The other day I picked up Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and Enuma Okoro. I often find it difficult to find appropriate devotional material. This book, while not a standard devotional book, lends itself well to use as a daily devotional. It is divided into several sections, including Morning Prayer, Midday Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Occasional Prayers. The section of Morning Prayer is a daily liturgical reading. Like many books of common prayer, the Morning Prayer is a concise worship service. The daily pattern of reading prayers three times a day has been very uplifting; it feels as though you are praying alongside a congregation. My spirit feels renewed to know that I am praying alongside others uttering the same words. If you are looking for something new for your devotional life, I highly recommend this book. The only drawback is the size of the book—it is close to six hundred pages, so it is not exactly mobile. Amazon does offer an electronic version of the book through Kindle and if you travel often I can see this as a worthwhile alternative to the paper version. I invite you to pray alongside me and many others with Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals; I know your spirit will be renewed by the experience.
We don’t often focus on how radical advent is; God showed up into the middle of humanity. My wife and I recently experienced the birth of our first born son. I understand advent better because of this experience. We glamorize and sanitize advent likewise, our society we glamorize and sanitize babies. Babies become cute bundles of joy. But they are also blow-out diapers, middle of the night feedings, hours of cuddling and cajoling, endless crying and total exhilaration at the first laugh, first step, first word.
Advent is radical because Jesus experienced all of this. It can be uncomfortable to think of God as helpless and cranky but that is the Jesus whom we worship and receive during this season of advent. A Jesus with diapers, middle of the night feedings… In short a cranky stinky Jesus who radically loved us so much he endured helplessness, persecution, and martyrdom to show us that love. I encourage you to look for the helpless in your community and see the face of Christ.
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
I read a great blog post this morning on CNN’s belief blog. Shane Claiborne wrote about gun violence in Philly. I thought it was a very thoughtful article and a message that is needed. My wife is a school counselor in Philly, last year about two blocks from her school a man was shot in broad daylight only a half hour before school let out. As Christian’s we are called to pray and act for peace!
Another idea I have been reflecting on is the idea of Joy! Scripture describes Joy as one of the fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 reads: “22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Joy should not be confused with happiness for happiness will fade over time. Joy is an inner strength in the heart of every believer. As Christians, we are called to share Joy with the world. But too often Christians spread anything but Joy in this world. Joy is simple; it disarms boundaries, creates love, and brings others together. This summer, while spending three hours waiting in the airport for a flight, I saw the power of Joy. One of my leaders pulled out a balloon and my youth group kids starting playing balloon volleyball. The students (24 in total) were sitting across from each other playing, but within a few minutes other rows of people had joined in the game. People talking on cell phones would take a break to return the balloon, families with young children joined in to play. While playing balloon volleyball didn’t change anyone’s life, we did leave a few families with a memory and we did spread some Joy in a very stressful environment. You can check out part of the video on my facebook….
Summertime—it brings thoughts of picnics, fireworks, beach trips, and time with family. However, if you are in Youth Ministry it might bring thoughts of long drives, too many fast food trips, noisy students, and a frantic pace of life. It is so important to take time and reflect on the meaning of everything that occurs over the summer. Over the next few days I want to share a few things I saw this summer and invite you to share a reflection on your own summer.
I had the opportunity to lead a trip to Belize this summer. This is the second time I have been blessed with spending time in Central America. I was able to renew some old friendships and make several new friendships. One of the ideas I have been reflecting on is the power and universality of the Kingdom of God. So often we want to brand the Kingdom with our particular flavor of Christianity. In Belize, I was reminded of the fact that God’s Kingdom holds not loyalty to country, language, or socioeconomic status; instead, this Kingdom is about the love of Christ and the love of other. I was in Belize during the World Cup Finals; we had made friends with several of the local teenagers and one of these teenagers had invited us to come to watch the game at his house. We decided rather than having thirty Americans pile into his house we invited him to come by our motel. I stopped by one of my student’s room and there were close to twenty people in the room, some yelling at the TV in Spanish, some in English, some explaining what the announcers are yelling and others calmly watching. That moment these students were just watching sports, I felt the Holy Spirit in that room. The Spirit’s presence did not rely on whether there were Americans or Belizeans present, outspoken or quiet individuals, deeply committed or newly blossoming believers. I felt the Holy Spirit in all the relationships we experienced that week, in the work we did, and in friendships that were built. My hope is that through intentional work these relationships will continue to grow and that we will continue to build bridges into the Kingdom.
I came across this quote the other day in Tattoos On the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Father Boyle: “Teilhard De Chardin wrote that we must ‘trust in the slow work of God.’ Ours is a God who waits. Who are we not to? It takes what it takes for the great turnaround. Wait for it.”
Most people are surprised when I tell them I have been working with teenagers for close to a decade; many youth workers are even more surprised when I tell them that I have been working for the same church for that whole time. Youth ministry is notorious for having high turnover and short flash in pan ministries. People leave youth ministry for varied reasons. I know it is God’s blessing that I have been at my first call for so long, but spending so much time in one congregation has helped me to see this “slow work of God” and I feel so blessed by it. This slow work can and will be one of the most frustrating and wonderful experience we have as youth workers, pastors, and teachers. The teenager that three years ago you wanted to give up on suddenly is a new a person.
This long view has helped me to be less rattled by changing attitudes and attendance patterns of teenagers. When a bad situation arises, you know that it may difficult for a little while but turnarounds take time.
Participating in this slow work has helped to increase the trust level between the youth ministry and families within the church. Most churches espouse a family ministry but I firmly believe you can’t do true family ministry without putting the time into a congregation.
By entering into God’s slow work we are better able to dream large dreams and set long term, far reaching goals. So many youth ministries don’t set realistic goals and then they get disheartened by the fact these goals are never fully achieved. Participating in this slow work of God helps us to better see God’s long term view and how blessed we are to be able to participate in God’s work.
Tattoos on the Heart: The power of the Boundless Compassion, Kindle Edition 2129