I’m leaving from St. George, UT this morning. George must be up to his old tricks, because there aren’t any plague-bearing dragons here demanding sheep and children for snacks. As far as I can tell by looking around outside my hotel room door, St. George is defined by palm trees, golf, retirees, and RV parks. It’s a bit like Phoenix, only less so. According to wikipedia, St. George is known as “Utah’s Dixie.” To test this, I walked about whistling Dixie for bit, and as nobody took much notice, I assume that it’s common practice here, thus validating wikipedias peer reviewed information with equally impressive empirical research.
Speaking of research, that’s been one of my favorite things about Foster’s Celebration of Discipline. He tests out the classical spiritual disciplines, and watches to see what effect they have on himself and the world. Where they don’t work, he tries them a different way. If he prays one way, and nothing changes, then he changes how he’s praying. He’s not trying to figure out the right combination to manipulate God (something he warns against), rather he’s letting God teach him through the process, and working out in the everyday of life what is often rendered ascetic and esoteric.
I only ate one meal all day yesterday, but it was at Cracker Barrel, so my caloric intake was about the same as any other day. It’s called “cracker barrel” because if you eat there often, that becomes your body type. But where else can I can pick up some old timey candy (clove gum was yesterday’s treat), play checkers, look at faux memorabilia from products that never existed, browse nicknacks that nobody needs, and eat fried pork chops with eggs?
If things go well, I’ll be in LA, offloading the Uhaul today after lunch. Thanks for all of your prayers.
I’m heading out from Dillon, MT this morning. If you’ve never been to Dillon, it’s a cozy little town with picturesque views, except without the coziness or the views.
Freaky thought of the day: why is it that every hotel room in North America that costs less than $150 per night has the same towels, washed with the same detergent? Is there only one supplier? My theory: they don’t wash them, they just pass them around. My towels from the Motel 8 will be in the Best Western tonight.
I spent a good part of yesterdays drive “reading” (via audio book) Richard Fosters Celebration of Discipline. Can’t believe I’ve never gotten around to it before; it’s fantastic!
My family and I are packing that gorgeous Uhaul truck today (Liv says, “Dinosaurs! Awesome!”), with the help of some loyal and faithful friends, and moving to Los Angeles, California, where I will be the College and Young Adult Pastor at First Evangelical Church Arcadia. It’s been a long process, which I’ll blog more about after the move, when this story has an ending, and the next one a beginning.
We all leave tomorrow, with Cerena and the kids flying down, and me arriving riding the dinosaur truck on the 3rd. My google voice number (the 970 one), email, Facebook, etc. will continue to work, but all our Alberta numbers will stop working sometime today. Stay tuned for updates, stories, and photos just as often as I can find an internet connection.
My family and I kept Shrove Tuesday tonight with a traditional pancake dinner. Mmm… Our kids are at the right age to begin new traditions, so for the first time we’re keeping Lent together as a family. Yes, I’m going to keep all of Lent this year. It’s finally happened: I have kept Ent often enough that I am going to break it by keeping Lent, and so we’ll be starting tomorrow, on Ash Wednesday, with the majority of the Christian world.
After a discussion about what Lent means and why we want to keep it, a very entertaining brainstorming session between (almost) 4 and 5 year old girls about what we might want to give up, with great and serious concern showed for the cake that will need to be eaten at Caitlin’s birthday this weekend, we decided to give up after-dinner desserts and bedtime stories, things near and dear to us all. Instead we will sit as a family, read a story from the Bible, and remember the one we love even more than eccles cakes (which have the distinction of being the world’s single greatest pastry). We’ll mourn the passing of dessert, but we won’t be glumly reading a passage while we wish we had something frosted. No, we’re giving something up, however slight it might be, in order to practice God’s presence. We’re going to read stories and pray such that the girls won’t even miss dessert, and by the time Easter Sunday arrives, they’ll be more excited about the resurrection than the Easter Bunny. At least, that’s the goal. I’ll let you know how it goes.
I won’t be able to celebrate the next 40 days with you peeps at bsmucalgary, but consider what you might want to do to set aside the next month and a bit to build anticipation and practice the presence of God in much the way we do via our slightly modified and theologically correct Jesus Prayer.
We all know that Jesus loves secular, humanist, atheist, agnostic, and sceptical students, but bsmucalgary’s own John (aka Fuzzy, aka Le Fusils (to be said with an obnoxious French accent, le oui oui!)), makes the case that, when they take their stance seriously, they advantage the Christian community in return.
You can say whatever you want, but be prepared for the inevitable “Well, why do you believe that?” And it is precisely this dedication to intellectual honesty which I find so continually endearing. Perhaps even more than endearing: necessary. Which brings me to my central point – secularism may be our (i.e. Christianity’s) new best friend. Secularism: Christianity’s New Best Friend? | Apologia
The best part about this, the thing that makes it, to my mind, so worth reading, is how clearly it illustrates the mindset of the missionally engaged. After years of following Jesus amongst the sort of the people he’s writing about, he gets them, loves them, identifies with them, and values what’s good in them. At the same time he sees them redemptively and approaches them as God did the world, speaking truth from the servant’s position of powerlessness. A missional textbook study. (And we always thought John would show up as a psychology textbook study…)
For those of you who were at TheThing@ThePlace this week and asked about the TED talk I referenced, here it is.
For those of you who didn’t tt@tp, here’s a quick rundown. Shawn Achor makes the case, based on psychology research, that we are smarter, more creative, and more productive when happier and that happiness is the result primarily not of external life circumstances, but of the way we process and experience life. This flips the common way of thinking on its head, in which working harder changes our external life circumstances, leading to increased happiness. Instead, happiness leads to increased productivity and creativity, which then improves our external life circumstances. How, then, to increase happiness? Turns out gratitude is key.
Here’s where we started dialoguing with Shawn’s monologue. Gratitude, we (mostly *cough* Dan *cough*) agreed, requires two things: an object to whom to be grateful, and an indirect object for which to be thankful. I must be grateful to x for y. This implies intent. We can’t be grateful to someone for something they didn’t cause with intention. To be more than simply happy or glad, we must have an intentional source to whom to be grateful. But we’re not idiots. Well, most of us aren’t. We can’t just trump up gratitude because its healthy or good for us. We can’t fake it. We either have a reason for gratitude and source to which to direct it, or we don’t.
Enter Romans 8, and Paul’s summary declaration of all that God has done and is doing through Christ to bring about the redemption and re-creation of the whole world. Shawn’s found that steady gratitude and delight in the world transforms both you and your experience of life in such a way as to make you more fully human. We who follow Jesus have both a God to whom to direct gratitude and a saviour whose great act of redemption is an act by which we are able to interpret the blessings in our lives as just that, blessings, because we now have the guarantee of His love and favour. I would submit to you that without faith that God exists and that He rewards those who follow him (Hebrews 11:6), there are many instances in which true gratitude is simply not possible, wherein a mere happy skippy feeling is the best that can honestly be mustered. When we see God in the ordinary, when we follow Jesus in the everyday, when we centre our lives on Him as disciples, we can, as Paul would have it, be thankful in all circumstances, not because we’re supposed to, but because we have reason to. If a single two minute instance of gratitude everyday can rewire your brain to make you happier and smarter, then Jesus’ claim to bring a richness of life unattainable without him makes practical sense.