The Weekend Wanderer: 18 January 2020

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.

114749“Pastor Turns Terrorist Hostage Video into Testimony” – “A hostage video released last week by Boko Haram did far more than issue another plea for rescue from a Nigerian Christian. It revealed a modern-day Shadrach. ‘By the grace of God, I will be together with my wife, my children, and my colleagues,’ said Lawan Andimi, a Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (EYN) pastor in the troubled northeastern state of Adamawa. ‘[But] if the opportunity has not been granted, maybe it is the will of God. Be patient, don’t cry, don’t worry. But thank God for everything.’ It is testimony even to his Islamist captors, said Gideon Para-Mallam, the Jos-based Africa ambassador for the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students.”

 

william-farlow-IevaZPwq0mw-unsplash-1000x667“Can Spirituality Exist Without God? A Growing Number Of Americans Say Yes” – “The global research firm YouGov lists ‘being more spiritual‘ as one of Americans’ top 10 New Year’s resolutions for 2020, and the icon used to illustrate that aspiration is a person meditating — not praying. And more than a quarter of Americans now say they are spiritual, but not religious, according to Pew Research Center. What does it mean to be spiritual outside the confines of religion? For some, both exist side by side. For others, even those who consider themselves atheists or ‘nones,’ the concept of spirituality might feel critically important. They say it has to do with how we interact with others, with living more contemplatively, and with appreciating nature and the natural world.”

 

Screen Shot 2020-01-17 at 12.40.30 PM“How I learned to curb my tendency to work too much” – Mike Monroe: “The first clue that I was a workaholic was my worsening health. The number on the scale was getting bigger. I started getting aches and pains. But my health wasn’t the only sign. I was checking my work email in church. My friends stopped inviting me to things. I would hear about bachelor parties that not only was I not invited to but I hadn’t even known about. You know you’re a workaholic when you feel scorned, and you think the best way to get back at somebody is to work harder. But once you’re willing to admit that you may have a problem, defeating workaholism—like any ‘-ism’—is a process. Here are the lessons that I’ve learned in my journey to do just that.”

 

Screen Shot 2020-01-17 at 12.30.45 PM“Songs That Prepare Us for Death” – Mike Cosper: “Saturday, January 15, marked the six-year anniversary of the sinking of The Big Valley, a crab fishing vessel lost in the Bering Sea. Of the seven crew members aboard, only Cache Seel survived. Gary Edwards, Danny Vermeersch, Josias Luna, Carlos Rivera, and Aaron Marrs all died. The bodies of Aaron, Gary, and Josias were lost at sea. Faithful fans of Deadliest Catch may recognize the name of the boat, as its sinking was covered in season one. My connection is much more personal. Aaron Marrs was one of my closest friends….At the time of the boat’s sinking, I was working on a recording project called These Things I Remember. It was our church’s attempt to embrace the language and emotions of the Psalms, exploring themes like confession and lament that were often absent from the praise choruses with which we’d grown up. Aaron’s death gave the project a whole new sense of urgency.”

 

114574“States to Trump: We Want Refugees” – “Forty-one states and 86 local governments have filed letters with the federal government telling President Donald Trump and the administration they will continue accepting refugee resettlements in their jurisdictions, according to a list compiled by the Refugee Council USA. Trump signed an executive order in September requiring state and local governments to opt-in to refugee resettlement, an additional layer of bureaucracy that Christian ministries to refugees feared could make it harder to ‘welcome the stranger.’ The deadline was thought to be Christmas Day, but there has been a lot of confusion around that detail. Resettlement organizations, most of which are faith-based, have until January 21 to file the letters with the federal government. In the meantime, Church World Service; Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service; and HIAS (a Jewish-American nonprofit group) are taking the Trump administration to court to stop the executive order.”

 

Christopher Tolkien“JRR Tolkien’s son Christopher dies aged 95” – “Christopher Tolkien, the son of Lord Of The Rings author JRR Tolkien, has died aged 95, the Tolkien Society has announced. The society, which promotes the life and works of the celebrated writer, released a short statement on Twitter to confirm the news. The statement said: ‘Christopher Tolkien has died at the age of 95. The Tolkien Society sends its deepest condolences to Baillie, Simon, Adam, Rachel and the whole Tolkien family.’ Tolkien, who was born in Leeds in 1924, was the third and youngest son of the revered fantasy author and his wife Edith. He grew up listening to his father’s tales of Bilbo Baggins, which later became the children’s fantasy novel, The Hobbit.”

 

Music: The War on Drugs, “Pain,” from A Deeper Understanding

[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.]

Returning to Square One: Eugene Peterson on the Essence of Christian Spirituality

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Last Friday, I read a pointed, pastoral call to basic attention to God and His word throughout our lives, and it resonated so deeply with me that I wanted to share it. These words come from Eugene Peterson’s essay “Back to Square One: God Said (The Witness of Holy Scripture),” included in a collection of his writings, Subversive Spirituality.

Peterson refers to “Square One” below, which he describes earlier in the essay as “the place at which we realize that there is a huge world that we have not yet seen, an incredible creation that we cannot account for…There is far more that we don’t know than what we do know” (21). It is the place we encounter our limitations, or human finitude, and begin to learn of God and listen for God. In particular, Square One is where we attend to God’s Word in Scripture, “listening to God call us, heal us, forgive us” (27), and respond to God.

That is the background to what Peterson writes in the final two pages:

I want to simplify your lives. When others are telling you to read more, I want to tell you to read less; when others are telling you to do more, I want to tell you to do less. The world does not need more of you; it needs more of God. Your friends do not need more of you; they need more of God. And you don’t need more of you; you need more of God.

The Christian life consists in what God does for us, not what we do for God; the Christian life consists in what God says to us, not what we say about God. We also, of course, do things and say things; but if we do not return to Square One each time we act, each time we speak, beginning from God and God’s Word, we will soon be found to be practicing a spirituality that has little or nothing to do with God. And so it is necessary, if we are going to truly live a Christian life, and not just use the word Christian to disguise our narcissistic and promethean attempts at a spirituality without worshiping God and without being addressed by God, it is necessary to return to Square One and adore God and listen to God. Given our sin-damaged memories that render us vulnerable to every latest edition of journalistic spirituality, daily re-orientation in the truth revealed in Jesus and attested in Scripture is required. And given our ancient predisposition for reducing every scrap of divine revelation that we come across into a piece of moral/spiritual technology that we can use to get on in the world, and eventually to get on without God, a daily return to a condition of not-knowing and non-achievement is required. We have proven, time and again, that we are not to be trusted in these matters. We need to return to Square One for a fresh start as often as every morning, noon, and night.

[From Eugene H. Peterson, Subversive Spirituality (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997), 30-31.

(You may also enjoy the article I wrote for Preaching Today, Remembering Eugene Peterson: 10 ways he shaped my pastoral ministry.”)

Excerpts from Henri Nouwen’s The Way of the Heart

The Way of the Heart - NouwenDuring my sabbatical, I re-read a book for the fifth time. That’s not a very common occurrence for me, but Henri Nouwen’s book The Way of the Heart is that sort of book for me. As I was looking through my sabbatical journals, I found excerpts from this book over a long stretch. So, as much for me as for anyone else, I am pulling them all together here in one place. Maybe one or two will particularly impact you. If so, I’d love to hear from you about that. If not, well, there are certain books that speak to us in ways that no one else understands. Since I first read this during college, The Way of the Heart has helped an active achiever like me step into the silence and stillness with God.

Solitude is the place of the great struggle and the great encounter — the struggle against the compulsions of the false self, and the encounter with the loving God who offers himself as the substance of the new self (26).

Ministry can be fruitful only if it grows out of a direct and intimate encounter with our Lord (31).

The goal of our life is not people. It is God. Only in him shall we find the rest we seek. It is therefore to solitude that we must return, not alone, but with all those whom we embrace through our ministry (40).

As ministers our greatest temptation is toward too many words. They weaken our faith and make us lukewarm. But silence is a sacred discipline, a grace of the Holy Spirit (56).

In order to be a ministry in the Name of Jesus, our ministry must also point beyond our words to the unspeakable mystery of God (59).

The question that must guide all organizing activity in a parish is not how to keep people busy, but how to keep them from being so busy that they can no longer hear the voice of God who speaks in silence (65).

Hesychia, the rest which flows from unceasing prayer, needs to be sought at all costs, even when the flesh is itchy, the world is alluring, and the demons noisy (70).

‘To pray is to descend with the mind into the heart and there to stand before the face of the Lord, ever-present, all-seeing, within you.’ – Theophan the Recluse (76).

They [the Desert Fathers and Mothers] pull us away from our intellectualizing practices, in which God becomes one of the many problems we have to address. They show us that real prayer penetrates to the marrow of our soul and leaves nothing untouched (78).