The Weekend Wanderer: 20 October 2018

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

Oscar Romero“A ‘Voice For The Voiceless’: Sainthood For El Salvador’s Archbishop Óscar Romero” – This past Sunday, the Vatican elevated Archbishop Óscar Romero and Pope Paul VI to sainthood, along with five other “lesser-known” saints. “Known to his followers as Monseñor (Monsignor), Romero was a champion of human rights at a time when El Salvador was on the brink of civil war. His tireless fight for civil rights ranks him among figures like Martin Luther King Jr. His devout following filled San Salvador’s towering cathedral each Mass.”

 

peterson-square1“Eugene Peterson Enters Hospice Care” – Eugene Peterson has been one of the most significant influences upon my life as a pastor. His outstanding writing on the work of pastoral ministry, spiritual theology, and memoir of life in ministry have helped keep me on track as a pastor in the North American culture that tends to fashion church celebrities. Given all this, I was sad to hear this past week that Peterson entered hospice care as he nears the end of his earthly life. Christianity Today shares a wealth of the articles and resources that Peterson has written in the pages of their publications.

 

Image“The State of Theology: What Do People Really Believe in 2018?” – Ligonier Ministries partnered with LifeWay Research in their third biennial study on religious beliefs in the United States. “This year’s survey both confirmed previous findings and brought some unexpected results. Year after year, we are seeing the increasing grip of relativism on our culture and deep confusion among evangelicals. For example: 91 percent of evangelicals affirm that people are justified by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone, but 51 percent of evangelicals also believe that God accepts the worship of all religions. How can this be? What do Americans—and people in the pew—really believe?” [Thanks to Jim Bohn for sharing this link.]

 

_103887398_kievworshipgetty14oct“Orthodox Church split: Five reasons why it matters” – “The Russian Orthodox Church has cut ties with the Church leadership in Istanbul, the Constantinople Patriarchate traditionally regarded as the Orthodox faith’s headquarters. The Moscow-based Russian Orthodox Church has at least 150 million followers – more than half the total of Orthodox Christians. The dispute centres on Constantinople’s decision last week to recognise the independence of Ukrainian Orthodox worshippers. Just another arcane theological dispute, you might think. Well, there is more to it than that.”

 

Walker Percy“Walker Percy: The Hopeful Dystopian” – Walker Percy is one of my favorite novelists, because his work opens up the unique insanities of culture, the depravity of humanity, and the unexpected places that hope rises up. All that being said, Percy’s work is not for the faint of heart.  Daniel Ritchie reviews Brian A Smith’s Walker Percy and the Politics of the Wayfarer (a steeply-priced book published by an academic press) for Christianity Today, and gives the reader some helpful insights both into Percy in general and the value of Smith’s book.

 

Smith-headshot-243x300-circleIn other news at the junction of Christianity and the arts, Image magazine announced James K. A. Smith as their new editor in chief. This is welcome news, as Jamie is an amazing thinker and writer on issues of faith and culture. I look forward to the leadership he will bring in pulling together an editorial team for this important journal on faith, art, and mystery.

 

U“Floating pipe set to start massive ocean cleanup process” – “A 2,000 foot-long floating pipe nicknamed Wilson is about to start its mission to collect all the plastic in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Last month, the Ocean Cleanup foundation launched the world’s first ocean cleanup system out of San Francisco to take on the notorious “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” a giant floating trash pile between San Francisco and Hawaii that is twice the size of Texas. It’s the largest of five ocean trash piles on Earth.”

 

1380“The lost art of concentration: being distracted in a digital world” – This latest article from Harriet Griffey in The Guardian is just the latest in a stream of conversation around the destruction of our ability to concentrate in a distracted, digital world. “This constant fragmentation of our time and concentration has become the new normal, to which we have adapted with ease, but there is a downside: more and more experts are telling us that these interruptions and distractions have eroded our ability to concentrate.” I am currently working on a series of messages for a retreat with students in the winter connecting this theme with the plea for “an undivided heart” found in Psalm 86:11.

 

Reader Come Home.jpg“What we lose by reading 100,000 words every day” – Jennifer Howard reviews Maryanne Wolf’s new book, Reader, Come Home. “Wolf wants to understand what’s happening to our reading brains at this historic juncture between the old ways and the new. A lifelong book lover who turned her fascination with reading into a career as a cognitive neuroscientist, she continues to explore how humans learned to do such an astonishing thing as read in the first place….While neuroplasticity allowed humans to develop our ‘deep-reading circuit,’ she explains, it also makes us vulnerable to constant streams of digital input. Clutching cellphones, scrolling through Instagram feeds, browsing websites all day, ‘we inhabit a world of distraction,’ she writes.” [Thanks to David Taylor for sharing this article.]

 

winners-to-be-announced-668x1024Book Awards – And since we are on the topic of books, at the end of last week the finalists for the National Book Award were announced. You can access the entire list here with the categories of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and young people’s literature, as well as a new category of translated literature. The winner will be announced on November 14. The winner of the Man Booker Prize for fiction, whose short list I shared in September, was also announced this past week with Anna Burns taking home the prize for her third full-length novel, Milkman.

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

Shadow-Casting Monsters: Parker Palmer on dealing with our souls, part 3

parker-palmer-header-520x280Bringing my reflections on Parker Palmer’s five ‘shadow-casting monsters’ from his book Let Your Life Speak, I want to bring our attention to the fourth and fifth of that list today.

Shadow-Casting Monsters #4:
4. “Fear, especially our fear of the natural chaos of life” (89).

Don’t we fear the chaos of things? Having participated in church planting in various forms over the past ten years, as well as also following up a founding pastor of thirty years at an established church, I have experienced many different forms of the chaos of life. Yet, it has also been in the midst of that chaos that I have seen some of the most exciting and creative things occur. What would have happened if we had rejected the new and exciting because of our overwhelming fear of chaos? Nothing. Nothing would have happened. How completely sad. Palmer goes on to say: “The insight we receive on the inner journey is that chaos is the precondition to creativity: as every creation myth has it, life itself emerged from the void” (89).

5. “The denial of death itself” (90).

Here’s two more insights from Palmer on this one:

We also live in denial of the fact that all things must die in due course. (90)

The best leaders in every setting reward people for taking worthwhile risks even if they are likely to fail. These leaders know that the death of an initiative – if it was tested for good reasons – is always a source of new learning. (90)

This fifth shadow-casting monster reflects perhaps one of the most important things I have learned in the past three years. There are life cycles in our lives, in the seasons, in our work, and in ministry leadership. There is a time to live and there is a time to die, as the writer of Ecclesiastes says.

How often we, as leaders, become a stultifying force in our organizations when we fear the natural way of death. I have seen and experienced the waste that happens when an initiative that needs to die is kept alive because of tradition or some sense wrong ownership. It is no longer fruitful. It is no longer risky and life-giving. God forgive us for doing this in the church.

May we be leaders who face the shadow-casting monsters in our lives, organizations, and ministries so that God’s best for us and others is realized as we work with Him, and not against Him.

Shadow-Casting Monsters: Parker Palmer on dealing with our souls, part 2

parker-palmer-header-520x280Continuing my reflections on Parker Palmer’s five ‘shadow-casting monsters’ in the life of a leader from his book Let Your Life Speak, I turn now to numbers three, which is: “‘Functional atheism’, the belief that the ultimate responsibility for everything rests with us” (88).

Here’s a bit more from Palmer on this one:

This is the unconscious, unexamined conviction that if anything decent is going to happen here, we are the ones who must make it happen – a conviction held even by people who talk a good game about God. (88)

What do you think about this one? After working within a few different churches in the evangelical tradition, I’m tempted to wonder if this is one of the most pervasive of Palmer’s monsters in that church tradition at present. I find it in myself, too.

Let me stop to ask some tough questions:

  • do I think I own my leadership tasks more than God does?
  • do I feel the need to shoulder everything on my own, or do I submit myself to God and His ways (‘not my will, but Your will be done’)?
  • am I considering what is mine to do and what is not mine to do, or do I try to do everything?
  • do I even think about God in all of this?

For those who are able to master this monster, Palmer writes these words:

We learn that we need not carry the whole load but can share it with others, liberating us and empowering them. We learn that sometimes we are free to lay the load down altogether. The great community asks us to do only what we are able and trust the rest to other hands. (89)

I’d love to hear some feedback and comments on this.

Shadow-Casting Monsters: Parker Palmer on dealing with our souls, part 1

parker-palmer-header-520x280Awhile back, I read through Parker Palmer‘s brief book Let Your Life Speak. This is an outstanding book on life and leadership. Palmer has worked quite a bit with educators and as an advocate for peace in our world today. He comes from a Quaker background.

To set the tone of what he is trying to accomplish in this book, slowly read through the following quotation in the book:

It is so much easier to deal with the external world, to spend our lives manipulating material and institutions and other people instead of dealing with our own souls. (82)

Immediately after this important statement, Palmer outlines five ‘shadow-casting monsters’ in the life of a leader. I wanted to outline three of those here today, with particular attention to the first one.

Shadow-Casting Monsters #1-2:
1. “Insecurity about identity and worth” (86).
2. “The belief that the universe is a battleground, hostile to human interests” (87).

In pondering the first of Palmer’s leadership monsters, I was challenged to look into myself. Am I leading out of insecurity or lack of worth? Am I trying to get a sense of value and meaning in my life through those I am leading? Am I controlling or manipulating others in order to create a sense of value in my own self? Our shadow-side stretches out to satisfy our own selves through what we do. This is not true leadership or ministry.

Further in on this first monster, Palmer writes these words that every leader should consider deeply:

These leaders possess a gift available to all who take an inner journey: the knowledge that identity does not depend on the role we play or the power it gives us over others. It depends only on the simply fact that we are children of God, valued in and for ourselves. When a leader is grounded in that knowledge, what happens in the family, the office, the classroom, the hospital can be life-giving for all concerned. (87)

The alternative to such a grounded living? Flipping Palmer’s words on their head, it would be giving death to those around us.