Blog Entries DIY The Technological

Organizing Ministry in DevonThink Pro

[This is a tutorial on software I use for writing and organization.] When I started pastoring I created a DEVONthink database for all things ministry oriented ((See my other posts on DTP here and here). I personally use a handful of databases regularly to help me keep things organized: academics, publishing, home, blogging, and dissertation (for an alternative approach to this see Tony Stewards’ helpful video). Well, after 6 months my ministry database is growing quickly enough that I’ve had to rethink some of how I organize it. Currently, this is my system (though I’m open for more suggestions):DTP

And here are some of the folders expanded:


My admin folder contains things like elder’s minutes, expenses, membership, my minister’s manual I am compiling, a journal, etc. The missional folder is essentially my projects folder, everything that relates to life in and outside the meeting but that doesn’t pertain to sermons, worship services, etc. I also have a sermons folder, a services folder, and a workshop/retreat folder. (I have to admit I am tempted to change my structure to admin, ethics, doctrine, and witness following James McClendon’s three strands. Ethics would include peace and social concerns type stuff. Doctrine would include membership, manuals, and sermons. And community would include services, retreats, and other things like that. Witness would be all the cultural and missional projects the meeting is involved in.)

What I am most interested in at the moment is organizing my sermons folder. I had been doing everything by month, but realized that it would make it difficult to maintain that kind of folder structure the longer I preach. So I asked my twitter friends what they have found helpful. I didn’t get a lot of responses but I found these helpful:


@cwdaniels, I organized all mine by books. And then usually under topics in that book


@cwdaniels Re: organizing sermons – Folders named with main scripture passage. You can always sort by date using Finder.


@cwdaniels I use a Pulse smartpen and Evernote. Upload notes from the smartpen and copy to evernote according to series. How bout you?


RT @tonysteward @cwdaniels how do U organize UR sermons? // “2009-11-23 Dying to Self”; Apple Spotlight lets me search content if needed

Using DEVONthink to organize your Sermons

The beauty of DEVONthink is that it’s really easy to manage a lot of information and a variety of files types. I use the universal inbox and bookmarklet to pull in images, quotes, documents, pdfs and other information I find on the web (or type of myself in a word processor). These ideas go into either the inbox to be filed later or my folder “Bag o’ tricks.” This folder is for inspiration, examples, parables, and other things that may (or may) not get tied into a sermon or put to use somewhere else.

I’ve got a sermon ideas folder to help with series and other possible messages I am putting together in the future (my goal is to have a basic framework of themes for a years work of sermons together), all that future oriented planning goes into this folder. Finally, I decided to scrap the date model I was previously using due to @ego093 recommendation and just use the “date modified” button if I need to sort dates (you can do this in search mode as well). So the way I am organizing my sermons goes first and foremost by book of the Bible, unless it is in a series then I organize it there first. I can then drop it in by topic if it fits nicely into a potential broad-based biblical theme. The strength of DTP is that it can “replicate” files, so you can select the files from one folder and add them to another without actually duplicating that file (i.e. making your database file size larger). Once your folders are somewhat populated DTP’s artificial intelligence will also help to auto-classify your files suggesting what folders they should go to. I spent about 20 min. today and cleared out my inbox with 70+ files using this feature and it made it much easier to move through and organize everything I had recently collected in there.

Another strength of DTP is that it has a very useful search, can scan in documents and make the text searchable, and the data in your databases are searchable via spotlight as well. Thus, this system has worked very well for me and has enabled me to not pile up too much unnecessary paperwork in my filing cabinet.

If you’re a pastor, a student, a writer, etc. what’s worked for you in keeping all your ideas, examples, stories, and other notes easily manageable (whether you have DTP or not)?

Church in Mission Featured Practices The Biblical The Cultural

Cancel Our Debts?

2125697998_b053ac13e1_b In my reading of the Disciple’s Prayer (the anabaptist/Quaker name for the Lord’s Prayer), we have to make sure that we don’t limit what forgiveness includes ((See part 3, part 2, and part 1)). Our (Western) tendency is to think of forgiveness in terms of personal wrongdoings, forgiveness is an individual action.  But in the prayer Jesus clearly draws on a Jewish understand of Jubilee with his selection of the word translated “debts.” ((cf. John Howard Yoder’s The Politics of Jesus for a further discussion on this topic)). The Greek word there, ophilema, literally means a debt that someone owes both financially as well as morally. Remember in Jesus’ time society wasn’t as split as it is today, a ‘sin’ to the Ancient Jew could be familial, social as well as individual. So when Jesus says, forgive people’s debts, as God has forgiven yours, I think he’s thinking back to the forgiveness of debts during the year of jubilee.

There are other examples in the Gospels where Jesus draws on this Debt language. Besides the obvious the prayer for today’s bread, or enough bread for today, reminding us of the sharing of Manna, a narrative linked to Jubilee as well, there is Jesus’ announcement in Luke 4 that the year of Jubilee had come, there’s the fact that the Gospel writers tell the story of Jesus sharing bread and fish six times in four Gospels. There are the religio-social debts canceled by Jesus’ forgiveness. And we should be quick to remember the story of Zaccheus who, through his encounter with Jesus, returned the money he had extorted from his fellow Jews. Zaccheus quite was radically practicing “forgive us our debts, as we have also forgiven the debts of others.”

The prayer of forgiveness and the confession “Do not bring us into a time of trial” presupposes sin and sin as a rupture between human beings, and the risk of the earthly journey (Doctrine, McClendon 156). It admits that we who are in need of divine care have created all kinds of debts with our fellow humans, not least of which are financial. It prays for rescue and deliverance, not just in case it ever happens, but because we need deliverance regularly. How can we live as a faithful community who helps to forgive the spiritual, relational and the financial ruptures of our world?

As we approach Black Friday, and Christmas, which has been swallowed up by over-consumption and credit-card debt, maybe this is the good news we all need to hear this year. God wishes for us to be freed from this debt, and to free others, to live a life of enough, to live in a place where sharing and jubilee mark our interactions with the world far more than what we currently see on TV and in strip-mall America.

[Picture DavidDMuir]

Convergent Friends Featured The Cultural The Political The Theological

We All Know That Reality has a Well-Known “Conservative” Bias

2282847042_a117183473One of the things my favorite (fake) newscaster Stephan Colbert says on a regular bias is that “Major media has a well-known liberal bias.” And this is definitely something many people believe. This perspective has cropped up again recently all over the web, and yes on The Colbert Report has helped, with the new Conservative Bible Project. The ridiculous (and copy-cat) assertation that this project intends to make is that the bible has “a well-known liberal bias.” And as ridiculous as it may first appear I think they are actually right, but not in the way they think.

It seems to me that we could easily consider that major network news and papers such as the NY Times are not in fact liberal at all but rather conservative in that they all seek to put reality “as it is” on display. That is, all major network news from MSNBC to FOX seek to expose or reveal what is happening “out there.” After all isn’t that what news is supposed to be? The opinion section or segment is sectored off for a reason. “News” tries to relay information about reality, about what happened that day, or that week, in your neighborhood and around the globe. It may also seek to expose what is true about this or that issue, person, event, etc.

The problem then isn’t the object of news, the events that transpire, but rather our interpretation on that reality. What gets relayed about the “truth” is where things get a little tangled up (to say the least). Thus in my mind, it’s not that some news is good and some is bad, instead the point is to realize all interpretation is slanted, all interpretation of reality runs through a filter (our own or someone else’s) and thus has a bias. In other words, all news is opinion to some extent. The question becomes for much of how media is handled in this country, which kind of interpretation will sell better, or that tells me what I want to hear the most? Which source, according to me, interprets those events in a way that makes sense to me, connects with me intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, etc?

On the other hand, it seems like very little of what passes as “news” is “progressive” (I admit to be taking some liberties with this term “progressive”). I am taking “progressive” here to mean not taking reality at face-value, what it is, but rather what it should be. Progressive in this way means owning up to the fact that it is embedded in an interpretation of reality, and that it is putting it’s best presentation forward in a compelling way. Here then “conservative” signals trying to tell the events of the day “objectively,” and pretends to report without (subjective) interpretation, and certainly both “conservative” and “liberal” media are guilty of this. In both cases, on the right and left, these modes of relaying information are rooted in the Enlightenment, a kind of “Just give me the straitght-up facts Johnny” mentality that conceals its own embeddedness.

So what is the “progressive” alternative? I take much of blogging, zines, and other subcultural forms of communication to be more progressive (laying outside both liberal and conservative). This is because these forms of media, while they are often upfront already about their biases and influences, just read the about page on virtually every blog for instance, but they are often more interested in imaginating another society, an alternative way of approacing this or that situation, and offering critique of the status quo. And that’s what is so threatening about these progressive forms of “news,” and cultural re-writing. It isn’t content with leaving reality where it is, or concealing its biases (a position that threatens those still pretending to be objective) but pushing it along, changing it, subverting, in the name of some other narrative.

(I am not on the other hand insisting that we should not read/watch major news networks, just that we recognize and are upfront about theirs, as well as our own, positioning.)

Now that I’ve said all that, I can return to the real point of this post and make my hypothesis: the problem with the Bible for those in the conservative Bible project is not that it is either conservative or liberal, but that it is progressive in this manner. In this way it exceeds the categories, continues to be re-interpreted afresh and challenge the status quo of reality. My reading of Jesus is that he is especially active in this regard. Scripture puts forth an alternative vision of reality, an entirely different way of living and approach one another, politics, economics, society, religion, etc. It is not an upside-down viewpoint as so many like to say, it is instead present the world as it should be, or right-side up. And for those who have an interest in stability, safety, and maitaing power “the way its always been” the Bible can be rather unsettling. Jesus’ message was unsettling even for his own followers, we should expect that 2000 years removed from that we will still find people trying to dodge the society that Jesus sought to put in place. And this will bother more than just one side of our polarized society.

[Image from Chris233]

Blog Entries Convergent Friends Quaker Reviews

Freedom Friends Church Faith and Practice

Freedom Friends Church in Salem Oregon is currently an independent meeting that has recently written their own Faith and Practice. A number of Friends, Monthly Meetings and Yearly Meetings, have been interested in reading about this unique meeting and some of the practices they espouse. I have done a decent amount of research on the meeting for my our studies, comparing its similarities and differences with the emerging Church and the simple fact that they put together this book was very helpful for me.

They are releasing a hardcover version of it in the next week or so, here is the blurb I wrote for the back of the book:

Freedom Friends Church have created one of the first postmodern Quaker Faith and Practices to date. Here is a Faith and Practice that is creative and actually fun to read. This is because it is not only relevant both to the concerns of their own faith community and the larger societal context, it is also deeply rooted within the historical practices and theology of Friends. If there was any question whether the heartbeat of Quakerism still had a pulse, FFC has shown that the tradition is not just alive, it is kicking: the Quaker faith is indeed fit for the 21st century. This kind of hybrid Quakerism, this remix of tradition and innovation, is a promising future for the Friends Church.

Their Faith and Practice is well worth checking out.

Blog Entries Practices Quaker Quotations The Theological

Old Quaker Discipline on the Poor

While I was researching for a recent sermon I came across some great quotes on poverty from 18th Century Quakers. One thing I loved was that the section on plainness and living an unfettered life is right next to the section about caring for the poor. These two things, how we live and what we produce and consume, and interrelated to whether others have enough or not.

Here are few quotes I dug up from the Old Quaker Disciple on poverty:

“With respect to the poor amongst us, it ought to be considered, that the poor, both parents and children, are of our family, and ought not to be turned off to any others for their support or education; and although some may think the poor a burthen, yet be it remembered, when our poor are well provided for, and walk orderly, they are an ornament to our society; and the rich should consider it is more blessed to give than to receive, and that he who giveth to the poor, lendeth to the Lord, who will repay. Written in 1718 “(198)

“As mercy, compassion, and charity, are eminently required in this new covenant dispensation we are under; so, respecting the poor and indigent among us, and to see there be no beggar in our Israel, it is the advice of this meeting that all poor friends be taken due care of, and none of them sent to the town or parish to be relieved; and that nothing be wanting for their necessary supply; which has been according to our ancient practice and testimony. And it has long been of good report, that we have not only maintained our own poor, but also contributed our share to the poor of the respective towns and parishes wherein we dwell.” Written in 1720 (198).

What are our communities writing (and doing) today about this very issue?

Blog Entries Reviews

Check Out The Kingdom Experiment (Book Review)

I recently subscribed to the new magazine Generate, which I highly recommend for all of you in church ministry and thinking about alternative, ’emerging’ ways of ministry. It is a great magazine (first one just came out this fall). I read through the whole thing in an evening I enjoyed it so much!

Anyways, the great editors of Generate sent a gift to those of us who subscribed early (at least that’s how I understand it), a book called, The Kingdom Experiment. And I’ve read through most of that as well! Besides the book having a catchy cover and nice design inside (made by the same people who did the design for the book “Jesus for President.”), it’s a really great book I recommend you checking out. What I like about it is that it works through each of the beatitudes, it gives a good introduction into each phrase but then the rest of the chapter are suggested experiments to try that in one way or another embody that beatitude. I like the guidance the book gives while allowing for a great amount of creativity. They also suggest doing it with some friends and journaling along the way. I look forward to doing this with some of the Quakers at Camas.

From their website:

What is The Kingdom Experiment?

The people are starting to catch on. There’s this guy who has spent his life working in his dad’s wood shop, making beds, stools, and some real nice end tables. But, around the age of thirty he gets to thinking a career change is necessary. Only problem is he wants a position that is seemingly already filled, the job of priest. Doesn’t stop him. Call him an entrepreneur of sorts, cause he begins preaching and healing in ways no one has ever seen— without the employment of the temple. And to top it all off, he starts collecting a good fan base—lots of people begin showing up to all his public appearances.

One day, he climbs up on a mountain and says there is a new kingdom at hand, and that this kingdom will be contradictory to everything they have known before.

And the people get the feeling this is only the beginning. You see, they were expecting a king arriving in grand fashion, but instead they got a carpenter, turned speaker and healer, who was about to shake things up a bit.

The Kingdom Experiment is a challenge to live this kingdom intentionally. It won’t be easy. And it may get uncomfortable. But if you commit to live what a carpenter started 2000 years ago, you too will experience the kingdom He spoke of.

How it works:
1. Read and discuss each chapter with your group
2. Pick one of eight experiments (challenges to live intentionally) to do throughout the week.
3. Journal your thoughts and experiences
4. Share your experiences as a group the following week

The point of The Kingdom Experiment is community. And to share stories while we’re at it. To grapple with what “good news” means in the context of this specific time and place. The Kingdom Experiment is an 8-week challenge, but who says it has to end there. Hopefully, this way of living becomes a habit. We wouldn’t complain if it did.

You can get the book here. (But always support your local bookshop first if you can!)

Featured Practices Sermons The Biblical

Confession: The Prayer of Vulnerability (Matthew 6:12-13)

My first six months of youth ministry were a bear. The church I served in had three kinds coming to the youth group when I arrived, one was the pastor’s son and the other two were the daughters of the previous youth leader. But building a youth group from scratch wasn’t the difficult part, what was difficult was some of the politics already in place before our arrival. Within six months the stakes had been claimed and people had chosen sides, some didn’t want to pay for a youth pastor, especially an outsider like me, while others were happy to have us there. There was one woman who was the most outspokenly against us being there and began looking for ways to discredit me and get me removed. I remember for instance her visiting our Sunday School class and investigating the kinds of things I was teaching the youth, where did it come from, who was holding my teaching accountable, etc? I had no trust with this woman and was suspect no matter what I did. When my six month interim was up, the church called together a business meeting to extend my call. A number of people called ex-members who had not gone to the church in years to come back and help to try and get me ousted. It was needless to say, a hostile situation.

I was 21 and hadn’t even been through anything like this before. I started harboring some serious anger towards this one person. I couldn’t go to worship on Sunday without being distracted by her presence constantly wondering what move she would make next, what she might say. I spent a lot of time trying to avoid her eyes, and steer clear of any interaction with her. Then, one day during open worship God clearly told me to go and ask her for forgiveness.

“ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! You’ve got to be kidding me God? I mean, I was totally blindsided by this person. I came in here and they have just continued to harp on me, spreading untrue rumors, trying to get me ousted, I’m hurt!”

But I realized God was right. Whether or not she had done nothing wrong, the only way for me to be able get clear of the situation, to be able to have enough peace of mind to to worship again, was to ask her to forgive me for my ill-feelings festering towards her.

I wrestled with this conviction for at least three weeks. I tried everything to get out of it. I even forgave her before God, hoping that would clear things up. It didn’t and I finally realized I had no choice. If I wanted to find forgiveness, I would have to extend it. Isn’t it always hardest to ask to be forgiven, I mean giving forgiveness was so easy in comparison. Well you might guess how the rest of the story goes. I approached her after our meeting for worship and sheepishly, my head mostly down, with my heart visibly pounding through my shirt, said to her, I need to talk to you for a second. I said, I have been harboring bitterness towards you ever since you visited my Sunday morning class, I need you to forgive me.” I have never felt so powerless, so vulnerable before someone I trusted so little in my life!

You know what she said? She said she didn’t know what I was talking about, but if I wanted forgiveness, then sure, I can have it and walked away. I think I felt even more vulnerable after my confession than before. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go! She was supposed to admit her wrong, we were supposed to both ask forgiveness, makeup and become friends, living happily ever after. Nothing like that took place. Sadly, her and her family actually left the church not too long after that, and I often remember her family. I really never knew what it was all about, or what my role really was in it, but I do remember that feeling of powerlessness that came with confessing and asking for forgiveness.

This morning we look at the third part of the Disciple’s prayer, it is a prayer that concerns our witness in the world. We pray it as a prayer of vulnerability. That feeling of powerlessness that I had back then, even the fact that the situation didn’t resolve the way I thought it would, the fact that I had no power to change the situation but was still to follow through with confessing a need for forgiveness (and even the somewhat genuine offer of forgiveness I gave her) are the very movements that shape not only our own faith but our corporate witness in the world. Confession is not only an act, it is an attitude.

This third strand of the prayer, this “forgive us our debts,” and “the do not bring us to the time of trial” is to be the very shape of how the church interacts with, or witnesses in the world.Too often our attitude and posture as Christians in the world is caricatured as shouting past one another, infighting, arguing fine doctrinal points, being out of touch and irrelevant, as though we can strong arm people into church. When we think about our witness as the church in the world, we must strive to be people who live out the power of weakness, people who are known for their forgiveness, who openly confess their need to be forgiven. Matt. 6:12-13 is a prayer of confession that is as much an attitude as it is an action, this vulnerability is to be at the heart of our mission as the church.


Forgiveness and Cycles: In this last part of the prayer then, there are two markers of this vulnerability: forgiveness and confession. “Forgive us our debts, as we have also forgiven our debtors,” is first and foremost concerned with the cycles of literal debt, violence, of sin, oppression and hatred, that confound our world. Jesus here quite simply offers us the key to short-circuiting these, what we might call cycles of exchange. If you forgive others, God will forgive you. That is, if you do not hang onto the offense committed against you, but you instead let it go, the cycle of exchange can be broken. Forgiveness is always a gift, the word debt here should quickly bring to mind the Jewish concept of Jubilee. Gift, as we see in Jubilee, does not anticipate something in return. My approaching the woman and asking forgiveness was not exactly a gift, I still had expectations that were even hidden to myself about how she might respond.

To mention that breaking these cycles of exchange with the gift of forgiveness leaves one vulnerable probably goes without saying. Not only was I left feeling naked before a woman who had hurt me by confessing my own harboring of anger, but she never really reconciled with me. But to say that I approached her on purely good intentions would be to mislead you. Forgiveness is a mixed bag, that it is complex is to say the least. It often leaves us feeling completely striped naked and defenseless.

This is of course, how it should be.

Take for instance a key passage in the Gospel of Matthew that helps interpret this prayer for forgiveness. In Matthew 18:23-35, Jesus tells a parable of a servant whose financial debt had become debilitating. It says he owed 10,000 talents which is said to be equal to around 6,000 denari. You know how many denari a slave would get for a days wage? One. So in order to get 6,000 denari for just one talent would take probably half a lifetime. In other words, this is an astronomical amount of debt [school loans anyone?]. Anyways, The king calls him in, wanting to settle the accounts and the servant falls down to his knew and pleads with him, “‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” And then it says that the King’s heart went out to him and forgave him the loan. Out of complete act of mercy the king declares jubilee and cancels the entire debt.

You know what happens next. The servant returns home and one of his fellow servants who owed him talents came fell on his knees before him. This second servant repeats almost precisely what the first servant said to the king, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’” But unlike the king, the first servant, whose outrageous debt had been canceled, he had his fellow servant through in jail until all of the debt was repaid. The king hears of this, flips his top, as surely as anyone else would do, and throws the first servant in jail, not as retaliation, but as a way of saying, if you do not want to work by the gift economy of jubilee of which I canceled your debts, then you to must go to jail. That is, if you want to play by the cycle of exchange, as it appears you do, then the cycle of exchange says you too must be imprisoned.

The king made himself vulnerable, not simply by the fact that he lost 10,000 talents but by the fact that he risked the servant abusing the new found freedom he was given. Now surely the lesson here is not that it is okay to throw people in jail if they don’t return the favor given to them. I would be remiss to have tried to condemn my friend for not returning the confession I offered her. The point is that we have the choice to work in the power of the world, and operate out of the cycle of exchange, the vicious cycles we see all around us. Or we choose to embody this prayer, to break that cycle, stop it in its tracks, throw a wrench in the machine, and offer forgiveness by opening ourselves up to way of vulnerability.


The Act of Confession: Then in the last part of the prayer Jesus teaches us to pray: “Do not bring us into a time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.” Some of you are more familiar with the translation, “Do not lead us into temptation…”Questions arise with this second translation about whether or not God might in some tricky way lead us into temptation. I am unhappy with this translation and the confusion it causes. For one James says, “No one, when tempted, should say, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one. But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it…” (James 1:13-15) Instead, the better reading is “do not bring us into a time of trial, or testing.” God may not tempt us to do wrong, but God surely tests faith, and we can see testings through church history that for those who wish to live out the way of Jesus trials were unavoidable. When Jesus uttered these fragile words, his movement was still insignificant in size and constantly coming more and more in contact with religious and political authorities.

Not only was Jesus’ own faith tested in Matthew 4 by the “Evil One,” but the disciples got a taste of a real faith-testing trial at the Garden of Gethsemane, who were asked to pray and remain alert, yet fell prey to their own human desires for sleep. Then think of the trial during the arrest, do we draw the sword or not, then there are of course, the trials that Peter faced and who didn’t prove to do so hot in his testing. When we finally get to Jesus’ death, only a few disciples still remain. Thus, I take, “Do not bring us into a time of trial, as a prayer to be spared from the worst of it all. In other words it is a way of admitting that we as disciples are vulnerable.

It is as Dallas Willard says, it is a “vote of no confidence.”

Jesus taught us these words, to be said with regularity, words that admit our propensity to stumble and misstep. We can see from this line of the prayer that confession, both the act and the attitude, was to be a part of the regularly vocabulary of the church. It might be suggested that we follow our friends in Alcoholics Anonymous and open with our own confession, “Hi I’m Wess, and when tested I stumbled.”

What would the church look like if its mission started from a place of vulnerability? Does it just look like a bunch of people who put themselves down, always feeling guilty? No!

This should not be taken, as it usually is within Evangelical churches, as a reason to feel guilty about something. Just google ‘confession.’ There is a complete industry of books and online websites, bulletin boards for people to confess all their sins, all their darkest secrets. [It’s a little disturbing really.] You can make your confession anonymous, or if you’re looking for something a little more warm and fuzzy, you can go to the site called group hug where others will virtually gather around you for a big squeeze. You can find guides to how to get the most of your confession, there are sites for the more transgressive confessions, one site hints at something you’d expect from Jerry Springer show, “” There are people who have gained celebrity status by “whistle blowing.” Politicians are happy to confess their opponents secrets (whether they are true or not). And it is easy enough to find confessions in movies, literature and TV Shows everywhere. Confession, to one degree or another is everywhere. And for the church, there are a lot of people walking around feeling guilty all the time. But I don’t think guilt is what the Disciple’s prayer is getting at. Instead, this vote of no confidence, this confession, is Jesus giving us permission to not have it all together.

Thus confession becomes as much and attitude that church is to be shaped by. Instead of being a church of the Jim Bakers, the Ted Haggard’s and Jimmy Swaggart’s, the church that is in the big time, that has it all together and is in a place to call judgment down on others, only to find they too have their own vulnerabilities, they too are human in need of constant rescuing, they too have their dirty little secrets, we have been given permission in this prayer to stop with all this phony pretentious mumbo jumbo. We say, God spare us from the tests we recognize we are fallible.

Here in Jesus’ words, inscribed into the formative prayer of the church, we are invited to be honest about where we are and this is precisely the point of genuine faith. We own up not just to our personal failings, but to our corporate missteps. Look, we as the church botch it, we can screw things up as much as we can help things. If the church started from a place of confession in the world, I think the world and the church would be a better place. Not only would we be more readily able to admit that we too can be hypocrites, but that we don’t have it all figured out. Instead of always having an answer or what we perceive to be the right answer on any given doctrinal topic, what if we owned up to the fact that we so often don’t really know the answer?

Confession creates an openness we need in the church. As soon as we assume we can learn nothing from another person, because of their age, their religion [they are from that Quaker group!], their politics, we have stopped praying this prayer. I tend to think that people who are the quickest to come forward with answers about this or that question about the Bible, or this or that question about a social issue, is a person who is deeply unsure about what lies beyond that answer. Our pat answers can be a coping mechanism for a lack of faith. After all, is faith a belief in something that is truly unknown? As soon as we suggest that we have figured out the infinite with our finite minds, that we know how many angels dance on the head of a needle, who will be and who will not be in heaven, or what God believes about this or that concept or issue, we stop praying this prayer and start praying our own version “God, Let me show you how I am infallible when put to the test.”

So for me, confession has to be about openness to change, an attitude of vulnerability that remains open to the Spirit’s present guidance. Confession admits we are on a spiritual journey, wrestling with the things of this world, the testings, the failings, the weaknesses, not just our own, but others whose actions so often deeply impact our lives. Confession, the “I can’t do it” part of all this, is to be woven into the very fabric of our spiritual practice.

Thus we desperately need this prayer, this confession, that we may not be brought to trial, that God will rescue us when we find ourselves there. It is a prayer of humility, and brokenness. The witness of the church is to be formed by the practicing of vulnerability through regularly giving and receiving of forgiveness and attitude of confession.

Let me end with this quote: Joan D. Chittister from her book Heart of Flesh:

We are vulnerable on all sides, in and out, p and down, past, present, and future. We fear vulnerability. It takes a great deal of living to discover that, actually, vulnerability comes to us more as friend than as enemy. Vulnerability may be the greatest strength we have. Vulnerability bonds us to one another and makes us a community in league with life. Because we need one another, we live looking for good in others, without which we ourselves can not survive, will not grow, can not become what we ourselves have the potential to be. [Change in our lives and in our communities cannot happen without this]. Vulnerability is the gift given to us to enable us to embed ourselves in the universe. We are born dependent and spend the rest of our lives coming to wholeness. It is a delicate and dangerous process, requiring and untold amount of support and an amazing degree of forgiveness as we stumble and grope our way from one new part of life to another. Vulnerability, in fact, is the one hallmark of life which, try as we might, we can not cure. Vulnerability, therefore is clearly part of the spiritual process, clearly part of the human endeavor. (142-143)

So then, what does it look like for us as the church to really truly embody the prayer:
“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.”

{Image from Princess KB}

Blog Entries Quotations

Chesterton and the (il)logic(ality) of life.

Just stumbled across this in my reading this morning, it works well with what I’m reflecting on with “confession as vulnerability,” confession is what keeps us open and subject to change. Here Chesterton says it well: “Life is not an illogicality; yet it is a trap for logicians.”

The real trouble with this world of ours is not that it is an unreasonable world, nor even that it is a reasonable one. The commonest kind of trouble is that it is nearly reasonable, but not quite. Life is not an illogicality; yet it is a trap for logicians. It looks just a little more mathematical and regular than it is; its exactitude is obvious, but its inexactitude is hidden; its wildness lies in wait…

Suppose some mathematical creature from the moon were to reckon up the human body; he would at once see that the essential thing about it was that it was duplicate. A man is two men, he on the right exactly resembling him on the left. Having noted that there was an arm on the right and one on the left, a leg on the right and one on the left, he might go further and still find on each side the same number of fingers, the same number of toes, twin eyes, twin ears, twin nostrils, and even twin lobes of the brain. At last he would take it as a law; and then, where he found a heart on one side, would deduce that there was another heart on the other. And just then, where he most felt he was right, he would be wrong.

via Orthodoxy, by Gilbert K. Chesterton; The Paradoxes of Christianity Page 1.

Blog Entries Practices

A Common Trashcan at Camas Friends

This past Sunday we piled new and gently used items for homeless people in Camas into a new galvanized trashcan I picked up from the local hardware shop here in Camas. We did this as a part of our discussion on the Disciple’s Prayer and the petition/mission “Give us this day our daily bread.” We discussed what it looks like to be on both sides of the prayer, the side of desperation, “God, I really need something to eat,” and the side of enough, “God, we have enough, how can we be givers of bread instead of takers?” And earlier in the week I invited people to be prepared for this conversation and to bring things to give to homeless people. It was fantastic to see the response and that our can literally overflowed.

We are going to keep the can in the church building during the winter and work together to distribute the goods, we also registered it on the A Trashcan Can Make A Difference website. Anyone is welcome to come and take from it, or take and give from it, as he or she has or sees need. I see it as being a kind of “common can” (if you will) similar to what the disciple’s did in Acts 2.

Do check out the TCMD website and consider whether it is something you and your community can partner with.

Blog Entries Green Practices Reviews The Cultural

Food, Inc. Documentary on Where Our Food Comes From (Review)

Official Food IncThe tag line for FOOD, inc. is “You’ll never look at your dinner the same way again,” and well, they’re right. This for some of you may be the very reason why you decide in advance to not watch it, or to not read the rest of this post, but let me encourage you to a little bravery: what is happening in our food industry, what is going into our food, what is happening to the earth hosting the growth of this food, what is happening to both the animals and the people who are growing and raising this food, and what’s happening to the people eating this food, is something that concerns you, your family, and our children future. This is the kind of stuff you really want to know about. And far from being a scare-feast, this film is well documented (and yes, some of the details are disputed as in all documentaries) and the big picture it paints is one of needed change, rather than simply doom and destruction. This is the kind of film that motivates, and leaves you, or it at least left me, feeling like I can actually do things to respond (that don’t all include shopping more!).

Food, Inc. is a 2008 documentary by the filmmaker Robert Kenner, which came out this June. It gives us a look into America’s food industry, where our food comes from, the conditions for both the workers and  animals on those industrial farms, and some of the bi-partisan politics behind what is happening. It is also recieving a lot of rave reviews (see listing below) at such sites like Rotten Tomatoes which has given it a score of 97/100,  the consensus being that it is: “An eye-opening expose of the modern food industry, Food, Inc. is both fascinating and terrifying, and essential viewing for any health-conscious citizen.”

The film really is an unveiling of much of what is going on behind closed doors (complete with footage from hidden cameras, etc.). There was a day and age when humans were directly connected to the our food source, we knew where it came from, we knew the names of the people who grew it (or were the ones growing it), and all this organic, free-range, grass-fed blah, blah, blah, needed no labels because it was the expected and natural way of life. But as Michael Pollan has said:

“The way we eat has changed more in the last 50 years than in the previous 10,000, but the image that’s used to sell the food … you go into the supermarket and you see pictures of farmers. The picket fence and the silo and the 1930s farmhouse and the green grass. The reality is … it’s not a farm, it’s a factory. That meat is being processed by huge multi-national corporations that have very little to do with ranches and farmers.”

Food, Inc. brings us into the stark reality of the multi-national, uber-powerful, industrialized food factories. It confronts us with some really difficult facts, images, and stories. At times during the film I felt scared because it feels so big, at other times I found hope because there are many stories in the film about what individuals and families are doing to respond. I found the story-telling to be powerful, the voices and people interviewed to be true-to-life, and the overall narrative to be not simply doom-and-gloom filmmaking but left me with the feeling of a heavy burden that needs to be and CAN be responded to. This is a well made film and not just informational but entertaining to watch. It is, in the words of the NY Times, truly and activist film. That is, it calls for action around a variety of deeply important issues.

Here are some of the more astonishing statistics from the film:

  • In the 1970s, the top five beef packers controlled about 25% of the market. Today, the top four control more than 80% of the market.
  • In the 1970s, there were thousands of slaughterhouses producing the majority of beef sold. Today, we have only 13.
  • Prior to renaming itself an agribusiness company, Monsanto was a chemical company that produced, among other things, DDT and Agent Orange.
  • In 1996 when it introduced Round-Up Ready Soybeans, Monsanto controlled only 2% of the U.S. soybean market. Now, over 90% of soybeans in the U.S. contain Monsanto’s patented gene.
  • The average American eats over 200 lbs. of meat a year.
  • During the Bush administration, the chief of staff at the USDA was the former chief lobbyist for the beef industry in Washington (And Obama is making similarly poor choices).
  • 1 in 3 Americans born after 2000 will contract early onset diabetes; Among minorities, the rate will be 1 in 2.
  • E. coli and Salmonella outbreaks have become more frequent in America, whether it be from spinach or jalapenos. In 2007, there were 73,000 people sickened from the E. coli virus.

My favorite part of the film was certainly Joel Salatin, a self-described “Christian-libertarian-environmentalist-capitalist farmer” (who apparently loves Wendell Berry) and is well-known from Michael Pollan’s must read book, the Omnivore’s Dilema. In fact, my wife says Food, Inc. could be thought of the movie version of the book, so if you find yourself really interested in knowing more Pollan’s book would be a great next step after watching this. Anyways, Joel is kind of a super-hero when it comes to farming (see his webpage here). He’s growing everything as completely natural as possible, keeping a live the art of farming and gardening the way it was meant to be done. Joel’s approach is radically counter-cultural to the massive industrial sized meat-factories, and that’s the appeal. He’s actually making a living, loves his work, and enjoys educating others not on just what to eat, but how to really farm.

The film left me with lots of questions and a lot of energy to begin making even more concrete steps to eating well. We at the Daniels ranch at doubling our efforts to cut meat out of our diets (I ate meat at three meals this past week), supporting the local farmer we buy our eggs and most of our veggies from, and looking into ways that we can produce more of the things we want to eat. I find it really fulfilling to be more involved in these ways with our meals,  when we pray over dinner saying, “God, thank you for this food you’ve provided,” it feels more connected for me.

If you’re interested, here is a list of places where You can see the movie. Of course, you can always get it on Netflix and rent it (at the library for free) now that it’s out as well.

Here are some suggested responses.

Also, they recommend participating in Go Meatless on Mondays

A couple more reviews: