Sunday, September 30, 2007

"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." Jesus

What will you do?

Friday, September 28, 2007

Thanks to Christine Sine

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The happiness which brings enduring worth to life is not the superficial happiness that is dependent on circumstances. It is the happiness and contentment that fills the soul even in the midst of the most distressing circumstances and the most bitter environment. It is the kind of happiness that grins when things go wrong and smiles through the tears. The happiness for which our souls ache is one undisturbed by success or failure, one which will root deeply inside us and give inward relaxation, peace, and contentment, no matter what the surface problems may be. That kind of happiness stands in need of no outward stimulus. Billy Graham

The mind is its own place and in itself can make a heaven of hell; a hell of heaven. John Milton

Philippians 4:8
Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Psalm 25:4-5
Show me how you work, God; School me in your ways. Take me by the hand; Lead me down the path of truth. You are my Savior, aren't you?

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don't try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he's the one who will keep you on track. Don't assume that you know it all. Run to God! Run from evil!

Proverbs 4:18
The ways of right-living people glow with light; the longer they live, the brighter they shine. But the road of wrongdoing gets darker and darker— travelers can't see a thing; they fall flat on their faces.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Kingdom Living II

How did the number of Christians in the world grow from as few as 25,000 (about a half percent of the world's population) one hundred years after Christ’s death to up to 20 million in AD 310?

How did the early Christ-followers do it?

Consider this in your answer: they were an illegal religion, at best being tolerated & at worst tortured. They didn’t have buildings, as we know them. They didn’t have the compiled scriptures, as we know them. They had no professional pastors and leaders. There were no seeker services, youth groups, worship bands, or seminaries, and they actually made it hard to join the church! (Alan Hirsh, The Forgotten Ways, pp18-19)

How did the Chinese underground church grow despite considerable opposition? About 900,000 Protestants lived in the country at the time of the Communist takeover in 1949. Today China has about 111 million Christians, about 90 percent Protestant and mostly Pentecostal, according to the World Christian Database, published by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity.

What if Stephen Harper confiscated all church property and outlawed church corporations. What would happen to Community of Hope? Would we actually cease to exist?

We often think that government protection helps the cause of Christ. Did Constantine really help? Listen to Rodney Stark, considered the preeminent historian of that period in church history:

He had many harmful effects. I don’t believe establishment is good for churches. It gets them involved in the worldly realm in ways that are unsuitable and corrupting. By the end of Constantine’s reign, we see people competing madly to become bishops because of the money. After that, Christianity was no longer a person-to-person movement.

People value religion on the basis of cost, and they don’t value the cheapest ones the most. Religions that ask nothing get nothing. Rodney Stark

Jesus made disciples of His early followers. He had apprentices, which simply means, “Learner.”

Jesus wanted them to live the most exhilarating kind of life imaginable. We can learn from Jesus how to have a new internal character. Jesus teaches that a good heart is what God intends for us and what He makes possible. Jesus wants to replace the boiling pot of human evil in us with genuine compassion, purity and good will. He wants to give us a new identity, to set us on a learning journey- a journey of transformation and a new place to live life, the kingdom of God. “May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

"Balance is not a matter of managing your time or giving equal effort to two opposing sides; it is about aligning your behavior with what you believe is really important to you. When our lives don't reflect our values, we feel that inconsistency as some measure of imbalance." Joan Gurvis, Center for Creative Leadership

‘What is really important to you’ is a synonym for identity. If our behavior doesn’t line up with our identity, there’s a conflict going on. That internal conflict is a process of personal deconstruction and transformation that every follower of Jesus is engaged in. We call it discipleship.

We are told to put off our old self. To die daily, to pick up our cross.

The task of our lives is to bring every aspect of our lives, communal and individual, under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

The vision is Jesus, plain & simple. Jesus and holiness. Holiness means bringing all spheres of life under God. That is the definition of biblical worship- loving God with all of our heart, mind & strength.

Romans 10:9
That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

"Jesus is Lord." That’s a radical claim. It’s rooted in our allegiance, of who or what has ultimate authority, of what is the standard and ultimate norm of life.

Lee C. Camp wonders if that is one of the most widespread Christian lies. In his book Mere Discipleship: Radical Christianity in a Rebellious World he asks, “Have Christians claimed the lordship of Jesus, but systematically set aside the call to obedience to this lord? At least in Rwanda, with “Christian Hutus” slaughtering “Christian Tutsis (and vice versa), “Christian” apparently served as a faith brand name–a “spirituality,” or a “religion”–but not a commitment to a common Lord.”

Revelation 3:14-22
"To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."

How did Jesus get on the outside to begin with?

When we lose our master, our teacher, we lose everything. Kingdom living is about rediscovering our teacher and living with Him right now.

Being a Christian is not simply about going to heaven. It is about living in the Kingdom of God today. Being a Christ follower. A follower of the Jesus Way.

Right behavior does not necessarily lead to true identity, but true identity will eventually produce right behavior. The first looks like holiness; the second is.

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,”

“Our Father, who is closer than the air I breathe.”

What is the message of my life?

Am I being read as a disciple? Do people see a clear picture of Jesus through my personhood?

Discipleship is to embody the message of Jesus Christ. We are on the way...

Coming back to that idea of congruence, our insides, our identity matching our outside, our behavior, Soren Kierkegaard said this 150 years ago:

"The truth exists not in knowing the truth intellectually but in being the truth.” Paul wrote, ‘believing in your heart.’

Kingdom living is learning to be the truth. It is to know and live the reality of Colossians 3 and to experience the love of 1 Corinthians 13, to receive it and to share it.

I want to finish by looking at four levels of happiness. What we pursue, what we think gives us happiness will in many ways determine our identity. And our identity will determine whether we want to enter the kingdom of God with Jesus.

1. Happiness level 1 is finding happiness in physical pleasure and possession of material things. Happiness 1 is about gaining physical gratification through the fulfillment of our five senses. The venti mocha tastes good, and I feel good having drunk it. The new 42-inch plasma HDTV makes NFL football spectacular to watch.This level of happiness is good. But, if we only live for instant gratification, we soon become bored.Suffering has no meaning at this level. When we are deprived of pleasures and possessions, we feel pain and experience suffering. We question suffering and fail to see how any good can come from pain.

After we get our ‘kicks’, we almost always desire ‘more.’

We cannot consume our way to discipleship. The 'competition' to our making the claim that Jesus is Lord is Consumerism!

Advertising & marketing is all about identity, not the product itself. Have you ever gone to a mall to wander around for 'Retail Therapy'?

2. Happiness level 2 is finding happiness in ego-gratification. We get a boost of ego when we succeed, are in control, are admired, or win a competition. This happiness accompanies winning a soccer game, graduating from school, or getting a job promotion.Happiness 2 is good. We need to work toward goals and finish projects. But, we have to be careful if happiness is found only in achievement or ego-gratification because we'll be living in constant competition with other people. If things don't go our way, or we embarrass ourselves, or we fail, we can sink into depression. If pain or illness causes us to lose some control or become dependent on others, we begin to see life as useless or meaningless. Suffering is seen as something to be avoided at all costs--we may begin to live in fear of suffering because it inhibits our ability to achieve.

Our self-worth, our goals in life and sense of belonging can become dependent on these expectations and achievements. As long as they are achieved we’re happy. Our happiness is dependent on good things happening. When bad things happen, when our will is thwarted, then we become very upset.

3. Happiness level 3 is doing good for another person. This is the joy of giving a gift, teaching a child to tie his shoelaces, baking cookies for a friend.In addition to the happiness we find in giving to others, we also find happiness in being with others. When we give our very selves by playing "Go Fish" with a child or listening to a friend who is suffering, we find spending time in the presence of someone else can make us happy.

Nonetheless, if we make Happiness Level 3 our "end," we become frustrated because we can never do enough to help others--for there is always more to do! Another pitfall is thinking someone else will bring us ultimate happiness. This is too large of a task to ask another person to accomplish for us, or for us to try to accomplish for another person. Although we can help someone find happiness, we can't be "ultimate happiness."

The feelings of happiness here, hope, positivity and the like, are different than lower levels like achievement, control, winning, etc.

4. Happiness level 4 is faith and participation in the unconditional, never-ending love of God. (Even those who do not believe in God still have this desire for the ultimate. Some may call it a universal force, or some other name.) It is believing that there is such a thing as perfect, ultimate, unconditional, and eternal Truth, Love, Beauty, Goodness, and Justice.

It's learning that the only person who is without limits is God, and that God loves us so much, that He wants us to be a part of His Love forever. If we truly believe that this is our final goal, then we know what it means to be human. People are no longer problems, they are mysteries. We look for the "good news" in other people. We desire good for the other so much, that it becomes just as easy to do good for someone else as for ourselves.

Happiness level 4 keeps the other three levels in proper perspective. Our final goal is to find happiness by accepting the perfect, unconditional love of God, and by giving ourselves away in love to others (even when this requires suffering). Sometimes loving others causes us suffering and sacrifice, but with a Happiness level 4 outlook, we see that suffering can result in a greater good. Our suffering can actually provide others the opportunity to give of themselves through their love and sacrifice for us.

All the way back to Plato humans have been thought of as ‘ultimatizers.’ Kids keep asking ‘why’ to get to the ultimate answer. They wonder about fairness, justice, and so do we.

We find all of this complete in God. This search, this God-shaped vacuum in all of us sets us on a quest to find God and participate in a relationship with Him. Faith and surrender to God
The first two levels are our domain. The latter two the domain of others and God. We can’t live in the kingdom when we live for ourselves. I want…

There’s a scene in Evan Almighty where Evan Baxter tells Morgan Freeman, who’s playing God, his plans. Freeman immediately laughs and the scene moves on.

Living in the kingdom of God is walking in the character and power of Jesus Christ.

His plan is not to get the uncommitted to get committed, but to get those who are committed to grow into the fullness of Jesus Christ.

What level of happiness are you searching for?

Matthew 6:19-34
"Don't hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it's safe from moth and rust and burglars. It's obvious, isn't it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.

"Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have!

"You can't worship two gods at once. Loving one god, you'll end up hating the other. Adoration of one feeds contempt for the other. You can't worship God and Money both.

"If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don't fuss about what's on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.

"Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.

"If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

"Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.

I think you know where God is found…

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Jesus, good doctor, give us eyes to see...

Matthew 13:16-17
"But you have God-blessed eyes—eyes that see! And God-blessed ears—ears that hear! A lot of people, prophets and humble believers among them, would have given anything to see what you are seeing, to hear what you are hearing, but never had the chance."

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Come and Listen...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Prayer for the day

God of many names, my name is known to you.
I am held in the hand of your life, and I do not know what you will make of me.
All I know is that I cannot make myself any more than I could in my mother's womb.
But this I can do, this I choose, to give myself into the hand of your continuing creativity.
My past, with its joys and triumphs, its failures and regrets.
My present, with its struggles and accomplishments, its hopes and setbacks.
My future, with its fears and freedom, its pain and promise. To loose and to bind, to stretch and to shape, to become what I will,
trusting the hand that made the world
trusting the spirit that breathes life
trusting the love that will not let me go
trusting the promise of the Word made flesh. Kathy Galloway, Talking to the Bones

Monday, September 17, 2007

Kingdom Living I

Have you ever asked yourself, “What kind of a person I am becoming?

What are my experiences, what are the circumstances of life doing to or for me, and do I really want to go in that direction?”

Is your life dependent on whether you experience a good day or a bad day?

This fall, I want us to give a special focus on following in the way of Jesus. We recognize Jesus as our teacher and authority, and want to wrestle with how to surrender to the way of love in every detail of our lives. And we want to submit ourselves to one another in love through it all.

Matthew 28:18-20
Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: "God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I'll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age."

Instead of making disciples though, North American Christianity usually make converts. What did Jesus say about that, especially for those who like large crowds?

Luke 14:25-35
One day when large groups of people were walking along with him, Jesus turned and told them, "Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters—yes, even one's own self!—can't be my disciple. Anyone who won't shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can't be my disciple.

"Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn't first sit down and figure the cost so you'll know if you can complete it? If you only get the foundation laid and then run out of money, you're going to look pretty foolish. Everyone passing by will poke fun at you: 'He started something he couldn't finish.'

"Or can you imagine a king going into battle against another king without first deciding whether it is possible with his ten thousand troops to face the twenty thousand troops of the other? And if he decides he can't, won't he send an emissary and work out a truce?

“Simply put, if you're not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can't be my disciple.

"Salt is excellent. But if the salt goes flat, it's useless, good for nothing.

"Are you listening to this? Really listening?"

How do we relate to those words? What do they have to do with us? Isn’t this bait and switch?

Jesus didn’t really mean that, right? Doesn’t He really want to just give us lots of nice stuff to have?

Are we really willing to take the risks and be offended by the teachings of Jesus?

Apprenticeship. Discipleship. What exactly does it mean to be a disciple?

“One thing is sure: You are somebody’s disciple. You learned how to live from somebody else. There are no exceptions to this rule, for human beings are just the kind of creatures that have to learn and keep learning from others how to live.” Dallas Willard

Apprenticeship to Jesus requires a posture that is unfamiliar to many of us. We aren’t a people that easily follow instructions or submit to anything.

A disciple of Jesus is one who is “meant to go with Him, in an attitude of observation, study, obedience, and imitation.” It also meant that disciples had to make a deliberate decision to devote themselves to becoming like Christ.

We don’t do this in our own power- God initiates and we respond. This is how Paul put it,

Romans 12:1-2
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Hvae you ever seen these pictures of square watermelons & pyramid-shaped watermelons?

What are you and I being shaped into? Are we happy about it?

One of the things that give motivation to seek Jesus and the kingdom of God is dissatisfaction with life outside of it. Have you ever said, ‘I don’t think I’m changing’.

Am I becoming a different type of person, a more joyful person?

"Do I have the courage to let go?”

The goal: to move beyond behavior modification toward actual heart change. Kingdom living!

Aron Ralston was rock climbing in Utah one Saturday when he got his arm pinned underneath a huge boulder, and he’s stuck, alone, miles from anybody. By Tuesday his water runs out and by Thursday he realizes he’s not going to be found before he dies, so he thinks to himself, “If I’m going to live, the arm has to go.” So he takes his pocketknife… I hate even saying this out loud… and hacks off his right arm just below the elbow. Then he applies a tourniquet, rappels 60 feet to the canyon floor, and hikes out until he’s airlifted to a hospital that he then walked into under his own power.

Can you imagine that? “If I’m going to live…”

And what’s interesting to me is that with people like Aron Ralston and others who almost died, their attitude afterward is that nearly dying made them more alive than ever. They have new outlook and their priorities are forever changed. We want to wrestle with the important things of Jesus: life with Him in the kingdom of God.

Matthew 23:13-15
"I've had it with you! You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You go halfway around the world to make a convert, but once you get him you make him into a replica of yourselves, double-damned.”

I don’t want to hear Jesus say those things to me. How do we go about living?

“Authentic transformation really is possible if we are willing to do one thing, and that is to rearrange our life around the things that Jesus practiced in order to receive light and power from the Father.” Dallas Willard

“Do I really want God and His kingdom more than anything else?”

If we’re honest about that we might actually say, “You know, right now I don’t. I’m really hoping I’ll get this promotion, or have great sex.” But that’s not deep enough, is it?

“I just get tired of having to be careful of everything I say. I’m tired of feeling like I have to always walk on eggshells.”

“Better that than always going around breaking eggs.”
And it’s even better to let God change our hearts so our speech is peaceful rather than inflammatory in the first place.

John 15:5-8
"I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you're joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can't produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.

Where do you long most for greater wholeness?
Come to communion and know that we can only live in the kingdom in a daily dependance of Jesus Christ.

O Lord, I know not what to ask of you. You alone know what are my true needs. You love me more than I myself know how to love. Help me to see my real needs which are concealed from me. I dare not ask either a cross or consolation. I can only wait on you; my heart is open to you. Visit and help me, for thy great mercy's sake. Strike me down and heal me, cast me down and raise me up. I worship in silence your holy will and your inscrutable ways. I offer myself as a sacrifice to you. I put all my trust in you. I have no other desire than to fulfill your will. Teach me how to pray. Pray you yourself in me. Amen.

Colossians 3:1-17
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

1 Corinthians 13
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

O Lord, I know not what to ask of you.
You alone know what are my true needs.
You love me more than I myself know how to love.
Help me to see my real needs which are concealed from me. I dare not ask either a cross or consolation.
I can only wait on you; my heart is open to you.
Visit and help me, for thy great mercy's sake.
Strike me down and heal me, cast me down and raise me up.
I worship in silence your holy will and your inscrutable ways.
I offer myself as a sacrifice to you.
I put all my trust in you.
I have no other desire than to fulfill your will. Teach me how to pray. Pray you yourself in me. Amen.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Thanks to Jeremy at Living Unleashed

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Chose Life!

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Proverbs 4:23

You have made known to me the path of life. Psalm 16:11

In him was life, and that life was the light of men. John 1:4

Come to me to have life. John 5:40

Tell the people the full message of this new life. Acts 5:20

I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living. Psalm 27:13

Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. Romans 6:4

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10

Monday, September 10, 2007

Foundations of Purpose

Yesterday Bryan shared from his heart and guided us into God's presence through music & Kevin Avram spoke gently into our souls- it was a great morning together.

Take some time today to slow yourself down and be attentive to the whisperings of God.

For those voices of the past that are still causing pain cry out to God to quell them, and seek out someone to pray with you. The love of the Father is spoken deep into our hearts and brings us peace.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

I visited an older pastor in the hospital today, and it was such a gift to me. He was so full of excitement of how well he was being treated- he's in for cancer surgery; of how good God is; of how thrilled it was to have visitors see him and of how rewarding it was just to see his children show up that I couldn't help but be blessed myself.

I was struck with his attitude that said, "God walked me through my first cancer surgery, so I know that He's here for this one, and if I'm not healed I guess that means He's done with me!"

What a faith to finish well!

Colossians 3:15-17
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

What is real beauty?

Dove Campaign For Real Beauty

Proverbs 31:30-31
Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades. The woman to be admired and praised is the woman who lives in the Fear-of-God. Give her everything she deserves! Festoon her life with praises!

Monday, September 03, 2007

God @ the Movies: The Devil Wears Prada

We do this series to aid us in our search for redemptive stories and analogies.

This particular message could be subtitled, 'Working With You or For You Is Killing Me'.

Now just so we all understand my point of view and experience with the underlying themes and occupations of the characters in this movie I’ll say the obvious: I’m a guy. Youngest of 4 boys, no sisters. My brothers operated on the wrong side of the tracks if you know what I mean, rough and tumble not Gucci and Armani.

I didn’t have a lot of exposure to girls, fashion etc growing up. I have little or no sense of fashion IQ. I know that surprises most of you right?! Some would say that it’s not that I have little or no fashion intelligence, but that I actually am running a deficit in that area!

When Rachel was picking some clothes when she was 3 or 4 I found out that she had a better eye for coordinating colors than I did!

I have had green shoes, multicolored sweat pants, Ken has even put out a rumor that he’s seen a fanny pack on me!

One day in the spring Jenn says to me, “You know it doesn’t matter how dressed up you get, you always have those black runners accenting your outfit!”

I generally live as much of my existence as possible in shorts and a tank top. My tongue in cheek nickname from a good friend is “GQ Stew”. There are those who cal me a fashion visionary- perhaps blind but nonetheless visionary!

For me a ‘Runway’ is at an airport, not the fashion magazine in the movie.

I take pride in being a fashion dinosaur. All that said lets watch the trailer for The Devil Wears Prada and look at issues concerning work on this Labor Day weekend:

Scene 1 trailer

Andrea Sachs goes for a job interview at a fancy fashion magazine in New York, gets hired and starts a roller coaster ride working for ‘hell on high heels.’ Young Ms. Sachs is not exactly a fashion icon, instead aspiring to become a writer and hoping that this job could open some doors. She’s in for an awakening when she meets her boss to be.

Some has postulated that this boss character bears some resemblance to the actual behavior of Martha ‘my Alma Mata is Penn State, or should I say State Penn’ Stewart.

Let’s see Miranda Priestly in action as she puts her troops through the mill in preparation for a fashion show:

Scene 2 chapter 9 21.46- 24.25

The early days at work are very difficult for Andy as the learning curve is high and the personal abuse is almost nonstop. In this next scene she’s just been chewed out by her boss and seeks solace in Nigel's office, as he is her only ‘friend’ at work:

Scene 3 chapter 12 31.40- 34.40

Have you ever had a pity party about your work? Gallup research identifies that people usually don’t quit work; they quit their boss or their manager, often because of abuse and bullying. This is the latest McLean’s magazine and it contains an article titled, “Bullying Bosses Beware”.

As you saw in the last scene Andy gets the idea that wearing fashionable clothes will help her with her job and relationship with the boss.

She has a makeover and in this next scene gets together with her good friends and boyfriend Nick for dinner:

Scene 4 chapter 14 38.20- 39.41

Andy is beginning to change, slowly but surely. She invests herself in the toxic environment and begins to earn some of her boss’s approval and actually starts to fit in at work. In this next scene she’s at a modeling shoot in Central Park, and gets a pep talk from Nigel the designer:

Scene 5 chapter 19 56.34- 57.12

Andy’s personal life is in shreds, but it seems like that’s the price you pay in this field. Ever faced that?

Andy’s work life is wreaking havoc with her relationship with Nick. Has work ever caused discomfort at home?

For many of us, our natural instinct when feeling distraught and discouraged is to overindulge in one of the following: food, sleep, cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, or television. These activities only eliminate stress for a short period. They do not solve or resolve the problem. In fact, they can cause other problems such as depression, anxiety, alcoholism, obesity, or ulcers.

There are some very clear ethical dilemmas presented in The Devil Wears Prada. Each occupation contains some that are peculiar to the actual work, but many are universal because all work involves human relationships.

Jesus told lots of stories about work. He has stories about workers in a vineyard; a story about talents; a story about unforgiving servants; a story about a shrewd manager.

We were created to do work by God, but not created so that our work becomes our identity; we were not created so that our success in our work governs our behavior; no our character should guide our workplace behavior like in all areas of life.

A very real dilemma arises for Andy: she is becoming so efficient that her boss wants to take her to the most prestigious fashion show in Paris. Her co-worker has been looking forward to this for months- it’s really the only good perk in working at Runway. Miranda says come to Paris or find another job.

What would you do? Who’d go to Paris? Who would quit?

In this next scene, Andy gets a peck on her cheek from a would be suitor. Her good friend she’s it and is disgusted, after all she has a boyfriend right? What’s become of Andy?

Scene 6 chapter 24 74.31- 75.32

Nick confronts some of Andy’s changes and challenges her that, “You’ve become one of them.” He follows up adding, “Do your thing with a little integrity.”

To the U2 song, “City of Blinding Lights” we see Andy arrive in Paris. She’s made her choice and has begun to identify very strongly with Miranda.

Neon heart day-glow eyes
A city lit by fireflies
They're advertising in the skies
For people like us
And I miss you when you're not around
I'm getting ready to leave the ground
Oh you look so beautiful tonight
In the city of blinding lights
Don't look before you laugh
Look ugly in a photograph
Flash bulbs purple irises
The camera can't see
I've seen you walk unafraid
I've seen you in the clothes you made
Can you see the beauty inside of me?
What happened to the beauty I had inside of me?
And I miss you when you're not around
I'm getting ready to leave the ground

God is light, only His light is meant to illuminate what’s inside, covered up, the darkness of our soul.

Miranda Priestly. The priestess of fashion, power politics, power and control. Jezebel herself.

While in Paris Andy finds out that Miranda’s husband is divorcing her- he won’t be King Ahab anymore. Andy’s good friend is going to get his dream job at another company, hallelujah! And Miranda is going to lose her job. Except that at the right time the high priestess of fashion orchestrates a Michael Corleone style Godfather-like maneuver and retains her job, and forces her lead designer to stay at Runway. She explains how this happened to Andy on the way to a banquet in gay Paris:

Scene 7 chapter 31 96.15- 99.15

I couldn’t do that. You already did.


Do you need to make any adjustments in your own life?

On the stage of your life, is this the character you want to play?

Luke 14:12
"...When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind."

Then he turned to the host. "The next time you put on a dinner, don't just invite your friends and family and rich neighbors, the kind of people who will return the favor. Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks. You'll be—and experience—a blessing. They won't be able to return the favor, but the favor will be returned—oh, how it will be returned! — at the resurrection of God's people." The Message

Colossians 3:22-24
Slaves obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

The work you do to make a living is one of the clearest ways possible of focusing upon apprenticeship to Jesus. To be a disciple of Jesus is, crucially, to be learning from Jesus how to do your job as Jesus himself would do it. New Testament language for this is to do it “in the name” of Jesus.

Fire your boss and start working for Jesus. A gentle but firm non-cooperation with things that you know to be wrong, together with a sensitive, non-standoff-ish service to others, should be our usual behavior. This when combined with inward attitudes of constant prayer for whatever kind of activity our workplace requires and genuine love for everyone involved will give God a foothold in your workplace.

As long as you are on the job, all peculiarly religious activities should take second place to doing “the job” in sweat, intelligence, and the power of God. That is our devotion to God. This assumes, of course, that the job is one that serves good human purposes. Working in the pornography business may facilitate a career change as you follow Jesus.

There are times where it’s best to quit and look for another job. At times even getting fired for sticking to your convictions opens up a new journey- we call that

The Joseph principle:
The human intent of an event doesn’t foil God.

Because He's the best boss we can ever have.