In our past was an age, a culture that defined itself by compliance and unity, going with the flow. This afforded those with power to corrupt and co-opt others. We ended up with wars that never should have happened, barons of manna ($) who formed and manipulated systems to abuse and take advantage of others, for which God will judge. It also led to a cultural pendulum swing towards individuality… self determination and defining. Now as we end 2017 though I find something interesting… a lot of millennials define themselves in some “indie” (independent individuality) against the tide of culture… What I note though is that they do want a tribe of other “indies” with them and they too, like other generations before, have tribal rules of dress, habits, foods, music and value systems.
I have the joy of living in a socially progressive nation and the capital, Wellington, is the point of that value system, which has many positive aspects for the collective society. It also has its blind spots. The “indies” all say they are for “free thinking” and individual freedom of thought… until you have a different value or opinion. They’re not new at this, but they are so social media consumed that most cannot see how intolerant they are. I’m around a very well intended tribe that truly wants to do good things in society, and they are great people, whom I love. What they can’t see is the typical millennial blind spot though of living rough and simply in several areas, then getting on jets and touring the globe, or eating rough, yet indulging in the banquet of luxury afforded in our affluent society. I’m not attacking them… mine did the same, as did the Gen Y’s. As did the boomers before me. It’s funny, each generation thinks its different though, while being the same…. human; therefore self absorbed, blind to its foibles and destined to repeat the human condition.
Funny in being the latest “indie” tribe though is the very cultural distinctive identifying markers they value from independent thinking, which the rest of the tribe ascribes to… because it’s communicated this is how one does…. fill in the blank. Yet, if that cultural “indie” more became the centre of the culture and other tribes adopted what this present “indie” crowd defines itself by, they would abandon that more because it’s not really a more, but an identifier to mark them, define them, against the others. We’re funny that way, aye? It’s like the cartoon movie, The Incredibles. When everyone is special, no one is special. In the human condition, especially today in the most broken, dysfunctional, amoral, purposeless, meaningless, self absorbed time in history – at least since the later Roman Empire, we never more undefined, unaware of the inherent value inscribed upon us in our Imago Dei, for whom we are created to relate. In our post-Christendom pluralistic, globalised, secularised do-it-yourself spirituality as long as there is no god whom one must engage or be accountable, no definition of ethical or moral outside of our own design, age we find ourselves not having a d*** clue as to why we’re here, what is truly deeply fulfilling. We get hints of it, but can’t seem to find the source of that aphrodisiac fragrance… Therefore, we seek to define it and create it in our own efforts.
The challenge: first, how do we (those of us who claim to know and follow and be under the loving reign of Christ) actually become a people so in love with, so transformed by, so aligned to our calling and purpose in this world as salt, light, ambassadors, priests, fragrances to a world so d*** lost and unaware? How can we first be transformed and actually in love ourselves – before we “fake it” to convince others of a love for Him for which they do not see in us. You can’t fake that. If it is real, they see it with no confusion before you ever utter His name. Secondly, rather than us, His people, trying to get them to say “uncle” and mentally ascend to facts we hold true, let them first smell that aroma and be undeniably drawn to seek its source. Let us love, sacrifice, be inconvenienced, forbear, practice deference that they want to know these truths plainly.
the past few years tattoos and skinny jeans have marked the “indie” and next will be the return of the bell bottom or baggy jean, from short to long, to short hair… Blah, blah, blah, blah…. Who cares! Rather than chase such vain and empty things, maybe we can chase the lover of our souls and then maybe our lost culture, which we love, will want to chase us?
Nga manãkitanga katoa i roto ia te Karaiti
[All of Christ’s blessings to you]
I offer this link. I have no words other than to exhort that we abandon our self absorbed and self actualising understanding of life and life in the Kingdom.
A preach up!
Today I had the privilege to preach Pentecost! This was as the church filled with “billows of smoke” (as it says in Acts 2!)… I took a risk – time to speak plain, to give it straight from what I felt the Spirit saying. I had pondered this message for three weeks – how Pentecost was already an established feast, what it was, why Peter quoted Joel, the context for Joel’s prophesy, the implications of the day, how the birth of the church, the coming of the Spirit was not a reaction – but God’ plan from the beginning and the mandate we have as a result of it! It went really well – only offended a few (unintentionally!), but most loved it – though it pricked them to incarnate their neighbourhoods as the body of Christ!
I don’t often push the recordings out there, but thought I might share it with you while it’s hot off the press. If you are in need of a laugh, want to do a little critique, give it a listen.
Preamble: This is not a theological defense or attack. It is not a thesis. It is a thought or two, a consideration, an encouragement. I also confess I am an Anglican, a Catholic Evangelical… So, get over those hurdles and start from a post-reformation saint trying to authentically and orthodoxically follow the Messiah… Now, read on!
I have Catholic roots. I have evangelical roots. I am an Evangelical Anglo-Catholic who is a missional missionary and leader in an urban post-Christian post-modern reality in a western context. I suffer the same over marketed drowning culture as you, if you’re reading this! There is no space for reflection, getting perspective unless one turns off, tunes out, blocks space to slow down and actually really do real thinking and meditating.
Ever been in a time praying with others and the most common phrases were, “Lord we just…” or “hmmm…” and rambling 1000 words to say what could be said in 50? Yet in those times come birthing authenticity and earnestness. There is strength and weakness. Like most things in life, it is not complete or holistic. It becomes trite and shallow and only includes what we feel and think about right now… in the moment and doesn’t help us see, think, feel (also known as align) with God, His will, or transform us, but reduces prayer to our limited shallow theology and emotions of the day. BUT it also presents the real needs of the day – and mysteriously God includes us in His efficacious engagement with the world by moving in our prayer! A mystery! I heard it said recently that God somehow includes us, begins our reign with Him even now, even sharing His power with us, by making us part of the way He moves! A huge mandate to intercede!
Yet that is incomplete.
I have experienced seasons (two plus years to be gut honest!) where it was dark, real dark. I had no words. I was out of words. I didn’t feel and what I did sense was dark! I didn’t even have energy to intercede regularly. The only thing that kept me; what healed me; what sustained me – was praying the Divine offices…. regular times of prayer every day, where I was led, like spiritual therapy, as compared with physical therapy. It impacted me emotionally, mentally from the core of spiritual therapy. It guided me, reminded me, told me and exhorted me – because my heart was too dark to remember. I am every grateful for those times of liturgy.
I am also limited – I need and have come to find encouragement, even transformation in liturgy! I have found that it helps me get how to worship and adore Him, without a string of dime store, supermarket check out queue romance novel empty words I don’t relate to beyond mental ascent, but certainly not with the faithfulness of the command to Love the Lord my God with all of my mind, all of my body, all of my heart, all of my strength (will).
Why? What is the draw to the liturgy? Most holistically, what is the draw to a holistic and authentic use of liturgy – which makes plenty of room for the need of the day, the intentions of the heart, the aches and emotions that need and should be expressed?
There are several reasons for this BOTH AND to be holistic and healthy and that any liturgy provides for the former and while shaping us in the latter. First, We don’t reflect seasonally or thoroughly through all of the things we should reflect upon without a plan, a calendar. We don’t remember well at all. Liturgy drives this. Second, Liturgy is mostly Scripture! All Anglican and Catholic, and Orthodox liturgies are formed and collected from Scripture. Can one object to praying Scripture? Third, by the first two, it helps form us, transform us, and align us. Ever pray, “Your will be done?” Ever pray “we want what you want God?” Well, this is how we align our desire, our posture, our perspective to God. Scripture guides us, and the liturgy is in a schedule, a routine that helps us think through and worship in a holistic way. Fourth, Liturgy aligns our world, our lives along God’s paradigm, instead of a pagan calendar… these two are a step closer to a Biblical world view. In a world where there is less than 10% Biblical world view held by the Christian population of all traditions, this would be very helpful.
Furthermore, when you reach – and you will – if you’re young and in denial, okay, I’ll wait for life to slap the ever loving s*** out of you and you’ll be back to tell me you now get it – that point where you cannot even form a prayer, the liturgy takes you there, where you should and need to be and that transformation and slow realignment, rebirth of your soul can occur – because it aligns you with Him, His will, His perspective, and the release to trust and allow God to be, well, God! It’s surrender, but that’s not popular today.
These well written, theologically thought through liturgies and prayers are the 50 words to say what can be said in 50 words, verses 1000 to say what could be said in 50! They are thought out, constructed, well chosen vocabulary, and have been prayed and reflected upon and sharpened over centuries. There is wisdom in listening to good orators, or reading good writing – well, here you are! AND it’s shared and prayed with thousands of others same day and in a world where the time zones shift, it means it is prayed repeatedly every hour for twenty-four hours! AND it’s been prayed for centuries. It exposes you to others. Within the Anglican tradition there are approved liturgies and prayer books across the globe. They are the same, but also include innovative thought through contributions of others.
Then for those who are passionate about expressing what’s on the heart, liturgy provides space every time you gather to pray openly, in your own earnest passion about anything and everything! It also frames prayer to include the things and reflect the values of a diocese, a society, today. So, there is nothing lost.
I think the resistance when we get honest, is a) uneducated fear of it being unorthodox or boring, or too rigid, b) not accustomed to anyone having any form – we so embrace no form (discipline) of any type, we resist it even when it’s good to allow input to help form us holistically. Think of it as doing sit-ups; if you only do crunches and belly muscle work, you’ll be humped over in a short time, because you haven’t holistically trained your body to also address the counter balance of strengthening the back; and c) the lie of our time that if it’s old its irrelevant and modern only is good. Additionally, I think we don’t know how to focus, to slow down, to listen well. Liturgy provides that space – we need it desperately! Our lack of it has birthed theology for how we feel today – lack of orthodoxy at best and heresy at worst. We’re moved by the emotion of today… because we feel it earnestly doesn’t make it right or true; yet it has become the arbitrating reality today.
So, give it a consideration! Don’t go nuts. Where I am, we practice morning and evening prayers together. It’s not some painful hour for our busy contemporary lives. It’s 8.30a and 5.30p… It frames the day. The New Zealand Anglican Prayer book also offers a short mid-day prayer and compline/night prayer for the end of the day. It is chalked with variations and options, festival days, etc, providing variance and routine and freedom to adapt and move with the earnestness of the day. It is respected not just by the global Anglican Communion, but other traditions as well. There is also the Book of Common Prayer – still used (with editing over time) since the early 1600’s! One can also draw from the Orthodox and Catholic Missals. Our fore-fathers and mothers developed Divine offices, set times of day where different forms/types/postures/purposes of prayer occur. I practice seven offices each day – none are ordinarilly long, five alone, some very brief, altering time when conflicting in a meeting, etc. I vary how I do it, but it helps me, forms me, reminds me, makes sure I practice all the postures from intercession, to repentance, to adoration, etc. Do I ever just pray? You bet – regular form of life for me; and at times do retreats, as well as long prayer walks on my own, where I just talk with God – telling Him more than one would ever want!
To sum it up, in good consolation seasons of life, or the dark nights of the soul, it keeps me. It keeps me when I can’t keep it. It helps me holistically seek, know and be known, to posture myself and keep perspective. I’ll give you one short example. At 4p daily, my phone/laptop/pad gives me a reminder for none (9th hour of the day prayer… anytime from 3-4p daily… I set mine for 4p because it best fits my life demands. At none prayer, the reminder in my phone has notes to help remind me, a very short liturgy that helps me keep perspective, to think, be reminded and to align my heart to God’s – to surrender. How? Here is my None prayer: “It is mid to late afternoon. It is the fading part of the day, the time of decline, when shadows begin to lengthen. The fading of time brings home death and impermanence and the need to connect with something transcendent.” This simple reminder puts my very temporal time here on earth in perspective with the eternal reality inwhich I live. I don’t take myself or my contribution in this world so serious that I think “I’m all that.” It reminds me I am small and I serve with authenticity and sincerity, but the world is His! In the notes of this reminder for None, is “None is nine; the night hour of the day. It is mid to late afternoon. It is the fading part of the day, the time of decline, when shadows begin to lengthen. The fading of time brings home death and impermanence and the need to connect with something transcendent (beyond time). This perspective helps us connect with what is most important. It is an opportunity to acknowledge the limits of our lives.” You see? It keeps me. It keeps me a humble disciple. I’ll not bore you with all of my prayer structure here, but will gladly share them with you if they would help. In the mean time, I encourage you to consider adding liturgy to your rhythm of life as a Christ follower. For a taster, I’d recommend Common Prayer, http://commonprayer.net/. It’s a once a day contemporary taster for anabaptist traditions. You can also source the NZ Prayer Book, http://anglicanprayerbook.nz/, or the Book of Common Prayer, along with many other resources, http://anglicansonline.org/resources/bcp.html. Feel free to research divine offices, etc. Don’t go nuts! Start slow – mine grew over years of practice and experimenting, participating with monks and living in and amongst Anglicans here in New Zealand.
In closing – I’m not saying ditching spontaneity in prayer. Of course pray without ceasing. Pray when needs arise, when parting or gathering, or for a specific move in the heart – including the persecuted church which is always on my heart (!). BUT be holistic, as one is with exercise or diet. Be healthy! Your body will wear out and die. Your soul – who you are is eternal! So be healthy! Learn to see life (think, feel, posture, attitude, action) in a holistic healthy full orthodoxy and allow yourself to be shaped by Scripture as you pray and pray together! My experience is people who practice this, especially committed with a group of others, come to faithfully value it and miss it immensely when it’s not a regular part of their lives! And I’m talking about millennials, not boomers or x’ers.
I’d love to hear how others are experiencing this!
A VLOG from Wise Words Festival, Canterbury, on creativity, meditation, writing, presence, and the thorny subject of why we can’t fit other people’s ideas of who they want us to be.
Originally posted on And Other Poems: Orpheus as a Child Everything is bright to his eyes. The spaces between the connections of life. Each sound is music, whether it is factory thrum, or spider web vibration. He loves raindrops falling into puddles, tiny ripples, reflected skies. Rocky outcrops and tree silhouettes outlined against the light.…
I’ve watched the events unfolding in the Middle East MY ENTIRE FREAKING LIFE! It’s ALWAYS BEEN chaotic; always multifaceted and many guilty parties. My conclusions, to date anyway, are not popular with anyone. I reject taking up “others’ views” to simply be accepted within a “tribe”, to belong.
We see a region, from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran, across Israel, Palestine, to Egypt and all the way to Morocco. The recent events with super powers involved in an effort to “destroy ISIS” without being on the ground is futile and we all know it, but no one is satisfied with allowing ISIS to continue, nor to commit boots on the ground to stomp them out, either. Peace seems a virtue ISIS scoffs towards and uses it only to outmaneuver for treachery. What a mess! It feels surreal, like the summer of 1914, a world war waiting to happen for no clear reason or worthy sacrifice for what is about to be demanded to pay death itself.
Look, on one hand – and many will NOT like what I am about to say, the mess in the Middle East has been fostered by a century of imperial meddling from many countries, the US, UK, France, Russia and now the latest, China. The lust for oil, control of a geographic key region has driven people to fight over this area for the history of mankind. The past century directly lays ground work for internal strife, and the chaos of today. We continue to define “our interests” at the expense and lack of voice by those who “get to” endure our will played on them. In other words – a big part of this mess is OUR FAULT (the western powers, and I’d throw Russia and China into this complicity.
BUT, and here is what is not allowed to be said…. BUT… the core of this mess is a violent culture, a violent predisposition that has fought amongst itself from all of history. The Old Testament reveals a history of war, genocide and racial dominance and NON-STOP bloodshed. Many site the curse of sin and the nature of the races that God told Israel to wipe out because their DNA was evil. Others will say they are merely working out the internal defining Europe did centuries ago. Some will say it’s all our fault, making money off warfare, war we participate in and we sell to when and when we’re not directly involved.
I think all of it is true. What is not allowed to be said is that the Middle East, from the Persians, to the Arabs, to the North Africans – they have some deep cultural VIOLENT and literally murderous tendencies that they are not owning up to. Life is cheap, “my way” or die (the eternal fallen human disposition) is real there. They choose this reality and as a people and region are not willing to come to terms and compromise to co-exist together.
The unbridled freedoms of the west, what liberals insist will bring harmony to the Middle East, are exactly the core of what they hate – despise, loath and froth at the mouth over. They do not esteem freedom at all, but concrete and clearly defined boundaries of absolute obedience. Free thought, critical thinking and a willingness to tolerate any dissent is odious to the Middle Eastern cultures. Hence, reason does not work and why democracy is ludicrous and a waste of time by the right and the left persuasions. The right simply wants to lull them to peace with profits and markets. It’s a mere temporal anesthetic that will not be effective long, as so many realities of the region reveal.
So, what do we do? Great question – no clear answer or answers. The first step though is realising NO answer will fix it. There is no “right” choice. There is NO fix to this region. Dour? Yes. Yet the entire history of the region is dour and I’m not allowed to say that either. The Kingdom of God is the ONLY fix to the region. Yet, a helicopter marketed shiny western evangelism of celebrity isn’t the way either – rather an upside down kingdom approach of humility – but we’re not patient enough for that, are we?
*Thank you to my nephew, Joel Knight, for this beautiful photograph (Wellington, New Zealand, 2015)