The Blessing Pipeline

A few Sundays ago I taught on something called “the Blessing Pipeline”. It was a conceptual crystallization for me after much reflection on the theological concepts of Blessing and Covenant. It all began for me with the experience universally shared by all sooner or later – the sense of being stuck in my life. That can be applied a number of ways; stuck in terms of career advancement, or progress in a relationship, or in some aspect of personal growth, or even stalled financial success. For our purposes we have been focusing on that last one, as we have been learning through a series on finances and stewardship at Woven. It appears to me — if I may cut straight to the point — that what we give is what we get; and that is the simple principle of blessing, that is to say, blessing is a two-way pipeline; we cannot just expect to get if we do not give. Here is a graphic illustrating our present sense of stuckness:

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Continue reading “The Blessing Pipeline”

Don’t Leave Your Marriage Before You Leave Your Marriage: 3 Things To Improve It

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As I shared in a recent talk, church planting has been challenging to my marriage, only for me to come to the realization that my wife is the fount of all my ministry, life, and work. SHE is the Fount. Without her, nothing. And so if I am not present as a husband and placing her needs above mine, Continue reading “Don’t Leave Your Marriage Before You Leave Your Marriage: 3 Things To Improve It”

Why Does My Faith Feel So Dry? 3 Things That Might Be Wrong:

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At Woven, we’ve started a series of teachings on prayer that have been examining the soul and probing deep within my spirit as well. Over 15 years ago I suffered an experience that shut my prayer life down overnight and forced me Continue reading “Why Does My Faith Feel So Dry? 3 Things That Might Be Wrong:”

10 Things To Do Before I Die.

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I annually re-post this as reminder to fix my eyes on the prize:

Ten Things To Do Before I Die:

1. End genocide.
2. Stabilize the Middle East.
3. Master a foreign language.
4. Eradicate one disease, pathogen or virus.
5. Alleviate unnecessary human suffering.
6. Write one well-written and scholarly book.
7. Promote racial unity, diversity and reconciliation
8. Experiment with micro-loans
9. Provide clean water for those who don’t have it.
10. Finish school dang it.

Back in 2007, I posted the above “10 Things To Do Before I Die” – a cheeky manifesto and declaration of what I wanted my life to amount to. To date, almost 9 years later, I can say I’ve accomplished one of those items on the list. Of course, some of these things are beyond reach (or are they?) but based out of my reflections on theology and the kingdom of God – I was just starting seminary – not far off the mark.

I like that thinking.

Knocking on the door of my 40’s, I hope I will be more idealistic & activistic than ever – I preached about this this last Sunday at Woven – how this is the one time of year annually where we are compelled to do the greatest good – and that the essence of being a good neighbor (the 2nd greatest command) is not deciding who our neighbor is, and who gets in and who is out, but the extent of what we do in acts of kindness. The world can debate and roil about who belongs and who doesn’t. Let them. But for the Christian in America our first charge from Jesus is towards actions of love, even before the question of who’s in and who’s out. Jesus’ response to the lawyer regarding “who is my neighbor” was to stick the question back to him as if to say “the one who PROVED it“. And by introducing the Samaritan – today’s equivalent of the Muslim Syrian refugee – he shows we hold no corner on the market for kindness.

God-willing let’s see what the next 10 years hold.

Hopefully we can chip away at that list together.

 

The Gospel & Star Wars

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Thirty years ago, when I was about seven, my dad took me to a late-night showing of Return of the Jedi, at the old-time movie palace landmark RKO Keith at the end of Main St., where cobblestone still lined the center of Northern Blvd. I remember, at the movie’s close, walking out into the night air with my dad, to the center parking lot in the middle of Northern Blvd., bewildered by what I had just seen and having been introduced to a whole new world of fantasy.

Three decades later, the circle is now complete, as I have tickets in my hand for the opening late-night showing of Ep. 7, to which I will take my 8-yr old son and 6-yr old daughter. We’ll be watching it in the Houston Palladium, equally grand, but not quite as historic. I look forward with slight amusement to the bewildered expressions and awe of my own children after the movie.

I think stories like Star Wars show us there is a yearning in our collective consciousness for a greater Story – something true, something noble, something Good. It’s distinctly postmodern:

  • the antiquated “relic” look of technology – shows the time of industrialization has come and past; and we are now disillusioned with technology. Returning to the earth (Tatooine) and its good forces reflects some of the same themes I am finding in the writings of Wendell Berry.
  • an aversion towards fascist totalitarianism as seen in the Nazi-styled Empire – which seems to make a reappearance in Ep 7 The Force Awakens:

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  • it goes to show that postmodern themes still resonate; we’re still repulsed by / drawn to the same ideals as we were 40 years ago when Ep 4 A New Hope lit up the screens and struck a chord…
  • we reject any grand scheme, beit political or religious, and yet we yearn for some greater story that is true – this yearning for a metanarrative. It must not be enforced dogma or else we will resist it, yet we long for “It” – whatever it is – to be big enough, universally true enough, so as to touch our souls deeply in a special way, and we all have to feel it.
  • and of course, the spiritual bent of “the Force”. In the words of (who I presume to be) a now-aged Leia: “The Force – it’s calling to you… just let it in.” See if you can watch the preview and hear those words without feeling something tingle inside:

Maybe it’s the Force.

All to say that this saga continues to be the Story of our times; depicting our yearnings writ large on the screen. It is the only feasible metanarrative for us all because it is fantasy and demands no religious devotion or fanatical adherance. And yet people give it, showing that we will give our devotion somewhere…

I welcome this, in the same spirit of Tolkien and Lewis, who saw that fantasy was a gateway to reacquainting ourselves with Reality, while reality became less and less real. The stories indeed are true, but we have aged, stopped believing, grown cold cyber-appendages, and lost sight of the Spirit, the Good. Lewis would say, “It’s all in Plato… bless me, what do they teach them at those schools!” Sometimes fantasy is more real that reality, or at least points us back to it.

I, for one, as a person of faith, eagerly anticipate any resultant spiritual discussion. It’s a gateway. To talk about Star Wars is compatible to talking about faith, and that’s a beginning.