I’ve been enjoying the gift of a sabbatical between my previous role as Senior Pastor of Bethany Community Church, and my upcoming role as a teaching pastor at Bethany Green Lake. It’s been a time of continuing work on Hildegard House, removing snow, hauling wood, lighting fires, reading, writing, skiing, learning German, and maintaining a morning routine of meditation. All of this with family times, including children and grandchildren, woven in. It's been a rich time, and I wanted to share with you some of things I’ve been learning and doing. This will be the first of a few posts about what I'm learning during "the time between."
I’ve read many books. In upcoming blog posts I’ll be offering reviews for those most impactful to me, but the list has included “Falling Upwards” (about moving into the final chapters of life), “The Power of Now” (about the beauty and power of learning to live in the present moment, as Jesus invited us to do), "Sacred Earth Sacred Soul" (about the history of Celtic Christianity and its distinctives) “Forming the Leader’s Soul” (about the value and practice of spiritual direction) and “The Wim Hof Method” (about the power of cold showers and breathing exercises), and “Man’s Search for Meaning” (about living well in the midst of any circumstance, written from the author’s own experiences as a Jewish prison in WWII). There‘s some fiction too, but this list is getting long.
Though this broad reading curriculum has taught me many things, the principles I’d articulate for you have to do with unity and discernment.
All readers need discernment. I love Wim Hof’s call to take cold showers and have objective evidence in my own life regarding their value, but reject a lot of his spirituality, which is tightly woven throughout the book. I’d say the same about virtually every author; a blend of confirming insights, aha moments, and "I'm not buying that." If there were a ‘critical thinking’ meter in play during your reading, it’s vital that it be calibrated at “just right”. Too critical and you’ll never learn, grow, or change you’re views about anything. Not enough critical thinking and you’ll end up embedded in increasingly popular conspiracy thinking, wild views of God and eternity fabricated out of thin air, or other nonsense.
Hebrews says that mature person has discernment. This is priceless, because discernment encourages engagement rather than withdrawal. You‘re not afraid of reading widely, watching films that contradict your world view, and learning about the idols and false ideologies of the day as a means of building bridges with others through dialogue. I’m sad to say that too many choose tribalism, fear, and withdrawal instead of discernment, which is a choice to live in echo chambers which only reinforce what they believe. If truth is true, you’ve nothing to be afraid of by considering all the angles. Truth will stand; but you’ll need discernment. I hope to write more about discernment in the days ahead.
The flip side of the discernment coin is that God has, indeed, placed eternity in the hearts of all people. Wim Hof and Eckart Tolle both have longings for a world where people are whole, living in alignment with their truest and deepest natures, and enjoying shalom (though they call it different things). The good news of life in Christ is actually a headwaters for the deepest longings of humanity, and we'd be wise to, first of all believe that, and then declare it and live it. Paul was an expert at building bridges and showing people that their desires, if followed fully, will lead to feet of Christ. Thank you Paul, for showing us the way.
I’m sad to say we’ve not learned this way very well at all. We’re prone to defend our ‘isms’ by shooting both rhetorical, and (in too many historical examples to mention here) literal weapons at those who disagree with us. In so doing we’ve created a false moral high ground for ourselves. Lacking both the humility of bridge builders with their curiosity, and the courage of winsome truth tellers with their invitation to wholeness, our eagerness to prove the other wrong has isolated ,many people of faith in irrelevant echo chambers.
It’s been a deep privilege to have the time and space to read this widely. Because I know no everyone has this kind of privilege, I’ll be offering quotes from some of these books on my instagram page, and some reviews both here, on on a new video facebook page which I’ll be introducing soon.
In this mini-series about what I’m doing and learning in the space between, subscribers can expect posts in the next weeks regarding:
A “Wholeness Manifesto” - I'm convinced that Jesus promise that we'd be 'rivers of living water' is a stunning declaration that, in a world where anxiety, fear, a scarcity mentality, individualism, and tribalism seem to carry to day, our calling is to be people with the capacity to live in the midst of all that as light, hope, mercy, justice, wisdom. This requires capacity. This requires, in a word, wholeness, of spirit, soul, and body. I'm excited to share much more about this in the coming year.
A ”Meditation Primer” - The single most significant spiritual discipline that's been transformational during this season of Covid murkiness, political uncertainty, and deep divisions between people of real faith has been meditation. It's been a critical touchpoint to provide a sense of being rooted and grounded in love, as Paul the apostle prayed we'd be. Without a confidence that we're radically loved, we operate from a place of need rather than security, and the consequences are devastating.
Insights for daily living from tending the fire. This is the first time in many decades that I've had the daily discipline of tending a fire as our primary source of warmth. I'm learning a great deal about the value of consistency, what it means to 'tend a fire' and how these and other truths relate to the broader themes of living whole lives.
I hope you’ll join me for whole series by hitting the subscribe button.
What books are you reading these days that are life giving?