Giving Up For God – What Does It Cost?

The following post is written as a contribution to a monthly synchroblog.  This month it is hosted by Kathy Escobar.  The topic is Have you found more life by letting go of something? Tomorrow I will post a list of all the contributions for reflection.

Giving up without regret

When I first heard the topic my mind went into high gear remembering all that I have given up – a home in New Zealand that I wept over before leaving to join the mercy ship Anastasis; the secure and comfortable life of a general practitioner with all the accompanying advantages of a good salary; dear friends I will never see again who live scattered around the world; the opportunity to to live close to my brothers and watch my niece and nephew grow up; even the possibility of having children myself.  All of these I have given up at some point in my life .

But then I stopped to think – have I really given up anything that has not been replaced tenfold with something deeper and more fulfilling?  My momentary regrets gave way to amazingly fulfilling images: cleft lips and palates healed, eyes opened, starving children nourished, the opportunity to provide medical care for thousands in Africa, Asia and Central America; a worldwide network of friends and colleagues who offer hospitality to Tom and I wherever and whenever we travel; involvement in a very special and fulfilling ministry and life in Seattle; and stretching far beyond anything else an incredible opportunity to grow in my faith and constantly be surprised by the wonder of a God whose love and care I experience every day.

The giving up has always resulted in a more intimate and richer relationship to God.  When I look back over the years I cannot think of one thing I really regret giving up.  This does not mean that the giving up was easy.  It was often done with much struggle and tears, sometimes with heartache that seemed to leave a wrenching void in my soul, at least for a season, until I started to catch glimpses of the new seeds that God had planted in the darkened recesses of my being.

Giving up for God costs us everything, at least it costs us everything that seems familiar and secure but it also burst the realms of our imagination with new possibilities for life and faith that we have never thought possible before.  I am constantly humbled by the the paradoxical ways in which God works.  I have often thought that I was giving up life but in actual fact I was finding life – God’s life.

I cannot imagine a life that is more fulfilling than the one I live now.  In my wildest dreams as a young adult I never imagined God could use my life to impact the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.  Sometimes I have felt that I was giving up faith too but I realize now that what I was giving up was my narrow culture bound vision of God to plunge into an ever expanding understanding of the love of God.  And yet I know that no matter how much I learn I will always only scratch the surface of what there is to know about God.

In the future I suspect there will be many more times that God will ask me to give up something I am hold onto tightly and I know that the giving up will never be easy.  My prayer is that I will always be able to trust that in the giving up I will learn more about God and become more of the person God intends me to be.

Big Tent Synchroblog

Last week I contributed to the synchroblog for Big Tent Christianity a conference coming up in Raleigh NC September 8,9.  There are a fascinating series of articles going up here that i would heartily recommend to you

Big Tent Christianity Synchrobloggers
(in alphabetical order)

David Adams, “Big Tent Christianity”

David Adams, “What is That to You?”

Shawn Andrews, “Fruitful”

Kathy Baldock, “Synchroblog for Big Tent Christianity”

Greg Bolt, “Big Tent Christianity – Part 1″

Heidi Bolt, “Big Tent Christianity”

Joe Carson, “Big Tent Christianity and ‘ground level truth’”

Joe Carson, “‘Big Tent Theologian’ wanted to develop theology/praxis for Christian engineers, please state your terms”

Julie Clawson, “Big Tent Christianity – A Place Without Fear”

Philip Clayton, “Is Big Tent Wimpy or Radical?”

Matt Cleaver, “Big Tent Christianity in Big Time Denominations”

Bob Cornwall, “Coming Under the Big Tent!”

Bob Cornwall, “Living Under the Big Tent – Christianity That Is!”

Bob Cornwall, “What’s New about the Big Tent?”

Roy Donkin, “Big Tent Christianity”

Ryan Dueck, “Big Tent Christianity”

Jan Edmiston, “Big Tent Christianity: Wikichurch”

Mark Eikost, “Peace”

George Elerick, “Monkeys with Vertigo: The BTC Event”

Kathy Escobar, “recovery under the big tent”

Rachel Held Evans, “Small Town, Big Tent”

Scott Frederickson, “‘Big Tent Christianity’ and Prairie Table”

Henry Friesen, “Big Tent Christianity”

Tripp Fuller, “Kierkegaard on ‘What big tent Christianity is NOT’”

Matt Gallion, “Big Table Christianity”

Andrew Hackman, “Big Tent Christianity and The Sneetches”

David Henson, “The Samaritan in the Big Tent”

Chad Holtz, “Big Tents, small gods and Knotted Brides”

Corey Howard, “Big Tent Christianity”

Ken Howard, “Coming Together to Build a Bigger Tent”

Tony Hunt, “For and Against Big Tents”

Ira, “The Church’s One Foundation”

Tony Jones, “A Plea for Big Tent Christianity: Don’t Suck”

Matt Kelley, “Big Tent Christianity: Easy to Say, Hard to Do”

John R. King, Jr., “Our Common Faith!”

Amanda MacInnis, “Big Tent Christianity”

James F. McGrath, “Thank God My Opponents Are Pharisees!”

Brian McLaren, “Big Tent Christianity Synchroblog”

Tim Meier, “Assumptions”

Hannah Middlebrook, “Engage”

Bert Montgomery, “Going Inside the Big Tent with Charlie Manson”

Josh Morgan, “Big Tent Christianity”

Josh Mueller, “Dreams of a Big Tent Christianity”

Patrick Oden, “Sketching a Big Tent Christianity”

Thomas Jay Oord, “A catholic Spirit for a Big Tent”

Joe Paparone, “Big Tent Christianity – Synchroblog”

Lesley Paparone, “Being The Church”

Matt Ritchie, “The Case for Progressive Christians”

Dyfed Wyn Roberts, “Big Tent Christianity in Wales”

Daniel Rose, “Big Tent Christianity 1″

Daniel Rose, “Big Tent or Single Issue?”

Daniel Rose, “Scattered, Gathered, and Beautiful”

Daniel Rose, “Unity, Liberty, and Charity”

Ellen Ross, “Big Tent Christianity, Part One: What Faith Is Not”

Bo Sanders, “An Everyday Theology”

Christie Sanders, “Hope”

Christine Sine, “Big Tent Christianity – Living the Gospel Now”

Anthony Smith, “Hopes for Big Tent Christianity”

Arthur Stewart, “A Tale of Two Tents”

Alan Ward, “Coming Together Under a ‘Big Tent’”

Nathan Wheeler, “Wishful Thinking”

Randy Woodley, “Honest Hatred Under The Big Tent”

John Worst, “Hospitality”

Karissa Worst, “Racism”

Complete Lenten Series for 2010

Tomorrow is the last day of Lent and I want to  thank all of you who have journeyed with us toward the Cross by following the reflections on my blog during this season.  I will continue to upload some new prayers in the next couple of days but I wanted to thank you too for all who have contributed either by writing reflections or by sending me links to videos, prayers and reflections that had inspired them.  this has been a very popular series.

For those that missed out here is the complete series of reflections and prayers.

Easter Sunday Prayer for 2010

Walking with Jesus to the Cross How do we follow – by Karen Anderson

Good Friday Prayer for 2010

Reflection for Monday of Holy Week

Giving Things Up Does not Imply Loss

How Has Lent Changed You?

What Is Palm Sunday?

The Story Of Two Lost Sons – Thoughts from Tim Keller & Henri Nouwen

Companions on the Journey by Stan Thornburg

Following Jesus Each Day – Lynne Baab

Prayer for the Fifth Sunday of Lent

Watching Swallows Pray – music video by Jeff Johnson

Show Me the Suffering of the Most Miserable – a Lenten Prayer by Cesar Chavez

Lent – A Season of Solidarity – Wisdom From St Benedict

Don’t Curse the Darkness – Let the Son Shine Through

Are We Ready For Easter?

What You Really Need When Life Is Loud – Ann Voskamp

Lent – Honouring the Cracks – Kathy Escobar

Growing During Lent – Don’t Look Too Closely – Thule Kinnison

Lent a Season Of Solidarity – Wisdom from St Benedict – Walter Forcatto

Walking in Darkness – Kimberlee Conway Ireton

Where is Jesus in Your Neighbourhood?

Wisdom From Henri Nouwen – More Thoughts For Lent

The Prayer of St Ignatius Loyola – A Lenten Reflection

Don’t Curse the Darkness – Let The Son Shine Through

Who/What Is God

Lent – Educating Us Into Freedom

Acceptance, Acclimatisation, Activity – Steve Wickham

A Lenten Prayer from Dietrich Bonhoeffer

A Prayer for the Second Sunday of Lent – What is Joy?

A Franciscan Benediction by Joshua Spiers

What do We Thirst For?

Two excellent videos from the 24/7 prayer network

A Meditation for Lent – Prayer as Justice

Community as Prayer – Another meditation for Lent

You might also enjoy these earlier posts

A Little Humour for Lent

Am I worshipping God for Only Me?

Getting Ready for Lent – What Could You Give Up For Haiti?

And for those that are still wondering what Lent is all about

Lent is Not a Ritual

Lent 2010 Resource List Updated

Also check out the Steps of Justice website which is posting daily justice focused reflections for Lent

Resources from Online Schools

Many of you are just starting back to school so I thought that you might be interested in this site which I just became aware of because they listed my blog amongst their 100 Best Blogs For Real World Advice and Education

As the site says:

College comes with a hefty pricetag. And why would it not? A university degree is invaluable, and students get a lot for their money. However, certain things aren’t part of the enrollment package: insight, wisdom, maturity, humor, patience, humility, perspective.

They do have some interesting sites listed and have some previous lists that may be of interest to students in specific areas.  Because of my interests I particularly enjoyed looking at the list on Green Technology and Design.

100 Excellent Open Courses on Green Technology, Development, and Design
Top 100 Twitterers in Academia
100 Best Blogs for Career-Minded Students
100 Best Blogs for Law School Students

What Are the Top Christian Blogs?

I just discovered that I am listed amongst the Top 100 Christian blogs according to Kent Shaffer at Church Relevance.  Just snuck in at 87th.  It is an interesting list which you might like to check out and I appreciate the incredible amount of work that Kent has done to put this together.  I have definitely discovered a few that I will add to my “must read” list for the future.

Of course being somewhat of a cynic I am not sure that working from rankings is really the best way to judge – though I appreciate Kent calling them “the most popular” rather than the “best”  However I did notice that Kent started with a list of only 181 blogs and I would be interested to know how he chose those.  These may be the most popular from that list but that does not necessarily mean that they provide the best window into either theology or into God’s world.

I did notice that a lot of my favourite blogs are not on the list probably because they deal with issues that are not commonly seen as the mainstream of Christianity yet are very definitely at the center of God’s concerns.   There are very few women on the list too which I think is a shame and almost all seem to be white and evangelical in their perspectives.  So what are your favourite blogs?    Maybe we can put together another list that is a little more global and gender and racially balanced and covers a broad theological perspective from Catholic to conservative protestant.

The Spirituality of Creating

This morning there is much to share – lots of creative juices flowing which is very much in keeping with the theme of today’s spiritual practice.

First I am in busy preparation mode for upcoming events which you might like to check out.

I will be speaking at the West Coast Healthcare Missions and Ministry Conference in Pasadena CA September 17 – 19

Also getting ready for Mustard Seed Associates Wild Camano Forest tour September 26th.

Tom and I head out for Australia September 29th.  If you are interested in connecting we will be at:

Black Stump Festival

Intensives (a week each) at Worldview Centre for Intercultural Studies Tasmania

Tom will speak on Joining the New Conspirators in the Shadow of the Empire

My topic Spiritual Rhythms for Everyday Life in a Hectic World

UNOH – A Revolution for Hope

Another intensive at Tabor College Adelaide

So all of that as preamble to the latest in What is a Spiritual Practice from John Chandler – The Spirituality of Creating.  John is a pastor in Austin Texas.  He blogs at Some Strange Ideas

Most of my life, I’ve been been stuck with one consistent label. Whether teachers, family, friends, or those who just didn’t know what to do with me, I was told I was “creative”. Of course I like to be called…if feels cool. But in recent years, I’m learning that it is one thing to be called creative and it is another thing entirely to be creative. It’s hard work to create something.

And why is it hard?

Because to create, to make something, is a spiritual practice.

A few years ago, good friends were visiting us while we lived in Seattle. To enjoy the time them and share the beauty of the Pacific NW, we took a drive across Whidbey Island. On our drive we settled into a discussion of what it means to be made in the image of God. As I took in the beautiful scenery sweeping past the windows of our minivan, I came to a realization that had never occurred to me before…

To be made in the image of God is to be made a creative being. I had always considered that being made in the image of God means that we have the core characteristics of God’s image imprinted on our soul, no matter how broken we may be. Every human shares God’s need to give and receive love, compassion, pleasure and relationship. Likewise, a person who makes, who creates, is a human who is straining into the image of God that sits in their soul.

Now you might have realized long ago that to be creative is to exercise the image of God within. But for me, it was a fresh, important, and empowering shift in how I view my “creative” label. It was not just who I was, but who I am meant to be. And whether or not you’ve been told you’re creative, it’s who you were made to be as well.

The Creator was the first creative, and that first act of creating was an expression of love. NT Wright describes it this way: The creation of the world was the free outpouring of God’s powerful love. The one true God made a world that was other than himself, because that is what love delights to do.

And every creative act since, in it’s most pure form, is an act of love. It is a gift to others, an invitation to life and goodness. The strokes of a pen, the dabs of paint, the strums of a guitar — any act of creativity is a partnering with God in re-creation. In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott penned these words about the beauty, and the difficulty, of writing. But I think you could translate her words to any creative expression:

You are going to have to give and give and give and give, or there’s no reason for you to be writing. You have to give from the deepest part of yourself, and you are going to have to go on giving, and the giving is going to have to be its own reward. There is no cosmic importance to your getting something published, but there is in learning to be a giver.

The compulsion I feel, and you feel, to make something new is crying out from the core of our humanity. It is calling you to give yourself for the benefit of others. And that is why it is hard, and why sometimes you feel blocked. The part of you that is broken, the part of you that only wants to be concerned about the protection of self, is trying to hold back who God created you to be. You bear the image of the Creator.

The Spiritual Practice of Apologizing

Today’s article in the series What is a Spiritual Practice is The Spiritual Practice of Apologizing by T Freeman. “T” describes himself as a dad, husband, self-employed lawyer and apprentice of Jesus.  He is part of a small team planting a church in downtown West Palm Beach Florida.  He blogs at Getting Free

“I’m sorry.”

What a powerful phrase. What an underrated, nonreligious way–available to us all–to cooperate with God’s work in this world.  It’s truly amazing what all can be accomplished by a good apology.  For the one apologizing, the process can (momentarily) defeat one’s pride, halt one’s cooperation with destructive forces and begin one’s cooperation with God.  In apologizing, we overcome our fear of judgment; become vulnerable to another person, and we become truly free from our past.  By themselves, those are pretty significant outcomes–and that’s just for the person apologizing. But simultaneously and more importantly, for the one receiving an apology, the process can be the best available aid to their healing, the opportunity to lose bitterness and pain, and to have their sense of value and what is right and “normal” to be (re)aligned with God’s ideas instead of something much less.  The apology changes the culture into which it is uttered.  It resets the standard of conduct in a relationship from a perverted state, but only by risking the messenger, not the hearer(s).  The apology is literally a powerhouse for progress in the inward and outward work of God, and occasions for its use are everywhere, every day: at home, at work, with our spouses,  friends, neighbors, and children.  Yet, for all its power and frequent opportunity, it is not common, and it is not hard to imagine why.  To apologize goes against the core of all we are and seek apart from Christ.

Read the entire article