5/1/10

Resisting a false religion

Here's something I'm going to share in my sermon tomorrow morning. I can't say I'm living up to all of it, but hopefully I'm a work in progress. I'm calling it "One Christ-follower’s attempt to put the reins on unbridled consumption." Please comment with your thoughts or your list.

1. I do not believe I deserve something just because I can afford it.

2. I will not buy stuff just to make me feel better.

3. I will not teach my kids that they deserve the best of everything, or even the best I can afford.

4. I will not choose brand name products just so I can feel good about owning them or so I can display their corporate names and logos.

5. I choose to live below what I can afford so I can bless others and God’s kingdom.

6. I will not allow my spending to infringe on my tithing.

7. I resist the assumption that I should get to have all my wants and preferences fulfilled.

8. I desire to be wise and not wasteful in the items I buy, which doesn’t mean they can’t be attractive, but they must also be useful, practical, durable and environmentally sustainable.

9. I will postpone and save rather than buy on credit.

10. I will endeavor to learn if the companies, whose products I buy, treat their employees well and pay them fairly. And I am willing to pay more for that to happen or go without.

3/17/10

So far with fasting, solitude and silence

Happy St. Pat's Day!

A month ago I decided to do some fasting and have some times of solitude and silence during Lent to hopefully help increase my receptivity to God. So I wanted to tell about how it's been going.

As I said at the Ash Wednesday service, the odd thing about fasting and times of solitude and silence is that you're not doing anything. It's about refraining from doing, and it's natural for us to think that nothing's going on.

It's like the soil during the winter. It seems like nothing's happening; it's just wasted time. But it's not. My dad is a farmer, and he says that it's good for the soil to get a good solid freeze, because it has the same effect on the soil as it does on our city streets. It loosens it up. It prepares the soil for growth.

That image of loosening the soil for growth has stayed with me during my fasting, solitude, and silence.

In our culture, we're addicted to doing, aren't we? We're addicted to doing and talking and going. We eat and we talk and we work, and we get on our phones and computers and TVs, and then we eat and talk some more. In fasting, solitude, and silence we slow down and put away those activities for a time.

Personally, I believe I'm beginning to sense that my soul is loosening up, and I'm becoming more receptive and sensitive to God.

I often use scripture to help me focus during those times. When my appetite gets my attention during the day while fasting, I might recall the time Jesus said that we don't live by bread alone but on every word of God (Matthew 4:4). Or I might remember the time Jesus said that he had food others didn't know about. His food was doing his Father's will (John 4:34).

And when I practice solitude and silence, my focus is all about resting in God. As my mind wanders I may bring it back by imagining Jesus saying to me, "Come to me, ... and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). Sometimes I recite the verse, "Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10).

Or I just tell myself that I have nothing to do right now but rest in God. A lot of times it feels like I'm not very good at it. It's hard for me to just rest in God. Maybe that's why I need it.

I want to encourage you between now and Easter to experiment with some limited fasting as your health allows, or try some periods of solitude and silence. Maybe by putting aside our overfilled lives for a time we will find the soil loosening and our souls becoming more receptive. Let me know how it goes.

2/24/10

Gratitude can set us free

I've been reading a very good, challenging book: Colossians Remixed by married couple Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmaat. Today I found a blog with some stuff from Brian. I want to share with you part of his poem on Gratitude. Here's a link to the whole thing. He goes on to express gratitude for discovering the grace of Christ at a street mission as a youth.

In a culture of perpetual dissatisfaction,
…a culture where you are what you have made yourself,
…a culture of ceaseless craving
……for new experiences,
……for consumer goods,
……for power,
……for sex,
……for wealth,
……for status,
…a culture of hyperactive frenzy and anxiety,
…a culture of paralysis and numbness,
……in this culture,
……gratitude can set us free.

Gratitude receives life as a gift,
…not a self-made accomplishment.

Gratitude is rooted in deep satisfaction,
…not held captive to dissatisfaction.

Gratitude replaces isolation
…with community.
Gratitude replaces competition
…with friendship.

Gratitude meets an economy of ‘more’
…with the audacious experience of ‘enough.’

Gratitude abandons aggression
…for gentleness.

Gratitude shakes off arrogance,
…for humility.

If the peace of Christ rules in our hearts,
…if we know the power of forgiveness,
…if we have been renewed in Christ,
…if love binds our lives together,
…then we will be thankful.

If the word of Christ dwells in us richly,
…if the word of Christ takes up residence deep in our lives,
…if that word begins to bear fruit in us,
…if wisdom begins to shape our imaginations,
…then we will sing songs of profound gratitude.

If we have come to Christ,
…if we give our whole lives to Christ,
…if we submit every dimension of our lives to his loving rule,
…if we do everything in the name of Christ,
……then our whole lives will be a thanks offering,
……our whole lives will give thanks to God our Father.

Christian ministry is not a duty,
…it is an act of gratitude.

1/21/10

Jim Wallis interviewed on The Daily Show

I've been following Jim Wallis for nearly 30 years, and while I don't agree with everything, he's worth reading and listening to. He was interviewed by John Stewart last night on The Daily Show. Here's the video. -Steve Todd

1/9/10

Wesley's Covenant Prayer

On Sunday, January 10, I'm inviting everyone of Horizons to pray this prayer everyday for the rest of the month. It's from John Wesley, so it's old--18th century. The language is archaic, but it's still powerful.

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.
Amen.