon left a bad taste in my mouth, but having some form of artistic integrity, I decided I must give the first film a chance to redeem the franchise. Twilight’s debut film release was, in my humble opinion, better than it’s newer relative. After being equally nauseated (New Moon) and convinced (original Twilight) by the two films within their accompanying social media tempest, I began reflecting on some more abstruse meaning presented within these films.

While there are elements to celebrate within the Twilight series, such as the cinematography of the Pacific Northwest, the intriguing screenwriting and the intricacies of connections between characters, there are of course more subtle messages that hold sway as well. My main concern in highlighting a few of these potentially more disastrous aspects is for younger, or less critical souls that could be trounced upon by Twilight’s resonance with their everyday experience and fanatic fantasies. If left unexamined in the midst of all the beauty and wonder the films traffic, these sentiments augmented by the film’s popular appeal may be assimilated unknowingly.

Reminiscent of the age old story of Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare, Twilight has an underlying tragic element which in many respects offers suicide and self harm as possible resolutions to teenage relational / emotional turmoil. This is nothing short of cataclysmic for malleable and somewhat unanchored lives, tossed around in the sea-change known as adolescence. I have no qualms with real life relational sophistication in all it’s variance as portrayed within the films, but I do not believe it beneficial for those aforementioned souls to see deadly means employed to deal with temporary situations. Bella seems perpetually encased in state of depression and exhibits accompanying behavior such as self-imposed social exclusion, potentially destructive behaviors and suicidal tendencies.

While freedom of expression is an important aspect of life, doesn’t ‘love’ motivate us to work for the good of others and not their harm? Casting our adult minds back to but a fraction of our own experience as teens - and possibly that of others we knew - should empower us to be better equipped in supporting these emerging adults in their wonderful, weird and yes, wacky, developmental journey. There is so much that is thrown up in the air within those formative years of human existence in regards to identity, relational circles and cycles, education, purpose, and emotional maturity that it seems cruel to offer anything less than edifying, constructive support for these adults under construction.

The pure platform that all forms of mass media inhabit augment the supra-reality each medium offers its consumer. By the very fact that something or someone is afforded a stage - ‘a moment in the spotlight’ - they have been given more credibility than possibly their character or message innately possess. This inordinate amount of influence requires an inordinate level of responsibility. This truth is corroborated in the Scriptures when it states, “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” (James 3:1, N.I.V.). The same truth was popularized in the Spiderman franchise films when Pete Parker’s uncle Ben tells him early into his web-slinging career that “. . with great power comes great responsibility.” Satire ensued.

Along with Bella’s tendency toward the downward spiral of self-obsessed destructive behaviors in the wake of her broken relationship with Edward, the films exuded a sense that token sexual encounters, while not intercourse, are ‘safe’ for those engaged in them. Setting the varied opinions about sexual intercourse prior to being in a lifelong, committed relationship aside, there are practical concerns with any popularization of dating habits that statistically end in more sexually transmitted disease / infections, unnecessary emotional pain and, of course, unwanted pregnancies. I know you may be thinking, “C’mon, it’s only a film!” and at times I would be saying the same thing. But, in this instance, because of the unique maturation phase of the Twilight films’ targeted audience and the ubiquitous, powerful influence of media in personal formation, I stand in opposition to messages communicated through these avenues and in this manner for the sake of the Young.

Edward’s seemingly benign encounters of gazing upon Bella in her underwear while in bed do nothing to help young people (let alone adults!) develop clear understanding and personal discipline in making choices which help them navigate the course of relational integrity throughout life. It’s reminiscent of the old adage that playing with fire usually ends in someone getting burned. This is not a fear based or fear motivated tactic, but pure and simple wisdom. It’s more than unfortunate that much of the Western world demonstrates that personal ‘freedom’ mandates the pursuit of the gratification of our every desire for our pleasure. There is a direct correlation between the choices we make and the consequences we experience - good or bad - in life. Anyone who admonishes or touts the innocence of such behavior only heaps fuel on the ‘fire’ and turns a blind eye to the incontestable evidence of how we humans are ‘wired up’ when it comes to - in the case above - sexual activity. The next logical step in a bedroom situation as displayed in ‘New Moon’ is obvious to all, it’s meant to work that way and frankly, that’s why it does - but it doesn’t usually end well.

After ranting to some degree about the potentially destructive messages inherent in such hugely popular films such as the Twilight franchise, and the intrinsic power suffused within mass media, I can understand why one might think me a prude. The inverse is actually true. From where I stand, gifts such as sex are designed to be more fully enjoy within the boundaries of healthy, lifelong monogamous relationships where, in ideal circumstances, both partners are perpetually seeking to do good to one another. Likewise, while some may herald this as an assault on personal freedoms, I see no qualitative benefit to exposing young people to lifestyle choices such as the ones exhibited by Bella (in the medium they were presented) without opportunities to discuss the various outcomes from those choices in the context of caring relationships. To do so otherwise is potentially destructive - especially for young lives in transition.

I’m all for art - I love it as a means of expression and a mirror to see ourselves within. I support the role art fulfills in revealing the spectrum of human experience through a variety of mediums, but I believe it should be done in a measured, sensitive approach which seeks to work for the good of the lives of those who engage with it.


**This was originally posted on Risen Magazine in the Blog section**

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

The Future of Social Media

I LOVE this stuff, it's so fascinating, inspiring and challenging. A wonderful & wired future is ahead that may make us wistful for some of what we lost if we're not intentionally preserving what holds significance for meaning-making in life.

PICNIC '09: The Future of Social Media with Gerd Leonhard from PICNIC Festival on Vimeo.