Jesus Manifesto Out Tomorrow

“Thomas Nelson is releasing a new book called Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola. This book will be on special discount from Amazon.com on June 1st, the date of the release. You can learn more by going  to www.theJesusManifesto.com. Endorsements by Rowan Williams, Matt Chandler, Calvin Miller, Ed Young, Jack Hayford, Shane Claiborne, Ed Stetzer, Reggie McNeal, Mark Batterson, Gregory Boyd, David Fitch, Steve Brown, Dan Kimball, Margaret Feinberg, Mark Chironna, Francis Frangipane, Todd Hunter, Alan Hirsch, Chris Seay, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Anne Jackson, Craig Keener, Ken Ulmer, Tommy Barnett, Sally Morgenthaler, and others.

To be honest I was a little disappointed in the book. It did give a good reminder to all of us to reconsider Jesus as central to our faith but it presented few practical and tangible ways to follow Jesus in today’s world.  Maybe that is my problem rather than a problem with the book.  Would love to know what you think.

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Memorial Day – Who Do We Remember

Today is Memorial day in the United States, when we remember those who have died in military service.  It was first celebrated to remember Union soldiers who died in the American Civil War but now provides a memorial for those who have died in all the wars that have been fought since.

Though I struggle with any ceremony that seems to glorify war, I grieve the loss of life in war and the devastation it causes to families and society.  And my prayer for this day is that in the midst of all our celebrating we may remember that those who died did so believing they were providing a peaceful and secure place for their families to live.

What I wonder is why don’t we have a Christian celebration that commemorates the lives of so many through the ages who have died for their faith and through their efforts brought glimpses of God’s peaceable kingdom of justice and abundance into being?  Yes I know there are days to celebrate the lives of prominent saints, and we do have All Saints Day but there is little that really celebrates the life of ordinary believers who died to keep the faith in Christ alive and I am a strong believer in the fact that we should take the celebrations of our society and transform them into celebrations of our faith.

On my first trip to Ireland 20 years ago I was overwhelmed by the graveyards filled with crosses around many of the ruined churches and monasteries.  Just as the military graveyards are a reminder of those who have died in war, these church graveyards were for me a reminder of the many who have died in the battle against evil and corruption.  Most of them are unknown, yet their faith has provided foundations through the centuries on which our faith today is grounded.

Perhaps today as you celebrate those who have died in war you should also spend some time reflecting on those soldiers of Christ who have gone before you too.  Say a prayer of thanks for the rich heritage they have provided us all with.  Remember those that were martyred, those that were persecuted (and in some countries still are) and those whose lives and families have suffered because of their faith.

Let me finish with 2 prayers – one a responsive prayer that reminds us of the saints that are with us, the other an ancient Celtic prayer that I think reflects well the awareness of the sacrifice that so many have made for their faith.

With saints of all ages, we come to God this night,

With those who were, who are, and who will come,

With saints of all ages,

We believe and trust in God the creator,

The one who is, who always was, and who is still to come,

The one who calls us to be salt in a world that has lost its flavour.

With saints of all ages,

We believe and trust in Christ our Saviour,

The first to rise from the dead, and the ruler of all the nations of the world,

The one who calls us to be light in a world that is mired by darkness.

With saints of all ages,

We believe and trust in the life-giving Spirit,

The seal of our inheritance the guarantee of what is to come,

Who calls us to glorify God through our words and actions.

With saints of all ages,

We believe and trust in God’s kingdom coming,

A new world breaking onto ours, eternal world of wholeness and joy,

Where the poor will be fed and the prisoners set free.

With saints of all ages,

We believe and trust in God’s kingdom coming,

Where justice and righteousness will have no end,

Where the sick will be healed, the blind see and the deaf hear.

With saints of all ages,

We believe and trust in God.

Let us go forth,

In the goodness of our merciful Father,

In the gentleness of our brother Jesus,

In the radiance of the Holy Spirit,

In the faith of the apostles,

In the joyful praise of the angels,

In the holiness of the saints,

In the courage of the martyrs.

Let us go forth,

In the wisdom of our all-seeing Father,

In the patience of our all-loving brother,

In the truth of the all-knowing Spirit,

In the learning of the apostles

In the gracious guidance of the angels,

In the patience of the saints,

In the self control of the martyrs,

Such is the path for all servants of Christ,

The path from death to eternal life

A Path To Publishing – One Man’s Journey

When I was in New Haven CT a couple of weeks ago I had the delight of meeting Ed Cyzewski author of Coffeehouse Theology: Reflecting on God in Everyday Life. Ed is also a freelance writer and blogger.  We had a great time together – sharing stories about the joys and struggles of writing and publishing books.   I love encounters like this.  Internet friendships can be fun but there is nothing like that face to face encounter to really get to know a person.

Ed gave me a copy of his latest book A Path to Publishing: What I Learned by Publishing a Nonfiction Book. This week I finally got around to reading it and was enthralled.  This is a great book not just for those that are embarking on their first publishing venture but also for those of us that are established authors.  All of us face the challenges of a publishing field that is rapidly changing as ebooks take over hard copies and self publishing competes with recognized houses for a place in the market.

Hundreds of thousands of new books are written every year and all of us want to make sure that our books (and hopefully those of our friends) get the recognition they deserve.  Ed gives great practical advice on how to enter today’s publishing world.  He is very honest about his own mistakes and failures but also shares his successes in an open and engaging style.

I would heartily recommend A Path To Publishing to anyone who is thinking about entering the publishing world or who wants to engage this world in fresh and innovative ways.

Thanks Ed for our time and for the book.  It was all well worth it.

The Brain on God

Here is another fascinating article that I came across this morning entitled The Brain on God: Christian Neurospirituality.  Andrew Dreitcer, M.Div., Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Spirituality and Co-Director of the Center for Engaged Compassion at Claremont School of Theology. In the article he discusses modern discoveries about the brain and the implications this has for the way we practice our faith. I was particularly inspired by the following quote:

More importantly, what does all of this say about the way we live our lives? What, if anything, would that mean for how we formulate or modify spiritual practices? Will the understandings of neuroscience merely make for deepened private contemplative experiences or will they actually help transform the world for good? If, for example, I wanted to be more compassionate toward people I dislike, is it possible that I could prescribe a very particular practice that activates a “compassion-for-your-enemy” center of the brain? And if so, will that make me act more compassionately?.  Read the entire article

Across the Blogosphere

This morning I was wandering the blogosphere after reading my morning email reflecting on faith and everyday life.  To be honest I was feeling a little frustrated.  my inbox was full of memorial day ads telling me I needed to buy more in order to save money.   And even some of my favourite sites seem to have sprouted new and tasteless ads since I last visited them.  I realize that like us, many are struggling with the challenge of keeping their ministries afloat during tough financial times, but do we really need to buy into the ways of mammon in order to survive?

Fortunately there were a few posts I came across this morning that turned my world around… most of them incorporating beautiful visual images or about gardening, both of which always brings refreshment to my soul

Dave Perry at visual theology has some beautiful photo reflections that I would highly recommend.  Like this one (though it is much better with Dave’s photos)

At the foot of the market cross in the Yorkshire dales village of Askrigg a genuine bull ring is set into the cobbles. Dating from the eighteenth century or earlier it is a chilling reminder of public brutality, for here bull’s were tethered and baited by bulldogs to ‘entertain’ the crowd. Something which is unthinkable now was normative then. The bull ring reminds us of how cruel and callous we once were. Yet the politics and judicial system of the time scarcely treated the poor any better than the beasts. Read the entire post

And to help me relax this article from Year of Plenty in Spokane

It has always intuitively made sense to me that spending time out in the garden is good for my health and general well being, especially for reducing stress. Well, it turns out that there may be a scientific basis for such a claim. A recent study on the effects of exposure to a common soil bacteria (mycobacterium vaccae) shows a strong correlation between the bacteria and improved learning and lowered anxiety. read the entire article

Its now time for morning prayers so hopefully I will be able to share more reflections later

Gardening – a Symbol of God’s New Creation

This last Saturday I held another spirituality of gardening seminar in Lynden Washington.  There were only 10 participants but 6 churches were represented and l am hopeful that this will encourage the planting of several new community gardens in the area.

I was greatly encouraged by what has happened at the Five Loaves Farm since my last visit.  A large Celtic cross now lies at the centre of the garden

And a sitting area that invites people to gather for contemplation and conversation has been added.

We talked a lot about the need to build up the soil – the number one requirement of organic gardening.  It was a real encouragement for all of us to think about how we build up the environment in which new Christians are planted.

We also talked about that fascinating phrase in John 20:15 – “she thought he was the gardener”  Why did it matter that Mary Magdalene thought that Jesus was the gardener?  One of the participants reminded us that the theme of the Gospel of John is New Creation.

John begins with the words “In the beginning”. This immediately harkens us to the book of Genesis which opens with the same words. John then lays out a series of events in the life of Christ that mirror the Seven Days of Creation.  Read more

In the beginning God planted a garden – the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:8).  In the beginning of the new creation brought into being by the resurrection of Christ God is once more seen as a gardener.  The hope and promise of these words which we so often skim over is incredible.  As we read in 2 Corinthians 5:17

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation, the old has passed away, behold, the new has come.”

I particularly enjoyed the opportunity we had to get out into the garden to plant – another symbol of the new creation.  Dave Timmer had expected us to plant one or two rows of beans – we planted eight.  It is amazing what we can accomplish when we work as a community.  Now if I could only get the participants from last year’s garden seminar here at the Mustard Seed House back to put apple maggot bags on my apples like they did last year, I would be happy.

This weekend I will be at Rosewood Manor Saturday morning for another seminar – if anyone is interested please contact Ryan Marsh at Church of the Beloved “Ryan Marsh” <ryan@belovedschurch.org>,  We are also working on other possible events in Mt Vernon (July), Portland and Hood River Oregon (dates to be announced) and Connecticut (May 2011).  So if you are interested in other possibilities please let me know.

Creation is Dying – What Can We Do?

This morning I have read several articles about the impact of the oil spill that is now hitting the Louisiana coast.  Looking at some of these photos this morning  filled me with despair and left me feeling helpless.  But the impact of this catastrophe goes far beyond what is happening on the Gulf coast and the solutions we need should go far beyond the endeavours to still the flow and clean up the coastline.  For many of us this problem though horrible seems far away and disconnected from our lives.

Sojourner’s fundraising email this morning and the post Jim Wallis recently added to sojonet about the oil spill challenged me to think beyond the immediate disaster to the deeper question – the need for all of us to reconsider our lifestyles.

With every headline, I am challenged again – as I’m sure you are as well – to reconsider my own lifestyle. Where do I draw the line on my energy consumption? How can I educate others about the effects of energy greed? How do I advocate for strong climate change legislation?

The questions they ask are important for all of us to grapple with.  Our daily decisions about driving, flying and eating all contribute to the huge consumption of oil that is the accepted norm in our world today.  I grapple with this everyday as so much of our ministry is dependent on flying across the country and around the world and I am not sure that carbon offsets really make that much difference.

So what can we do?  Here are some great suggestions from this Grist article 10 Ways to Kick the Offshore Oil Habit for things that all of us can do to make a difference.  We don’t need to be politicians to see the world change in fact I am sure that change is more likely to come through the small and seemingly insignificant mustard seeds planted by ordinary people everywhere.

Creation does indeed groan waiting to be set free from the curse of death and decay (Romans 8:20 – 22).  And part of that groaning I think is that creation waits too for humankind to recognize its responsibility to be good stewards of the world that is entrusted into our care.

So what can we do – apart from the usual efforts of using public transport, eating local food & getting rid of gas guzzling cars what creative solutions have you found that cut your oil consumption?