Moves Like Jagger

When I was in college, I was part of a Summer Staff position at a Conference Center. Throughout the summer, we would have various activities among the staff. One of these activities was a Lip Sync contest. My buddies and I decided to enter and do a Rolling Stones song, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

I was tasked to fill the role of Mick Jagger in the group. I was prepared for this because I was a huge devotee of the documentary, Gimme Shelter. I had probably watched that film 50 times and could quote you the majority of the lines. I had also become a student of Jagger and his frantic moves on stage. I could imitate his facial expressions, the way he likes to strut, and his ridiculous hand gyrations.

The day of the contest came and we did our thing. I was Mick Jagger. One fellow staff person said that, “I was a better Mick than Mick is.” I embodied the movements and style of one person doing one thing. I have no intention of being Mick Jagger. His hedonistic, material, free love, and self indulgent ways didn’t then and doesn’t now appeal to my Christian worldview (Though I would love to sing “Honky Tonk Women” in front of the full band one day).

My imitation of Jagger was light years away from being Jagger. And so it is with our imitation of Christ.

For example, take the story of the woman caught in adultery , where Jesus diffuses her execution. If, by some chance, we found ourselves in a similar situation, we could say the words and take the action that that could make a difference but still not have the same heart as Christ. Jesus had no condemnation towards the woman but I could still condemn her and judge her in my mind. My point is, imitation alone is just half the work.

A transformed heart takes deep work of the Holy Spirit, intentional development of our mind and body, and the encouragement of others. One time, Jesus’ disciples failed to heal a demon possessed boy and his dad had to appeal to Jesus for him to do it. Jesus said that the reason the disciples couldn’t drive it out was because of their lack of faith. These disciples knew the words to say and the moves to make and the prayers to recite to heal most people but they hadn’t built up their faith in order to embody Jesus’ power.

This could sound discouraging. “What? I can’t even fake my way to Christlikeness? Why even try?” But, our imitation is a sign of our faith and a level of trust that our practices will make a difference. And if we possess Christ within us and are indwelt by him, he is going to do the work to turn our small faith into a transforming faith. In just a short time, these same bumbling, lacking faith disciples were healing crippled people, miraculously busting out of jail, and speaking in tongues.

Christ’s power will use our small imitation of him and make it work.

 

 

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Every Morning Is Different

I like my schedule and I am a creature of routine. I have even shared my Morning Routine here on the blog. But, I have learned to be okay with my rather varied practices and to not be so rigid that I turn every morning into a legal practice that has success/failure outcomes.

For example, on the mornings I run, I will listen to a daily entry from the Pray As You Go app. The mixture of song, scripture, and reflection hits all the marks for me – from scripture reading, prayer, and meditation. When I am not running, my mornings might start with a video meditation, or a reading of scripture, or short time of prayer. Sometimes, I just need more sleep and I unashamedly close my eyes for another 10-15 minutes. Some mornings, I just write on the blog and bang out an entry and do nothing else.

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As someone who has previously mapped out an hour and a half schedule each morning full of exercise, reading, prayer, and writing, to not have these constraints and more importantly, be okay with not having these constraints has been freeing. I am not advocating less discipline or that our prayer time or scripture reading doesn’t deserve our utmost intention, what I am presenting is the permission to lighten your spiritual load, not to be lazy but to be more fruitful.

By letting your routine have a little flexibility, you create grace with yourself and you start to see the big picture of your spiritual growth rather than the minute to minute pass/fail. Growing Up in Christ is a lifelong endeavor; we won’t miss out on Christlikeness if we fail to read the Bible for a full 15 minutes today. But if we throw out the entire practice because we can’t ever seem to get our schedule or motivation to work out right, then we are not Growing Up.

So, despite what may be going on this day, I try to make the following a priority during the week: meditation, prayer, scripture reading, writing, reading a book on Christian living or Spiritual Growth, and music. I may not get to each one every day but by the end of the week, I will have read a couple of chapters in the Bible, written a blog post, reflected on scripture or a truth about God, intentionally listened to music to quiet my soul and mind, and prayed for specific needs and growth.

For your purposes, make a list of your own spiritual priorities and schedule these things out if you find it helpful and it keeps you moving toward a goal. Just make sure the doing is more important than the scheduling and be gentle with yourself.

Staying Put: Why I Remained In My Church Tradition

What am I to do?

I am an introvert in a church tradition that adores extroverts and looks with suspicion on the quiet and the silent.

I embrace the spiritual in a church tradition that has pushed more and more to the academic.

I like to listen to my life for signs of God in a church tradition that thinks faith begins and ends with the Bible.

I am fascinated by 2,000 years of the best practices of the church in a church tradition that thinks church history started with C.S. Lewis.

I want to help develop community and find ways to serve my neighbors in a church tradition that says that these things don’t count for real evangelism.

I like my politics to reflect the Jesus I read about in the gospels in a church tradition that seems to back one side, Christ’s teaching be damned.

So why have I stayed in this tradition? Why have I been in the same church for more than 10 years and the same tradition that I grew up with? I can point to three ideas that have kept me tied to my church tradition and developed my sense of calling within that tradition:

Spiritual Heritage: One of my favorite books is Dakota by Kathleen Norris. In the book, this noted writer and poet with ties to the New England literary elite discusses her heritage in the Great Plains but also her Spiritual Heritage as a Christian and protestant. I loved the way she voices the idea that to be cut off from your spiritual heritage is to be cut off from your identity and your sense of place. I first read this many years ago around the same time as my spiritual breakthrough. As I began to search for deeper and more profound religious experiences, I was intrigued by other traditions and strands of faith as the way I must go but Norris’ sense of spiritual heritage just seemed like a worthy value to hold on to and pursue. It made me appreciate the finer points of my own tradition.

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Photo by Karl Fredrickson on Unsplash

Balanced Faith: Also at the time of my spiritual breakthrough, I began reading Richard Foster. His book, Streams of Living Water, establishes the idea, from a scriptural and spiritual stand point, that the church established by Christ, was not meant to be an affinity group based on doctrine and personal preference but was meant to include six “streams” that have surfaced in various traditions. Foster envisions these streams coming together in a balanced, strong, and vibrant church. What if Charismatics became a little more Word-centered, what if the Christian social activists were a little more contemplative, what if Evangelicals were a little more concerned with social causes? By combining the best of all of these traditions, the Church finds its best footing and is better equipped to do what God wants done.  This made so much sense to me. I didn’t want to abandon one affinity group for another, I wanted to be a part of bringing the best practices of Christ’s church back to my own church for the betterment of all the churches.

A Sense of Calling: Dallas Willard says that spiritual formation is becoming who Jesus would be if he were I, with my same background, context, and giftings. If this is true, then I am not called to be another Jesus, as we know him, but one that he would be if he had lived my life and participated in my history. This has brought out a deep sense of place and time for me. Instead of chasing some ideal of Christlikeness that “must” include starting my own church, or attending a certain type of church, or running off to an exotic location as the only real way of living out my faith, I began to realize that perhaps I was called to my church and my tradition to bring more balance to the faith, to bring more heart than head, to introduce practices that may be foreign to some, and present a different approach to the Christian Life that just might help others grow closer to Christ. I felt called to minister to my own church using the tools that I had learned from my readings and trainings in Spiritual Formation and Discipleship. This hasn’t always been easy, but time and time again, I have felt the tug of this call.

I’ll Take The Blame

I have spent so much time in the last few months reflecting on the teachings and miracles of Jesus that I felt like I was ill prepared for Easter week. I wanted to feel connected to the reality of Jesus’ last days, his crucifixion, and resurrection. I immediately thought of a book I read several years back called Unapologetic by Francis Spufford. His chapter on Jesus is one of the most powerful things I have ever read. His description of Jesus’ crucifiction is the kind of raw, stark, and beautiful thing I needed this week. So, I thought I would share a few of Spufford’s words and offer a little meditation for us to get in line with the level of love and sacrifice present in Easter week. More to come this week.spufford

Daylight finds him in a procession again, but this time no one could mistake him for a king. He’s stumbling along under the weight of his own instrument of execution, a great big wooden thing he can hardly lift, with an escort of the empire’s soldiers, and the bystanders who’ve come blinking out of the lodgings where they spent the festival night don’t see their hopes, or even the possibility of their hopes, parading by. They see their disappointment, they see their frustration…

Place yourself in the crowd that morning. What is going through your head as Jesus stumbles by? Are you saddened? Angry? Ashamed? Disappointed? Relieved? Glad? Are you being swept away by the jeers and cat calls from those around you? Do you want to spit at him like the person beside you? Or are tears rolling down your face? The pure humiliation of Jesus’ parade through the streets is shocking compared to the promise of just a few days before. Isn’t that just like us humans. We will turn on a person for no good reason other than our personal preferences weren’t met that day and we might as well take it out on something or someone.

…he’s turning his bruised face toward the whole human crowd, past and present and to come, and accepting everything we have to throw at him, everything we fear we deserve ourselves. The doors of his heart are wedged open wide, and in rushes the whole pestilential flood, the vile and roiling tide of cruelties and failures and secrets. Let me take that from you, he is saying. Give that to me instead. Let me carry it. Let me be to blame instead. I am big enough. I am wide enough. I am not what you were told… I am the father who longs for every last one of his children. I am the friend who will never leave you. I am the light behind the darkness…

What do you fear you deserve? What has my sin done? What should be in store for me? Jesus takes the blame. He embraces our faults and takes them in on himself. That is the picture of Jesus as he heads to the cross.