Category: beautiful

The Line Between Sacred Versus Secular

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Picture by: Georgie Pauwels
Everywhere, wherever you may find yourself, you can set up an altar to God in your mind by means of prayer.
– St. John Chrysostom

A few weeks ago, I was preaching at a church and my friend, Joe Sanchez, was leading worship. One of my passions has been to find ways to work secular songs into the worship portion of a church service. I love the way truth can permeate through an honest song. That rarely happens in modern worship music. Joe reworked Jeff Lynne’s song, Lift Me Up, and it became a beautiful addition to my morning message.

I thought I’d share it with you. Enjoy.

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In contemporary Christianity, we draw all sorts of lines that end up being unhealthy. Those lines warp the lens of how we see culture. They also warp how we live out the ways of Jesus.

Look no further than social media to see how many Christians like to share their love in the form of accusations, finger-pointing and hateful, name-calling. I’d rather they trade the strong talk for a strong drink. The sad fact is that much of Christianity has an issue with seeing things in a metric of sacred versus secular. It’s a division that’s borne out of the pit of hell (if you believe in hell) and something far, far away from the life God calls us to.

When Christ looked at people… he simply saw people. He didn’t see the labels or judgment. How have we so easily lost this in the church?

Once we start seeing people as the other or put value judgments on them, we cease to see their humanity. When we cease to see the humanity in others, we no longer see them as a person created in the image of God. If we can’t see God’s creations anymore we most likely can’t see God at work in the world. At that point, our faith becomes twisted and rigid and then it spirals downward towards bitterness. Then the cycle continues. Wash, rinse and repeat.

To grab hold of Jesus means we must love. It’s not a conditional command. It’s not a commandment with exceptions. Loving others is just that plain and simple. All of life is spiritual. It’s almost as if Jeff Lynne was echoing Jesus when it said, “love is what I want.” There are no boundaries besides the ones we make. To simply push the point further, I’ll refer to Madeline L’Engle who put it so eloquently by saying, “There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred, and that is one of the deepest messages of the Incarnation.” This includes every decision we make and every judgment we cast. We are either choosing to embrace that fact that life is spiritual and God is at work or not. So if we’re not living that way, can we really call ourselves followers of Christ?

We can’t be in the business of lifting others up out of their brokenness if we’re in the business of keeping them there. To begin to see the sacred in the secular begins to change the way we engage with the world. It takes the focus off of us and places it in God’s hands where beautiful things await us.

The Pope’s Top Ten

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Pope Francis strikes again. It seems he can do no wrong. In a recent interview with Argentine weekly, the Pope laid out his top ten list of how to live as a happier, more joyful person and they’re spot on.

1. “Live and let live.” Everyone should be guided by this principle, he said, which has a similar expression in Rome with the saying, “Move forward and let others do the same.”

2. “Be giving of yourself to others.” People need to be open and generous toward others, he said, because “if you withdraw into yourself, you run the risk of becoming egocentric. And stagnant water becomes putrid.”

3. “Proceed calmly” in life. The pope, who used to teach high school literature, used an image from an Argentine novel by Ricardo Guiraldes, in which the protagonist — gaucho Don Segundo Sombra — looks back on how he lived his life.

“He says that in his youth he was a stream full of rocks that he carried with him; as an adult, a rushing river; and in old age, he was still moving, but slowly, like a pool” of water, the pope said. He said he likes this latter image of a pool of water — to have “the ability to move with kindness and humility, a calmness in life.”

4. “A healthy sense of leisure.” The pleasures of art, literature and playing together with children have been lost, he said.

“Consumerism has brought us anxiety” and stress, causing people to lose a “healthy culture of leisure.” Their time is “swallowed up” so people can’t share it with anyone. Even though many parents work long hours, they must set aside time to play with their children; work schedules make it “complicated, but you must do it,” he said. Families must also turn off the TV when they sit down to eat because, even though television is useful for keeping up with the news, having it on during mealtime “doesn’t let you communicate” with each other, the pope said.

5. Sundays should be holidays. Workers should have Sundays off because “Sunday is for family,” he said.

6. Find innovative ways to create dignified jobs for young people. “We need to be creative with young people. If they have no opportunities they will get into drugs” and be more vulnerable to suicide, he said.

“It’s not enough to give them food,” he said. “Dignity is given to you when you can bring food home” from one’s own labor.

7. Respect and take care of nature. Environmental degradation “is one of the biggest challenges we have,” he said. “I think a question that we’re not asking ourselves is: ‘Isn’t humanity committing suicide with this indiscriminate and tyrannical use of nature?'”

8. Stop being negative. “Needing to talk badly about others indicates low self-esteem. That means, ‘I feel so low that instead of picking myself up I have to cut others down,'” the pope said. “Letting go of negative things quickly is healthy.”

9. Don’t proselytize; respect others’ beliefs. “We can inspire others through witness so that one grows together in communicating. But the worst thing of all is religious proselytism, which paralyzes: ‘I am talking with you in order to persuade you,’ No. Each person dialogues, starting with his and her own identity. The church grows by attraction, not proselytizing,” the pope said.

10. Work for peace. “We are living in a time of many wars,” he said, and “the call for peace must be shouted. Peace sometimes gives the impression of being quiet, but it is never quiet, peace is always proactive” and dynamic.

from Catholic New Service

the Sacred in the Secular

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“There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred, and that is one of the deepest messages of the Incarnation.”

― Madeleine L’Engle

[youtube http://youtu.be/e4dT8FJ2GE0]

Check out indie-folk band Árstíðir singing an Icelandic hymn an old German train station. It’s absolutely beautiful. For more about Árstíðir go here. 

Resurrection

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banksy

resurrection announces that God has not given up on the world
because this world matters
this world that we call home
dirt and blood and sweat and skin and light and water
this world that God is redeeming and restoring and renewing

greed and violence and abuse they are not right
and they cannot last
they belong to death and death does not belong

resurrection says that what we do with our lives matters
in this body
the one that we inhabit right now
every act of compassion matters
every work of art that celebrates the good and the true matters
every fair and honest act of business and trade
every kind word
they all belong and they will all go on in God’s good world
nothing will be forgotten
nothing will be wasted
it all has it’s place…

– Rob Bell

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Is Your Good News the Same as My Good News?

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So what is the gospel? What do we mean when we say that word? I know it’s a loaded question, but how do we articulate its meaning and also live it out well? I find that many times, it can become such a tired and overused term that seems to means drastically different things to drastically different people. Is it Christ’s work of salvation or is there something more going on here when we speak of the gospel? Here, N.T. Wright articulately answer the question and I like the spin he puts on it.

I just wish there was an “Ask N.T. Wright” app out there or something like ChaCha out there where I could pose questions and have him answer. He’s always so insightful, putting a fresh, yet ancient context on things. When it comes to Wright, I always find myself being blessed every time I encounter him.

Something Larger Than Ourselves

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As with most of the TED talks, this story is really worth the watch. Composer Eric Whitacre speaks of this journey to create and lead a virtual choir of singers from around the world over YouTube. The story in itself is amazing. I really spoke to me.

There is this core desire within humanity to be a part of something larger than ourselves. That theme really resonated as I watched this. This innate yearning to be caught up in something grand drives us, but we can never truly achieve greatness alone. We find meaning in our own lives once we become a part of another’s life. To accomplish great things in this world we need each other. Ultimately, the majestic never happens alone. There’s something absolutely beautiful about that.