Posts Tagged 'bible'

Dangerous Meals – Galatians for Lent

I’ve written a post over at Darkwood Brew that could get me in trouble. Here’s how it opens:

“Jesus (peace be upon him) is unambiguously mentioned over 25 times in the Qur’an,” the young Imam explained to us at the Raleigh Islamic Center this week. “This is many more times than even the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).” I was learning this in a very unique context – about 30 Christians and 30 Muslims got together Wednesday night for an unusual act of friendship: Sharing our distinctive understandings on Jesus, and sharing a meal.

Apparently, sharing meals in the manner of Jesus is controversial then as it is now: When I posted, later that night, on my Facebook Wall about what a great time I had, my online ‘friend’ count immediately went down. In the past, when I’d posted a positive story (or even neutral observation) regarding Islam, huge fights would break out on my Wall. Once-civilized Christians would say the most ignorant and hurtful things. I’ve had some painful-but-necessary online connection-purges since the initial e-skirmishes a year or so ago, but judging by the self-selection, it looks like I may have missed a few people…

Continue reading here!

18 Veterans a Day are Killing Themselves

How do people change? I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, both in terms of general ‘spiritual growth’ and particularly in relation to the ever-growing amount of people in our culture that struggle with mental health issues – depression, anxiety, and ADD. Thanks to Dallas Willard (I’ve been listening to an awesome Christian Audio recording of him reading his Renovation of the Heart) I’ve been reconsidering what had been tired old biblical bromides:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge God and God will make your paths straight. (Proverbs)

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. (Romans)

How is it that our minds re-pattern, and our brains and bodies re-form? Scientists tell us that every cell in our bodies dies and is replaced with new cellular life every 12 months; it seems like we’re constantly being born again.

If what we essentially are is a pattern of in-formation and not ‘matter,’ how might what we meditate upon effect who we are? I’ve been thinking about this anew while reading up on an organization that exists to help soldiers rebuild their lives after the insanity of war.

“I have ptsd. i know when i got it — the night i killed an 8-year-old girl. her family was trying to cross a checkpoint. we’d just shot three guys who’d tried to run a checkpoint. and during that mess, they were just trying to get through to get away from it all. and we ended up shooting all them, too. it was a family of six. the only one that survived was a 13-month-old and her mother. and the worst part about it all was that where i shot my bullets, when i went to see what i’d shot at, there was an 8-year-old girl there. i tried my best to bring her back to life, but there was no use. but that’s what triggered my depression.

when i got out of the army, i had 10 days to get off base. there was no reintegration counselling. as soon as i got back, nobody gave a f — about anything except that piece of paper that said i got everything out of my room. i got out of the army, and everything went to s— from there.”Army Veteran, Michael

American troops are taking their own lives in the largest numbers since records began to be kept in 1980. The army suicide rate is now higher than that among the general American population, calculated as 20.2 per 100,000 soldiers, compared with 19.5 per 100,000 civilians. In response to this, an organization called CBE launched 411God Hope for the Heroesa high-touch, high-tech suicide prevention tool specifically designed to reach at-risk service men and women with daily 60-second inspirational mobile phone messages.

Can a scripture a day help keep the demons away from the over 300,000 active soldiers currently suffering from PTSD? The Center for Bible Engagement (CBE) says “unequivocally yes.”

Dr. Arnie Cole, a former mental health professional and CBE’s Director of Research & Development, conducted extensive research on the link between behavior and Bible reading including a 5-year study concluding that those who read or listen to the Bible at least four times a week are more likely to successfully navigate societal ills: emotional sickness, marital problems, drug dependency—all issues suffered greater by PTSD sufferers.

War is hell. Stories like this prove it:

“i had all these images floating around in my dreams, nighttime was the worst. i missed my buddies, i felt like i had abandoned them. i had been so excited to be out, i’d done my time, and it was over. i didn’t anticipate the extreme loneliness and loss of purpose i would feel. i couldn’t fall asleep without putting back a bottle of jack. i needed to numb out in order to not… think. i wasn’t sure where to turn; i felt i would scare my friends and family if they knew what i was going through. a lot of my friends from the service were going through the same thing … and we’d talk … sometimes. but it’s hard when we’re all so far away from each other. i signed up for 411God, sorta on a whim, never realizing the impact it would have–it brought me hope. i started to get strength from that little phone call each day to start looking for a job, to move home and to share a little of what was going on in my head. it’s not over. i still have horrible days, but now i have something else to think about besides my time overseas, i have something that gives me hope.” – private 1 st class, Jason.

Now if you’re like me, you’re thinking “It can’t be that simple.” And of course, it isn’t – as Jason here says, he still has horrible days. But I think it’s important for us highly-educated, nonviolent activist, psychologically-savvy NPR-listening types to realize that some things aren’t overly complicated. The repetition of inspiring or comforting passages of Scripture can have a restorative, reprogramming effect on our minds and our lives. While we should all continue to work for the swords of the military-industrial complex to be beat into the plowshares of sustainable communities, but let’s not neglect one of the important human faces of war: Returning soldiers. Befriending them, getting to know them, being willing to sit with them in uncomfortable silence: This is the ultimate high-touch restorative tool.

A Mosaic of Voices & Feast of Visuals

What if there was a Bible that combined a readable-yet-accurate text with breath-taking art from every continent and era, combined with meditative reflections both ancient and contemporary? What if they ancient voices were similarly from a myriad of ethnicities and theological persuasions, carefully chosen to sing a chorus of praise to the One who eternally Was, Is, and Is to Come? And what if these reflections and art were paired together – much like fine wine and good food – and synced to the ancient rhythms of the liturgical calendar?

Well then, you’d have the Holy Bible: Mosaic, one of the most ambitious Bible undertakings in years. Publisher Tyndale House and editorial director David Sanford wanted to create a truly ecumenical, multi-cultural work of art that is as beautiful to behold as it is to read. It achieves its goals, I think. But then again, I might be biased…I’m one of the contemporary contributors!

Below are excerpts of my unedited contribution*:

God as Nourishment

Exodus 24:9-11 * Leviticus 6:18b * Psalm 34:8a, 10 * Isaiah 25:6 * John 6:22-58 * Revelation 19:1-9

Food and God, God and food. God is food—taste and see. Jesus and fish, fish and bread; bread and wine, wine of New Covenant. Come to the banqueting table—set and served by the God of plenty, our El-Shaddai, God who nurses us at the breasts of divinity. The Spirit and Bride sing out—the wedding supper of the Lamb arrives! Father, Son, and Spirit, setting a table before us—even before our enemies. Fear dissipates; our Abba gives us fish and not stones. When we rest in our true center, we play hide and seek—we are lost in God, and found in the way things really are: God is immediately present to us, and us to the Triune God. Here God nourishes our spirits—Jesus is real food and real drink. At the table of our souls we are consumed by the all-consuming God.

* * * *

When the Church eats and drinks in Eucharistic feast, in Lord’s Table and Lord’s Supper, we celebrate Christ’s subversive presence in our midst. We consume God and are consumed, eating and drinking once again in God’s upside-down reign. This holy meal that Jesus gives us disorients us in God’s nourishing presence and re-orients us to our real surroundings, God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. When we take the recipes of heaven into our bodies, the Church re-members once more that we are reconstituted, new creation, real bodies becoming one flesh and blood by Jesus’ flesh and blood. We become God’s life incarnate, free to act in the world with startling freedom, astonishing grace and truth, no strings attached.

Let us taste God, and let us become. What if we became gardeners, cooks, party-throwers; cultivating God’s organic life and sharing this nourishment with all? Communal meals, agape feasts, subversive lunches and dinners shared in the Way of Jesus. What if we followed Jesus, inviting everyone to the table: sex workers and terrorists, homeless and high-powered business leaders, blacks and Asians and whites and Latinos, televangelists and gay activists? Around the table of God, we are reduced to the grandeur our common humanity, the spark of divinity that by God’s grace sparks us, perchance to dream, together. To dream of another world, one filled with choice food and fine aged wines, and new wine—the wine of New Covenant, containing the inebriating dreams of God’s new world.

God is food and drink. We can taste and see the Lord’s goodness with our whole lives, along interior and outward paths alike. We can imbibe divinity in the still, small moments of restful inner repose; we can eat and drink the will of our Father at the raucous tables where stranger, neighbor, enemy and friend meet…

…to be continued on page 320, in Pentecost week 27!

Mosaic: Holy Bible Hardcover

Mosaic: Holy Bible Simulated Leatherbound

Check out the Slideshow

Browse inside the Advent Meditations!

*They cut back some portions of this, with my blessing. I wrote like a bit of a mad chef, experimenting with ingredients. The editors needed to be mindful of the appropriateness of its use for a large and diverse readership, and I completely understand their editorial revisions. I’ll write more like a whirling dervish channeling John of Ruusbroec and Sara Miles when my book on God-as-nourishment comes out – which will be soon!

Brian McLaren on New Vistas of Vision: Where Do We Go From Here?

Spencer Burke and Brian McLaren wrap up their ground-breaking interview series on A New Kind of ChristianityWhere do new kinds of Christians go to manifest their inspiration into action? How do we treat those who don’t see the same things we see? Get the show notes and see the interview series in its entirety here.

Brian McLaren: Religious Pluralism in the 21st Century, or: How do Christians relate to those of other faiths?

Can the question of how people of different faiths relate to each other take forms other than Us vs. Them hostility or “Whatever, man” relativism? Is it possible to have Christian specificity without exclusivity? What about John 14:6 – you know, where Jesus says “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life – no one comes to the Father except through me”?

Spencer Burke and Brian McLaren discuss all of this (and its coverage in Brian’s A New Kind of Christianity) in the video below. Get the episode notes and see the entire ten-part interview as it unfolds here.

Also relevant to this conversation:

A Reading of John 14:6 (PDF essay) by Brian

A New Kind of Bible Reading (a free bonus chapter of A New Kind of Christianity)

See also Samir Salmanovic‘s book It’s Really All About God and his work with Faith House Manhattan

If you identify as a Christian, what do YOU think about your privileges and responsibilities in relating to those of neighboring faiths, and sharing your own? If you practice some other faith (or none at all), how do you feel that Christians on the whole have treated you? Do any defy the stereotypes?

Brian McLaren, Tim King – End-Times & New Beginnings

Spencer Burke and Brian McLaren continue their discussion on A New Kind of Christianityis eschatology catastrophic and in the future? Or might it be fulfilled in an important sense, open-ended for divine-human empowerment? You can see the show notes for this segment and the entire interview here. You can download Brian’s fascinating free bonus chapter on eschatology – dealing with ‘personal eschatology’ and the afterlife – here.

This is a great time to mention an exciting new transition in the life of the Morrell family. I write this perched in the beautiful Black Forest of Colorado Springs, Colorado, where Jasmin, Jubilee and I will be moving soon! (To the Springs, not the Black Forest…I wouldn’t be able to breathe up there!) I’m here with Tim King (whom Spencer also interviewed recently), Doug King, Kevin Beck and families – three-fourths of the all-new Presence team, of which I’ll soon be a full-time member.

I’ve been working with Presence as a consultant since 2006, and beginning this Spring I’ll be with them in a full-time capacity. Presence – along with The David Group and a soon-to-be-announced third counterpart – does amazing work in (what Brian calls) participatory eschatology, personal and communal empowerment, and peace-building work worldwide. I’ll be coming on as a communications jack-of-all trades, assisting in making our social media interaction top-notch as we catalyze further opportunities for collaboration with all people, across class and party lines. Stay tuned!

And…if you’re curious about the core theology and spirituality that animates Presence’s disparate activities, I’d recommend reading two things for starters:

Chapter Eight of Brian’s A New Kind of Christianity

Kevin Beck’s free eBook, This Book Will Change Your World – download it here!

This will be a wild ride…if you’re in Colorado Springs let me know – we should connect!

Brian McLaren: Let’s Talk About Sex

Spencer Burke and Brian McLaren talk about sex (you see) and A New Kind of ChristianityWhat’s a conscientious Christ-follower to do amidst the culture wars?  Get the show notes and see the entire interview as it unfolds here.


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  • Friend of Emergent Village

    My Writings: Varied and Sundry Pieces Online

    Illumination and Darkness: An Anne Rice Feature from Burnside Writer's Collective
    Shadows & Light: An Anne Rice Interview in MP3 format from Relevant Magazine
    God's Ultimate Passion: A Trinity of Frank Viola interview on Next Wave: Part I, Part II, Part III
    Review: Furious Pursuit by Tim King, from The Ooze
    Church Planting Chat from Next-Wave
    Review: Untold Story of the New Testament Church by Frank Viola, from Next-Wave

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