Friday, November 16, 2018

How to Support a Friend Going Through a Difficult Time


if someone is sad, do not try to cheer them up but try to acknowledge their pain. - Counter-inuitive, though.

https://www.facebook.com/buzzfeedfyi/videos/312037746243989/UzpfSTEwMDAwMjQwMTM3ODY3OToxOTI1NzcwNTEwODQ2MzA5/

https://www.facebook.com/buzzfeedfyi/videos/vb.597771523939856/312037746243989/?type=2&theater

...But Deliver Us from Optimists

This is what I am trying to achieve as the TKR draws near. But I am surrounded by people who want me to be "optimistic." Just as there is a difference between happiness and joy, there is a difference between optimism and hope. God deliver me from optimists!

"Oh, that's easy," he said. "The optimists."
"The optimists? I don't understand," I said, now completely confused,
given what he'd said a hundred meters earlier.
"The optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, 'We're going to be out by Christmas.' And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they'd say,'We're going to be out by Easter.' And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.">

__________________________________

Stockdale Paradox: Why confronting reality is vital to success

Balancing realism and optimism in a dire situation is a key to success.

  • The Stockdale Paradox is a concept that was popularized by Jim Collins in his book Good to Great.
  • It was named after James Stockdale, former vice presidential candidate, naval officer and Vietnam prisoner of war.
  • The main gist of the idea is that you need to balance realism with optimism.
In paradox we often find some of the greatest bits of wisdom. The difficulty in understanding a paradox comes from the fact that when it's heard as a maxim in some kind of verbal form, it is contradictory and not intuitively grasped. This said, paradoxes are best understood through experience.
The Stockdale Paradox is one such concept that, at first glance, takes some linguistic mental jumping jacks to fully grasp. This paradox was first put forward in Jim Collin's book Good to Great, a seminal corporate self-help and leadership book.
Author Jim Collins found a perfect example of this paradoxical concept in James Stockdale, former vice-presidential candidate, who, during the Vietnam War, was held captive as a prisoner of war for over seven years. He was one of the highest-ranking naval officers at the time.
During this horrific period, Stockdale was repeatedly tortured and had no reason to believe he'd make it out alive. Held in the clutches of the grim reality of his hell world, he found a way to stay alive by embracing both the harshness of his situation with a balance of healthy optimism.
Stockdale explained this idea as the following: "You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end — which you can never afford to lose — with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be."
In the most simplest explanation of this paradox, it's the idea of hoping for the best, but acknowledging and preparing for the worst.

What is the Stockdale Paradox? 

After years in captivity, Stockdale eventually home.
The ability to acknowledge your situation and balance optimism with realism comes from an understanding of the Stockdale Paradox. This contradictory way of thinking was the strength that led James through those trying years. Such paradoxical thinking, whether you consciously know it or not has been one of the defining philosophies for great leaders making it through hardship and reaching their goals.
Whether it's weathering through a torturous imprisonment in a POW camp or going through your own trials and tribulations, the Stockdale Paradox has merit as a way of thinking and acting for any trying times in a person's life.
The inherent contradictory dichotomy in the paradox holds a great lesson for how to achieve success and overcome difficult obstacles. It also flies right in the face of unbridled optimists and those positivity peddlers whose advice pervades nearly every self-help book or guru spiel out there.
In a discussion with Collins for his book, Stockdale speaks about how the optimists fared in camp. The dialogue goes:
"Who didn't make it out?"
"Oh, that's easy," he said. "The optimists."
"The optimists? I don't understand," I said, now completely confused,
given what he'd said a hundred meters earlier.
"The optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, 'We're going to be out by
Christmas.' And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then
they'd say,'We're going to be out by Easter.' And Easter would come, and
Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas
again. And they died of a broken heart."

Applying the Stockdale Paradox to your daily life 

We all want things to workout for ourselves. We want to be successful, happy, and have achieved something no matter how trivial or personal it may be. Reaching this state of accomplishment isn't going to come just by positive visualization. That's all well and good and it makes us feel nice. It's why so many people like to listen to the endless screeds of "business gurus" and motivational shysters promising us the world if we only just learned to change our mindset.
Confronting the entire brevity of your situation is instrumental for success. There's a bit of positive visualization in there, but it needs to be counterbalanced with the thought that you can utterly fail and to put it frankly – your current existence might be absolutely miserable and hopeless. But don't lose faith, your wildest dreams just might come true. . . hence the paradox.
It's not about choosing which side to take, but instead learning to embrace both feelings in opposition to one another and realize they're necessary and interconnected.

Stockdale Paradox in business and hardship

On a higher level, and when it comes to business leadership and management, this duality helps to guard against the onslaught of disappointments that will hit you in the business world. Optimism may drive innovation, but that needs to be put in check to help ensure that you're still on this plane of reality and not bumbling naively into something that can't happen.
It's a great mechanism to keep yourself grounded, but also entertain the idea of being incredibly successful in whatever pursuit you're after.
The Stockdale Paradox can help out an organization assess a current situation and plan accordingly to tackle the challenges they come across. It enforces both the idea that you can be positive and believe you will overcome all difficulties while at the same time you are confronting the most brutal facts of your current situation. The latter is what turns people off, because it can be misconstrued as negative or overly pessimistic.

Similar ideas to the Stockdale Paradox

Yet, we'll find again and again that it is this line of thought that fosters success even in the most dire and inhumane of situations. Viktor Frankl, psychotherapy and holocaust survivor, wrote in his book Man's Search for Meaning that prisoners within Nazi concentration camps usually died around Christmas time. He believed that they had such a strong hope they'd be out by Christmas that they simply died of hopelessness when that didn't turn out to be true.
Here is a passage from his book regarding this thought:
The death rate in the week between Christmas, 1944, and New Year's, 1945, increased in camp beyond all previous experience. In his opinion, the explanation for this increase did not lie in the harder working conditions or the deterioration of our food supplies or a change of wealth or new epidemics. It was simply that the majority of the prisoners had lived in the naive hope that they would be home again by Christmas. As the time drew near and there was no encouraging news, the prisoners lost courage and disappointment overcame them. This had a dangerous influence on their powers of resistance and a great number of them died.
Frankl developed a concept he called "tragic optimism," that is, an optimism in the face of tragedy. This idea has gone through many names and iterations throughout the years. In the Nietzschean worldview, it's the idea that whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Tragic optimism is similar to the Stockdale Paradox, as they both express a paradoxical idea about acknowledging your current difficulties intermixed with a positive belief that in the end you will still triumph.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Church of the Rez: The Great Doors are finally finished!

My friend, Janice Skivington Wood, helped design these doors for her church in Wheaton, IL. They are breathtaking, and the story of their creation is humbling. Praise God for giving us artists, and craftsmen, and theologians, and congregation that value beauty.

https://spark.adobe.com/page/fgRpgrjVd2Lvw/?fbclid=IwAR0Sn2TX7jae2RpdO3WdP18dMfpbqBcpqkhfjvy_4ENEwR3EFmwgMD-IkhE

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Being pro-life without being a pro-life voter

This is a worthwhile essay, and I agree with it wholeheartedly.

https://peaceaftertrauma.com/2018/10/23/blood-on-our-hands-7-reasons-why-im-a-christian-against-abortion-who-doesnt-vote-pro-life/?fbclid=IwAR3Wz0Poza-JmS0StBtIlgmAbYW9CpnH71T5XKecywiZmC1zqtpxJoS1AKI

Blood on Our Hands: 7 Reasons Why I’m a Christian against Abortion Who Doesn’t Vote Pro-life

As we approach the November 6 election in the US, I again hear and read comments that people who vote for pro-choice candidates have the blood of millions of murdered babies on their hands. Sometimes the opinion includes the question of how such voters can call themselves Christian.
I’m one of the people those comments target. I am a Christian from the Anabaptist stream — a historic peace church that includes Mennonites and Amish — and I usually don’t vote for so-called pro-life candidates.
Why? Because the Anabaptist ideal, as I understand it, is that as followers of Jesus, we are to be as pro-life as possible in our complex world. (Some people use the term “completely pro-life,” which makes me wince a bit. Because humanly speaking, when are we consistently and completely anything?)
This means no killing. By abortion. Or the death penalty. Or of enemies, even in war.
You see where this leaves me? Given my faith perspective, to cast any vote is to have blood on my hands. I can find pro-birth candidates. But I have yet to find a completely pro-life politician in any party.
Historically, Anabaptist Christians have “solved” this dilemma by not voting at all. I grew up hearing that not voting is a witness to society that we belong to the Kingdom of God, not to the kingdoms of this world. I was taught that not voting is an expression that we are in the world but not of the world.
Some Anabaptists still follow this practice. Others, including me, believe that we have a responsibility to vote, that there are no pure enclaves under a bushel somewhere to hide in and be absolved of the whole bloody mess. As German theologian and anti-Nazi activist Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
Given the complexity, why don’t I just vote for pro-life candidates, as some of my fellow Anabaptists do, even if those politicians are more pro-birth than pro-life? At least I’d know I’m not supporting the murder of babies. Here are seven head-and-heart reasons:
  1. My convictions are shaped by my work as a counselor with left-behind children in public schools, some of whom wished they had never been born. I’m glad people care passionately about unborn children, but I find my heart breaking when that passion seems to dissipate once a baby is born and disappears altogether at our borders.
  2. I’ve done community trauma work on five continents and have witnessed the devastation and suffering of real people impacted by violence, migration, war, injustice, and dignity violations. The way our elected officials vote on war, immigration, and foreign aid have life and death consequences. I want the babies and children in those far-off places, created in the image of God just like my own, to live and thrive, too.
  3. Pro-life legislators are more likely than their pro-choice counterparts to vote against the very programs that research shows decrease abortion rates: access to affordable contraceptives, age-appropriate sex education, paid maternity leave, and access to affordable child care.
  4. Pro-life politicians are more likely to support the death penalty and increased defense spending, which includes bombs and drones that kill other people’s babies and children.
  5. Even if I don’t condone abortion, I know it’s going to happen. I don’t condone war either, but I know it’s going to happen. I don’t support defunding and closing veterans’ hospitals as an attempt to stop war. Rather, I put my effort into supporting policies that reduce the likelihood of war. Likewise, I believe the most effective anti-abortion work I can do is supporting policies that prevent abortion and decrease abortion rates rather than working to defund or close clinics or criminalize abortion. I value the lives of women having abortions and want them to be safe, just as I value the lives of our veterans who need care even while disagreeing with their choice to go to war.
  6. Being as pro-life as possible means we don’t kill through supporting policies that deprive those unaborted babies, once they get older, of healthcare or school lunches. We don’t kill by allowing assault weapons on our streets or supporting systems that pipeline young people to prison. We don’t kill this beautiful planet Creator God has given us through policies that increase our carbon footprint.
  7. If we’re one-issue pro-life voters, foxy politicians — as Jesus called Herod — play us. All they need to do is say they are pro-life, and voilà, they have a whole flock of Christian voters in their pocket, regardless of their character and even if they support policies that increase abortion rates and kill in other ways.
The way I vote comes from being deeply rooted in my 500-year-old faith tradition, yes. But it’s not just something I inherited. It’s based on what I have seen and heard and carefully considered. When another Christian disparages my lifetime calling and my faith, it saddens and sometimes angers me.
Amidst the clamor that deepens divisions, it’s easy to forget that Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love each other. I wish we loved enough to stop demonizing: “Pro-life Christian voters are simplistic and end up harming women and children with their narrow focus;” “Pro-choice voters are disingenuous child murderers who can’t possibly be Christian.”
What if we stopped the othering rhetoric and started over with something we all agree is solidly Christian, a humble confession: We all have blood on our hands.
Maybe then we could work together, despite our differences, in the life-giving spirit of that greatest commandment. Love.
As we approach the November 6 election in the US, I again hear and read comments that people who vote for pro-choice candidates have the blood of millions of murdered babies on their hands. Sometimes the opinion includes the question of how such voters can call themselves Christian.
I’m one of the people those comments target. I am a Christian from the Anabaptist stream — a historic peace church that includes Mennonites and Amish — and I usually don’t vote for so-called pro-life candidates.
Why? Because the Anabaptist ideal, as I understand it, is that as followers of Jesus, we are to be as pro-life as possible in our complex world. (Some people use the term “completely pro-life,” which makes me wince a bit. Because humanly speaking, when are we consistently and completely anything?)
This means no killing. By abortion. Or the death penalty. Or of enemies, even in war.
You see where this leaves me? Given my faith perspective, to cast any vote is to have blood on my hands. I can find pro-birth candidates. But I have yet to find a completely pro-life politician in any party.
Historically, Anabaptist Christians have “solved” this dilemma by not voting at all. I grew up hearing that not voting is a witness to society that we belong to the Kingdom of God, not to the kingdoms of this world. I was taught that not voting is an expression that we are in the world but not of the world.
Some Anabaptists still follow this practice. Others, including me, believe that we have a responsibility to vote, that there are no pure enclaves under a bushel somewhere to hide in and be absolved of the whole bloody mess. As German theologian and anti-Nazi activist Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
Given the complexity, why don’t I just vote for pro-life candidates, as some of my fellow Anabaptists do, even if those politicians are more pro-birth than pro-life? At least I’d know I’m not supporting the murder of babies. Here are seven head-and-heart reasons:
  1. My convictions are shaped by my work as a counselor with left-behind children in public schools, some of whom wished they had never been born. I’m glad people care passionately about unborn children, but I find my heart breaking when that passion seems to dissipate once a baby is born and disappears altogether at our borders.
  2. I’ve done community trauma work on five continents and have witnessed the devastation and suffering of real people impacted by violence, migration, war, injustice, and dignity violations. The way our elected officials vote on war, immigration, and foreign aid have life and death consequences. I want the babies and children in those far-off places, created in the image of God just like my own, to live and thrive, too.
  3. Pro-life legislators are more likely than their pro-choice counterparts to vote against the very programs that research shows decrease abortion rates: access to affordable contraceptives, age-appropriate sex education, paid maternity leave, and access to affordable child care.
  4. Pro-life politicians are more likely to support the death penalty and increased defense spending, which includes bombs and drones that kill other people’s babies and children.
  5. Even if I don’t condone abortion, I know it’s going to happen. I don’t condone war either, but I know it’s going to happen. I don’t support defunding and closing veterans’ hospitals as an attempt to stop war. Rather, I put my effort into supporting policies that reduce the likelihood of war. Likewise, I believe the most effective anti-abortion work I can do is supporting policies that prevent abortion and decrease abortion rates rather than working to defund or close clinics or criminalize abortion. I value the lives of women having abortions and want them to be safe, just as I value the lives of our veterans who need care even while disagreeing with their choice to go to war.
  6. Being as pro-life as possible means we don’t kill through supporting policies that deprive those unaborted babies, once they get older, of healthcare or school lunches. We don’t kill by allowing assault weapons on our streets or supporting systems that pipeline young people to prison. We don’t kill this beautiful planet Creator God has given us through policies that increase our carbon footprint.
  7. If we’re one-issue pro-life voters, foxy politicians — as Jesus called Herod — play us. All they need to do is say they are pro-life, and voilà, they have a whole flock of Christian voters in their pocket, regardless of their character and even if they support policies that increase abortion rates and kill in other ways.
The way I vote comes from being deeply rooted in my 500-year-old faith tradition, yes. But it’s not just something I inherited. It’s based on what I have seen and heard and carefully considered. When another Christian disparages my lifetime calling and my faith, it saddens and sometimes angers me.
Amidst the clamor that deepens divisions, it’s easy to forget that Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love each other. I wish we loved enough to stop demonizing: “Pro-life Christian voters are simplistic and end up harming women and children with their narrow focus;” “Pro-choice voters are disingenuous child murderers who can’t possibly be Christian.”
What if we stopped the othering rhetoric and started over with something we all agree is solidly Christian, a humble confession: We all have blood on our hands.
Maybe then we could work together, despite our differences, in the life-giving spirit of that greatest commandment. Love.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Obama Finally Speaks Out

Obama's speech in Milwaukee, 10/18

https://www.facebook.com/TheIndependentOnline/videos/1873750602742737/?hc_ref=ARRcoCwlJq8TkyMKPeWpt7p6lfdKrxMz_vcj06gwgtHExaZtLrNQpbpQlUnLC-DDbFI&__xts__[0]=68.ARB2gLNZEC9HV7RMHX6dFCgyaJ2WKyq25zmUbzh-gUsvw-mZkoWqAAqSr_EvDfCCM_NpBBEPV2mm0wAL3o49srdudbeDMiohfzO7wAdx57pf_ch-4YNbV4awB5SkX98l3zyVMgJJNc_E0xLzbi38ZjBOtc1BOQZb1cVKjOc9oxPgdBJjCf2dvcvEi3tGyvcubwyJgwksqrluPTI9s6n-DhsBrHKPpvFz6llGoRHi7A6PxLhmELsgGuB6s9RbNNTr5V3N5g&__tn__=FC-R

Thoughts upon the passing of Eugene Peterson, 1932-2018

Eugene Peterson has died. One of his last words was "Let's go!"

“Resurrection does not have to do exclusively with what happens after we are buried or cremated. It does have to do with that, but first of all it has to do with the way we live right now. But as Karl Barth, quoting Nietzsche, pithily reminds us: ‘Only where graves are is there resurrection.’ We practice our death by giving up our will to live on our own terms. Only in that relinquishment or renunciation are we able to practice resurrection.” --Eugene Peterson (1932-2018)


IMO, Peterson is right about relevance, grandiosity and power.
Relevance has eclipsed faithfulness for American evangelicals. Thus, when they are presented opportunities to demonstrate their faithfulness--welcoming the stranger, caring for the poor, preferring others in love--they forget how to walk their talk, and easily swallow the different gospel of nationalism, grandiousity and self-interest.


8 church leaders share what they learned through his books, letters, and friendship.


Eugene Peterson, author of The Message Bible, frequent contributor to Leadership Journal, and pastor to pastors, passed away on October 22, 2018. Upon learning of his death, we asked several church leaders—some who learned from Peterson’s writing, others who were personally mentored by Peterson for decades—how he shaped their ministries. What lessons from Peterson, we asked, reframed their understanding of the pastoral calling?

Choose your words carefully.

Dean Pinter, rector at St. Aidan Anglican Church in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan
Eugene was a poet. Of course, he was much more than that. Like a poet, however, he was careful with his words. He chose them wisely and used them winsomely.
I was one of Eugene’s students at Regent College from 1992 to 1996. My wife’s office at Regent was next door to his. (This helped with our initial connection!) We stayed connected over the years—they visited us in our homes in England and Canada, and we visited them often in their home in Montana.
While his numerous published works attest to the fruitfulness of his words and the congruence with which he wove them into the fabric of his life, these are a few of the words he shared with me personally that continue to sustain my life and ministry.
Resurrection. Amen.
These were the final and fitting two words that Eugene preached at my ordination. The text he chose for his sermon was John 12:20–30. As he reflected on the pastoral implications of the manifestation of Jesus’ glory, Eugene reminded me, a would-be priest, that “glory” means entering into what Jesus wants, not what I want. All the things that are poor and despised by the world, including suffering and death, are backlit by the glory of God. These things appear dark, but if we look at them through the gospel lens and through the story of Jesus, then suddenly they start to look very different. As he closed his sermon, Eugene pointed out that Jesus’ prayer, “Father, glorify your name” (John 12:28), is the only prayer he prayed in which we are told his Father gave an answer. A voice from heaven replied, “I have glorified it, and I will glory it again” (v. 29). This is a reminder, Eugene said, that we shouldn’t worry that our prayers are not often answered. Jesus only got one! Yet in this, God would glorify Jesus in his own way. God the Father did do it his way. Eugene concluded, “Jesus wrote that gospel into the depths of human pain and disaster and ruin and resurrection. Amen.”
Poetry.
Like many pastors and priests, I find Mondays to be difficult. Most ministers take Mondays off to rest and recover, as Eugene did. Unfortunately, this has never worked well for me, yet I still need a way to ascend from the “Arimathean Tomb” that is Monday. Eugene offered a one-word solution: “Poetry.” He suggested I take an hour or so at the beginning of every Monday to read poetry. So that’s what I do. On one axis of my desk in my parish study sit Bibles, prayer books, and lexicons—the necessary tools to listen attentively and restoratively to God’s Word. On the other axis sit books of poetry—George Herbert, Malcolm Guite, Luci Shaw, Denise Levertov, Seamus Heaney, Christina Rossetti, and, yes, Eugene Peterson—the necessary tools to listen attentively and restoratively to human words. Poetry, to crib a line from a Wendell Berry poem, helps me to “practice resurrection.”

Relevance is irrelevant.

Mark Galli, editor in chief of Christianity Today
I first met Eugene at a conference for young Presbyterian pastors, held at Mt. Hermon in the woodsy Santa Cruz Mountains on the central California coast. This would have been in the mid-1980s. His talks were about faithfulness in the pastorate, and he was exegeting the Book of Jonah to this end. (These talks were the first draft of his later book, Under the Unpredictable Plant.) Simply put, his talks were riveting, a refreshing breeze of biblical interpretation and theological insight for young, tired pastors on retreat.
During one question-and-answer session, a pastor asked Eugene how pastors could be more relevant in our preaching. In those years, we were one and all enamored with the excitement coming out of Barrington Illinois, the home of the then shiny and very relevant Willow Creek Church. So we all mentally leaned forward to hear his answer.
Eugene stared at the pastor for what seemed a minute, although it was probably just 10 seconds. But the silence began to feel uncomfortable. His face did a slight contortion, and then he said, with evident disgust, “Relevance—That’s a Nazi word.”
My memory says one or two gasped aloud in disbelief. One pastor may have let out a brief laugh, perhaps because he agreed, or maybe to ease the awkwardness of the moment. All in all, we were in a state of shock.
Eugene went on to explain that pandering after relevance is a sure way to destroy the integrity of the church. In the early 1930s, Germans suffered from severe low self-esteem after being humiliated by defeat in World War I and the subsequent Versailles Treaty. The Nazi party made these disconsolate citizens once more feel proud of being German. The party clearly met felt need. Their message was very relevant at the time. Instead, Eugene exhorted us to faithfulness—as he did in his entire ministry. (Anyone who heard Eugene preach knows what it meant when Eugene exhorted his listeners.) For Eugene, faithfulness was first and last.
During the coffee break afterwards, we chatted vigorously about what he had said. Some remained unconvinced about the irrelevance of relevance. But I was one who, from that day forward, held the maxim of our era in less and less esteem.

Pastoral ministry is serious, consequential work.

Trygve Johnson, Hinga-Boersma Dean of the Chapel at Hope College
I first heard the name Eugene Peterson in college. My chaplain, after listening to me wrestle with a sense of calling, squinted like a doctor making a diagnosis, pulled a book from his shelf, and handed me The Contemplative Pastor. “Read this!” he said. I did. In Eugene’s words, I found a vision for pastoral life I had always hoped existed but did not know how to articulate.
Years later Eugene befriended me. He had recently retired to Montana. I was a young aspiring pastor, and he took me on, inviting me into a mentoring relationship through letters, conversations, books, and pilgrimages to Flathead Lake. This invitation changed my life and my ministry.
Eugene gave me a vision and a language for who I could be as a pastor. He restored honor and dignity to the calling of the pastor. Eugene revived a vision of a pastor as someone serious, intelligent, savvy, creative, playful, and prophetic. Eugene encouraged those in ministry to resist the seductive sirens of the pragmatic pastor, in favor of a ministry animated by the patient and cruciform witness of a long obedience in the same direction.
Through this encouragement, Eugene pulled me into a larger world of consequence. His words and vision helped me see and experience the wide-open country of salvation. Here, Eugene invited me to explore the geography of the Trinity, which expanded my imagination and bent my reason back into shape. The use of cliché or paint-by-numbers theology was unworthy of the work. The pastor, Eugene counseled, required a charged imagination, an earthy piety, with a double shot of humor! He showed me that a ministry at play in the expansive fields of the Triune God was a more interesting place to spend the day.
The key to this larger world was the Bible. Eugene showed me how to read with a scriptural imagination. He taught me that the goal of reading Scripture was not to know more, but to become more. His great lesson was that Scripture had everything to do with the neighborhood, because the neighborhood is where Christ shows up.
Maybe Eugene’s greatest legacy on my ministry was that he taught me to love by simply loving me. Eugene gave me time. He always wrote back. He never refused a call. He always welcomed me into his home. Never was I treated as an abstraction or a project to solve. He treated me as a friend. He showed me that healthy ministry requires, even demands, relationships where we can be known and understood.
Receiving the news of Eugene’s death feels like what the Fellowship of the Ring in the Tolkien novel of the same name must have experienced when they lost Gandalf. What do you do when your guide is gone? But Eugene taught us well, for he reminded us to practice resurrection. And so we carry the Message on!

There is no ministry in the abstract.

Marshall Shelley, former editor of Leadership Journal, and now director of the Doctor of Ministry program at Denver Seminary
Many scholars revel in abstractions. I never met a more scholarly man than Eugene Peterson, who once wrote an article on the middle voice in Greek grammar and its implications for our understanding of prayer.
But I also never met a man who was more insistent on the concrete embodiment of biblical truth. Never content to merely grasp the principle, he pressed on to specific application.
One example: when his church in Maryland grew beyond the point where he could know everyone’s name, he stepped down because he didn’t want to be pastor in name only. He insisted that pastoring, shepherding, is personal, and when the church grows beyond the point of knowing everyone personally, he refused to accept the abstraction of “pastor.”
He was intensely practical. On one of my visits with him during his pastorate in Maryland, he introduced me to the works of philosopher-farmer Wendell Barry. For instance, he read to me this excerpt from Berry’s book The Gift of Good Land: "Charity is a theological virtue and is prompted, no doubt, by a theological emotion, but it is also a practical virtue." It cannot be practiced "by smiling in abstract beneficence on our neighbors. … It must come to acts, which must come from skills."
How can you love your neighbor if you don't know how to build or mend a fence, how to keep your filth out of his water supply or your poison out of his air? How will you practice virtue without skill? The ability to be good is not the ability to do nothing. It is the ability to do something well—to do good work for good reasons.
With Berry, as with Peterson, commitment and love are not simply a mental attitude; they mean developing an ability to improve the situation, to further the cause you're committed to.
Yet while deeply committed to people and community, Eugene wasn’t sentimental about them. He wrote,
When I became a pastor, I didn't like much about the complexities of community in general and of a holy community in particular. I often found myself preferring the company of people outside my congregation, men and women who did not follow Jesus. Or worse, preferring the company of my sovereign self. But I soon found that my preferences were honored by neither Scripture nor Jesus.
I didn't come to that conviction easily, but finally there was no getting around it. There can be no maturity in the spiritual life, no obedience in following Jesus, no wholeness in the Christian life apart from an immersion in, and embrace of, community. I am not myself by myself. Community, not the highly vaunted individualism of our culture, is the setting for living the Christian life.
As a scholar, pastor, and Bible translator, Eugene Peterson saw with vivid clarity the world around him. And guided his students and readers into personal engagement with life and the Author of this world and the world to come.

Every step is integral to your journey.

Dante Stewart,student at Reformed Theological Seminary in Augusta, Georgia, where he teaches Bible at Heritage Academy Augusta
I remember like it was yesterday. I sifted through people’s ragged, throwaway books in the free bin at the bookstore, and there it was. No marks, no scuffs, as if it were waiting eagerly to be picked up by me. It was Eugene Peterson’s memoir, The Pastor. In some providential way, God was saying, “Eugene, Stew. Stew, Eugene. I’ve been wanting to introduce you to one another.” As I reflect on the legacy of Eugene Peterson, I can honestly say his life changed my life.
One of the things brother Eugene showed me was that everything is interesting—in the words of Denise Levertov, “every step an arrival.” As I made my way through The Pastor, I felt as if I were living alongside him. Whether it was the story of his formation as a pastor, his Pentecostal roots, the humorous story of his first “convert,” it was clear that he had a deep awareness that every step was integral to his journey, one step closer to being who God called him to be. Events mattered. People mattered. The Resurrection mattered. My spiritual formation mattered. Through him, I’ve been able to make sense of my own steps. When I read about his mother, I saw my own mother. When I read about his Pentecostal roots, I saw my own. When I read his life, I saw my life.
I’ll never forget how moved I was by the story of his father’s butcher shop; it changed the way I viewed my job as barista and an aspiring pastor. The shop was his introduction to the world of congregation, a place of safety where everyone felt welcome, his eventual workplace as a pastor. Each person had dignity. Through him, I’ve come to see my coffee shop in the same way.
I spend a lot of time with coffee. In the spirit of brother Eugene, I was reflecting on the roasting process. It is slow. It is intricate. It is tough and rough. It is specific to the bean. It is communal. Yet, I realized that it’s not much good for anything if it’s not poured out for others. No one roasts a batch of coffee and leaves it on the shelves. Likewise, life and living is not much value if it is not poured out for the good of others. It does not care about the “who” like we do. It only cares to produce real good for real people. That is its value. And this was the value of Eugene: his life and ministry were wholly devoted to being poured out for others. He showed me that every cup is a story and every story is a sermon. And for this, I’m eternally thankful.

Christ is all we have to offer.

Kyle Strobel, teaches spiritual theology for Talbot’s Institute for Spiritual Formation and preaches at Redeemer Church, La Mirada, California
The first time I met Eugene, he was speaking to about 50 pastors. I had never seen such a broad range of pastors come to hear someone before. One’s theological background seemed insignificant; no one questioned that Eugene brought immense wisdom to pastoral ministry. But many of the pastors left feeling a bit empty. They had come hoping Eugene would solve pressing problems they believe they had, but he wasn’t selling quick solutions or simplistic ministry tricks.
I can still feel the desperation in the questions, yet Eugene refused to respond with anything other than Christ. “We have no Plan B,” he told them, because offering Christ is all we truly have. Characteristically, it was through a meditation on Winnie the Pooh that Eugene encouraged these pastors with Galatians 6:9–10: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Do not grow weary. This was the message he brought that day, a message almost impossible for pastors to hear.
From that day on, I started writing letters to Eugene, an ancient pastoral practice he continued to imbue with life. He stood against the quest for power, significance, and notoriety from within the pastoral office itself and served for decades as a signpost for another path. He refused to see other churches and pastors as competition, to embrace something because it was a sign of success, to embrace ambition in ministry. He rejected celebrity. That meant cultivating a certain kind of life, not merely a strategy for ministry. It meant embracing deep relationships, and recognizing that ministry is always to other people, never wielding a platform for significance. Because of this, Eugene models for the church today the cultivation of a pastoral ministry by faith alone, not by sight. Sight can allure by seducing us to numbers, to the grandiosity, and to the perception of significance, but ministry by faith is allergic to all of this. This meant, for Eugene, never functionalizing relationships, but trusting by faith that personal relationships were truly powerful in the kingdom of God.
This is the path he witnessed to, and this is what I am sitting with after hearing of his death. His way was the way of the Lamb, and by faith he recognized that the temptations in ministry are Legion. Today, more than ever, we need to remember that the way of faith is the way to be powerful in the kingdom of God.

Reject grandiosity.

Jamin Goggin, pastor at Mission Hills Church in San Marcos, California
Eugene Peterson provided a beautiful and compelling vision of the pastoral vocation when I needed it the most. Only few years into pastoral ministry, I had arrived at what felt like a breaking point. The initial sturdiness and adventure of my calling was being choked by a prevailing set of expectations defining “success” in ministry, leaving me discouraged and disillusioned. Eugene’s words met me in that place. His words saved me from the temptation to abandon my post. They gave me hope.
As I devoured books like Working the Angles and Five Smooth Stones, I discovered a vision of the pastoral vocation that put words to what I had so longed for in ministry, but didn’t quite know how to articulate. The Lord used Eugene’s words to expose temptations of my heart toward grandiosity and power in ministry. More than any other person, Eugene Peterson shaped the way in which I pastor. Eugene taught me that the pastoral vocation was a call to be relentlessly personal. It meant unhurried conversations marked by listening. It meant preaching to people, not an audience. It meant loving people, not using them. It meant hours of prayer for people and with people.
A few years after reading Eugene’s books, I began to write letters back and forth with him, and after a couple of years, those letters turned into an opportunity to spend time with him at his home in Montana. In his house beside the lake, I experienced being pastored by Eugene. I encountered a man of integrity, whose way of life and relating was exactly what I expected from his writing—perhaps the most profound truth I can speak of his character. In my time with Eugene, I was graced with a vision of pastoral ministry not merely in written form, but experienced through the course of prayer, unhurried conversation, and shared meals. He opened his life to me and took a profound interest in my life. Eugene not only taught me how to pastor, he pastored me.
When I heard the news of Eugene’s passing I was standing in front of the home where Ernest Hemmingway was born. I was pondering the profound impact Hemmingway had on many generations of authors inspired by the brilliance and beauty of his corpus. As I stood on Hemmingway’s porch, I remembered the back deck of Eugene’s home. I remembered him telling me stories of the trolls that lived in the lake below with a warm grin upon his face. I remember the way he spoke of his journey as a pastor, the joys and challenges. Eugene stands as a Hemmingway of the pastoral vocation. His long pastoral obedience has provided a body of work that will define the shape of pastoral work for generations to come. It will certainly define the shape of my pastoral work until I finish the race.
Thank you, Eugene. I look forward to continuing the conversation after your liturgical nap.

Sabbath is a gift.

Rich Villodas, lead pastor of New Life Fellowship in Queens, New York City
Through his writings and witness, Eugene Peterson taught me how to be a pastor. My life in Christ has been enriched beyond measure through his life. My thoughts and practices on prayer, preaching, and pastoring have his fingerprints all over them. What I’m most grateful for, however, is the intentional Sabbath rhythm he built into his life.
During my mid-20s, I was a pastor overseeing college students and young adults at a megachurch in New York City. During one of the church staff meetings, a visiting pastor who was on sabbatical shared that, during this season of rest and recreation, he was visiting churches. I was not impressed. I thought, This man must be in some kind of moral failure, or he is too weak to do the work of pastoring. I had no framework to see the practice of sabbaticals, let alone weekly Sabbath-keeping, as core to my pastoral calling. Soon after this occasion, I came across a book from Eugene Peterson: Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity.
In this book, I was given a vision to see pastoring as the interplay of resting and working. I was taught to see Sabbath-keeping not as a burden to bear, but as a gift to receive. Eugene defined Sabbath as,
Uncluttered time and space to distance ourselves from the frenzy of our own activities so we can see what God has been and is doing.
Quieting the internal noise so we hear the still small voice of the Lord.
Uncluttered time and space to detach ourselves from the people around us so that they have a chance to deal with God without our poking around or kibitzing.
As I read those words, something in my soul opened up. He was describing the kind of rhythm that flowed out of worship, the embracing of limits, and the presence joy rather than a kind of non-stop, anxiety-ridden pastoral life built on proving myself to others.
I realized I needed a new paradigm to be faithful to Jesus, to steward my life well, and to love my family and congregation. This paradigm required a weekly, sacred space and time fashioned amidst the hustle and bustle of a big city. For a few years, I struggled to apply the practice of Sabbath into my life, but in 2008, I joined a church in Queens whose pastor was shaped by Peterson as well.
In my interview for the assistant pastor job, the senior pastor, Pete Scazzero, sat across a table filled with fries and grilled cheese sandwiches and said to me—in what I thought was hyperbolic language—“Rich, there’s only one way to get fired at this church.” I sat up straight waiting for him to give an example of some kind of moral failure. He said, “If you don’t keep Sabbath you will get fired, because you won’t have the kind of life that will sustain you for the kind of work pastoring entails.” Later that day, I thought about Eugene. His writings prior to that conversation gave me a vision for what pastoring could and should be.
Anyone seeking to have a long obedience in the same direction needs a regular rhythm of stopping. Otherwise, we won’t make it. I’m grateful Eugene gave me a vision of what faithful pastoring could be.
Thank you, Eugene. Enjoy the fullness of your Sabbath rest.



_______________

During one question-and-answer session, a pastor asked Eugene how pastors could be more relevant in our preaching. In those years, we were one and all enamored with the excitement coming out of Barrington Illinois, the home of the then shiny and very relevant Willow Creek Church. So we all mentally leaned forward to hear his answer.
Eugene stared at the pastor for what seemed a minute, although it was probably just 10 seconds. But the silence began to feel uncomfortable. His face did a slight contortion, and then he said, with evident disgust, “Relevance—That’s a Nazi word.”
My memory says one or two gasped aloud in disbelief. One pastor may have let out a brief laugh, perhaps because he agreed, or maybe to ease the awkwardness of the moment. All in all, we were in a state of shock.
Eugene went on to explain that pandering after relevance is a sure way to destroy the integrity of the church. In the early 1930s, Germans suffered from severe low self-esteem after being humiliated by defeat in World War I and the subsequent Versailles Treaty. The Nazi party made these disconsolate citizens once more feel proud of being German. The party clearly met felt need. Their message was very relevant at the time. Instead, Eugene exhorted us to faithfulness—as he did in his entire ministry. (Anyone who heard Eugene preach knows what it meant when Eugene exhorted his listeners.) For Eugene, faithfulness was first and last.

Monday, October 22, 2018

How we view God determines how we vote

Doug Pagitt see something I have also noted in relation to George Lakoff's thought.  In his "Moral Politics,"   Lakoff argues  that one group of Americans works from a "Strict Father" model, and another group works from a "Nurturant Parent" model. I take this one step further, and note how this actually reflects two different ways to understand God. ISTM that most American evangelicals hold the "Strict Father" model, and so are more susceptible to the Trump/Republican/authoritarian/hierarchical way of understanding the world. But there are Christians who understand God as our "Nuturant Parent, " that is, one whose essence is love, not wrath. So, with Pagitt, I ask: "Will we continue to vote out of fear of God’s wrath, or will we turn a corner and vote to spread God’s love for all people?"

Evangelicals are paying high moral price for anti-abortion gains. What would Jesus do?

https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2018/10/21/donald-trump-abortion-cost-evangelicals-moral-high-ground-column/1686348002/?fbclid=IwAR2CQ4J5G3pUXHZy6Z9RDkMZ9M6qu67MoL9_uf2JFAsNYu7xcKBvI0-OkbU

"...So often in our country Christian faith implies Republicanism, but I want to challenge the idea that faith is partisan. My faith does not call me to be Republican or Democrat. My faith calls me to love God and love my neighbor as I love myself. I am called to vote for the common good, for justice and humanity.
With the midterms just a couple of weeks away, we face a critical juncture in our country: restore some power to those who would govern with compassion, or continue ceding moral ground for the sake of abortion. Will we continue to vote out of fear of God’s wrath, or will we turn a corner and vote to spread God’s love for all people?
In such a time as this, evangelicals are called to dislodge control of Congress from Republicans who have abandoned our values. The Good News of God compels us to use our vote as a tool for the common good of all people, for if good is not accessible and common to all, it is not good; it is privilege."

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Immigrant Creed



Immigrant Creed

I believe in Almighty God,
Guided His people in the exodus and in
Exile, the God of Joseph in Egypt
And Daniel in Babylon, the God
Of foreigners and the
Immigrants.

I believe in Jesus Christ, a Galileo
Displaced, who was born away from his
People and their home, who had to
Flee his land with his parents
When his life was in danger;
Who, when returning to his own country,
Had to suffer the oppression of
Tyrant Pontius Pilate, servant of a
Foreign power. He was persecuted,
Goal-Peado, tortured, and finally
Accused and sentenced to death
Unjustly. But on the third day,
This despised Jesus
Resurrected from death, no longer like
Foreigner, but to offer
A citizenship in heaven.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
Eternal immigrant of the kingdom of
God among us, who speaks
All languages, live in all
Countries, and gather all races.
I think the church is home
Safe for all foreigners
And believers who constitute it,
Who speak the same language and
They have the same purpose. I believe
That the communion of the saints is
Inseparable from the diversity of the
Santos.

I believe in God's forgiveness,
That makes us equal to all, and in
Your reconciliation, that we
Identify more than our race,
Language, or nationality.
I think in resurrection, God
He will unite us as a single village
Which everyone is different and
Similar at the same time. I believe
In Eternal life beyond this
World, where no one will be
Immigrant but all will be
Citizens of the kingdom of God
It has no end. Amen.

José Luis Casal

Saturday, September 15, 2018

How to illuminate a manuscript

If I had been born male  in the middle ages, this is what I would have wanted to learn to do.
I awed by illuminated manuscripts.

This blog post by Patricia Lovett shows the steps involved:

Recreating the ‘Beatus’ page from the Eadui Psalter

http://www.patricialovett.com/recreating-the-beatus-page-from-the-eadui-psalter/