"Unapologetic Theology: A Christian Voice in a Pluralistic Conversation" is the title of a book by my beloved theology professor and friend, the late William C. Placher. It is also now the title of this blog, a place where I hope to add a Christian voice -- God knows, not "the" Christian voice, but "a" Christian voice and not just any old voice, but a distinctly Christian voice -- to the pluralistic conversation going on about just about everything.
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If you could do what you've always wanted to do, what would it be?
Like many clergy, one of the
things I like to do is read the books of (and listen to the CD's or podcasts
of) authors who write about prayer, the Bible, and our relationship with God.
I don't agree with 100% (or even
50%) of what these authors write, and in fact many of their theological stances
are far away from my own.
But that's part of their
attraction: their writing and speaking is, at least to me, a breath of fresh
air. They challenge not only my opinions, but my whole world-view.
By contrast, so much of what's out
there in mainstream Protestantism seems all the same: carefully rational, and
predictably social-liberal (or social-conservative) agenda-driven.
I say all that by way of
introducing you to the thought of another such author outside the mainstream but who has
meant a lot to me: John Eldredge, who is mostly known for his writing on men's spirituality.
As we prepare for my church's annual
meeting this Sunday, the following quote of John Eldredge keeps coming back to me,
because I believe he is asking a critical question not only of us as
individuals, but as a church - a faith community - as well.
So here goes. Read it carefully,
and think about what he's saying.
It captures a large part of what makes me tick -- it's as close as I get to an overall guiding leadership principle as the Rector of a church. But what's being said here will help YOU in your own spiritual and personal growth, I promise:
If you had permission to do what you really wanted to do, what
would you do?
Don't ask how - "how" cuts desire off at the knees.
In the beginning of asking yourself what you want to do, asking
how you're going to do it is faithlessness. "How" is God's
department. He is asking you WHAT.
What is written in your heart?
What makes you come alive?
If you could do what you've always wanted to do, what would it
be? (A clue: those times you found yourself loving what you were doing.)
Release control in exchange for the recovery of the dreams in
'The spiritual life cannot be made suburban,' Howard Macy
writes, 'it is always frontier, and we who live in it must accept and even
rejoice that it remains untamed.'
Mystery is essential to adventure. (Read the Bible and you'll
see that God has his people do some huge, amazing thing. And then never do it
that way again. Follow Jesus around looking for a formula for healing and he'll
drive you crazy. He never does the same thing twice.)
With God, there are no formulas. There are no step-by-step
plans. If we are to be his followers, we must embrace something beyond our
control. Originality and creativity are essential.
For Lent, I was thinking of doing the typical fasts: fast from Facebook and take up reading, fast from petty vices like overindulging in sweets and alcohol and take on moderation, yada yada yada.
But I'm re-thinking that this year. What I'm fasting from this Lent is discouragement. That means cutting back on what is so often the source of discouragement, which is a tendency to gorge on, or dwell on, bad news.
(Let me be clear: that does not mean giving up news or otherwise burying my head in the sand: it means staying informed while finding ways not to get pulled into a downward spiral of feelings of numbness and helplessness; it means giving up unproductive feelings like hopelessness and resignation and taking on visible behaviors like giving encouragement and taking action.)
It means making visible -- here, on my blog, and even on Facebook -- the good.
Because the problem is -- to paraphrase the community organizer Rich Harwood -- a lot of times we see "good news stories…
So for Lent, I was thinking of doing the typical fasts: fast from Facebook and take up reading, fast from petty vices like overindulging in sweets and alcohol and take on moderation, yada yada yada.
But I'm re-thinking that.
Now one of the things I'm thinking about fasting from during Lent is discouragement. That means cutting back on what is so often the source of discouragement, which is a tendency to gorge on, or dwell on, bad news.
That would mean taking on encouragement: to make visible -- even on Facebook -- the good.
Because the problem is -- to paraphrase the community organizer Rich Harwood -- a lot of times we see "good news stories" as being quaint -- they are tossed in at the end of the news as an inspiring story, or put in the style section. But stories of good things happening -- people coming together to do things, is not a touchy-feely, feel-good story, but something affecting real change.
So for starters: I'm inspired by the leadership example of…