Obviously the YouTube videos of the two presidential candidates on the Saddleback Civil Forum are up and everywhere. I like to listen-on-the-run often so I converted them to MP3s. Here they are in the 11 parts, just like on the YouTube videos. I hope you’ll find it as useful as I did.
As a youth, I was a great fan of Monty Python. The Flying Circus was great and The Holy Grail was…well the Holy Grail!
One of the great expression from Monty Python and the Holy Grail was, “Run Away!”, which was uttered numerous times throughout the film if memory serves, as a replacement for “Retreat!”
Well, I’ve discovered recently that there isn’t a replacement for retreat!
I’m not speaking of natural flight before an overwhelming foe, rather the time-honored tradition of spending a block of time in solitude to re-focus and refresh.
This summer, my head was down in concentration and I was focused on attaining certain milestones in the evolution of the computer network at the private Christian School “Collège-Daniel” where I work in Alsace, France. I was determined to achieve breakthrough and had been working on certain issues for a loooooonnnngggg time. The artificial goal I’d set required that I achieve certain things during the summer break that I simply couldn’t work on effectively during the school year.
Angela had been gone for a month in the States, hoping-against-hope that I’d have wrapped it all up by the time I met her at the airport with flowers in hand (which I did, of course!), and then we could actually relax a bit during the summer break [peanut gallery “snicker” here].
Of course while she was gone, I couldn’t hardly get anything done because I was running the house (and not nearly as efficiently as she does!) So, when I went right back at it at school our “expectation conflict” was beginning to brew.
Eventually it boiled over and soon thereafter I got sick for a week…so, she was right that I was working too much and my priorities were messed up. Additionally, as we reflected together on our “summer of family transition” and our last 8-9 years of cross-cultural adventure and moving from house to house, the accumulated weight of stress in my life became more evident to me.
Run Away! Run Away!
I finally realized just how exhausted I was…spirit, soul and body. It was time for a change of scenery and pace.
I’d heard of a place in Alsace, near Munster, where there was a retreat center run by protestant order of sisters where one could get away for a spiritual retreat. After some checking around, I finally found the Community Center at Hohrodberg (Centre Communautaire du Hohrodberg.) About the same, time a good friend of mine in the States also took a retreat. I knew it was a confirmation. I needed to run away!
So, I took 5 days to spend time resting and talking and listening to God. Of course, I had naively hoped to come back all cleaned up, rested up, filled up and full of clear direction for the year to come (among other things). This was a similar sentiment that I had when I left for our YWAM DTS 9 years ago.
God doesn’t seem to work that way with me…;-)
No, He seems to have a preference for drawing me and coaxing me toward Him via “hedging me in” in ways that are uncomfortable…physically, spiritually, and emotionally. He understands that “perfect bliss” in my natural life doesn’t push me Further Up and Further In!
So Angela drove me about an hour northwest of our home in Soultz to Hohrodberg. The final 10 minutes of drive are a beautiful, winding climb up higher and higher in the Vosges.
The Centre Communautaire du Hohrodberg is a collection of 3 buildings that straddle this winding road as it continues on into the Vosges. I was welcomed by one of the 7 sisters (in the “order” sense of the word) that live at the Center and run it. Their full-time vocation is to pray continually and welcome visitors to the Center. I was shown around and then shown my room. I said good-bye to Angela and settled in for my 4-5 days with the Lord.
My room was named “Horeb” and was situated in the building named “Elim.” It was immaculate! It was small but very thoughtfully appointed – bed, sink, table, night-stand, good lighting, good storage, great view, etc. I really couldn’t have asked for a better situation. I never saw any other rooms but I was very impressed by mine.
Horeb is mentioned several times in scripture; notably as the sight of Moses’ burning bush (Exodus 3:1-3) and Elijah’s encounter with the Lord (I Kings 19:4-18). Elijah’s experience spoke to me while I was there. Here’s a little comparison between his “Horeb experience” and mine:
Starts out exhausted after a concentrated time of heavy-duty ministry
Starts out exhausted after several years of spread-out ministry
Sleeps…wakened by an angel to eat divinely provided foot…repeat 2x
Sleeps…wakened by alarm clocks to eat food prepared by the sisters at the center…repeat 3x/day
Re-finding his strength, goes on 40 day hike to the mountains
Re-finding his strength, goes on 1 1/2 hour hike in the mountains
Experiences wind, earthquake, fire…but no God
Sees where men have experienced wind, earthquake and fire…but no God in fierce fighting in WWI at the “Lingekopf” near the Center.
Experiences calm…and dialogs with God
Experiences calm, where once was war, and dialogs with God
As I mentioned, my time at Hohrodberg, though valuable and peaceful, wasn’t idyllic. Idyllic is something I’d love to experience, but I know that idyllic doesn’t refine me.
At Hohrodberg, one is expected to enter into the community rhythm while staying there. I took a wonderful 3-day retreat many years ago at Sacred Heart in Colorado., and the integration was a bit more “à la carte” there, if you will. I think I preferred that. At Hohrodberg, office is 3-times-a-day, just before meals. The meals are all taken communally, course-by-course, with the breakfast and evening meals being eating in silence. Everyone participates, in turn, in the wash-up after the meals.
Probably what was hardest for me were the meals. I found it annoying to “eat in rhythm” with the serving of the courses. I also struggled with eating in silence with people on my right and left that I didn’t know. I don’t mind silence at all, but I prefer it in conjunction with solitude/physical separation. A crowded room of silence actually feels a bit oppressive to me. The food wasn’t outstanding either, so I didn’t really look forward to meal times.
I had all the rest of the time to myself and it was more than sufficient. But…the “imposed rhythm” marked me enough that I might think twice before going back…or perhaps I’d go back for a shorter time, in a better all-around state. I was more or less in “critical care” when I went, and really wanted to take a break from any particular rhythm…good or bad. I imagine that going there “healthy” for 2-3 days would probably flow much better for me.
I didn’t take my guitar or a camera. I’m glad I chose not to. The guitar would have been a distraction and the amazing beauty would have endlessly whispered (or screamed), “Capture me! Capture me!” As it is, I captured what I could with camera on my phone and added an album for Hohrodberg on our gallery. Having a “phone cam” however, allowed me to take very quick snapshots without getting sucked into the time-consuming activity of creating photographic works of art (in my dreams!)
The rest, the reading, the prayer, the walking, the offices, the enveloping beauty…all of this combined to communicate a handful of simple messages that have been amplified and confirmed since returning home:
Song of Solomon 2:14 is Jesus’ gracious, loving and merciful call to me right now. In my hike, at several points the path I took led me through the “clefts of the rocks.” The call of my Beloved is clear to me…I’ve only to respond.
While not intended to penetrate my life as anchors of shame, my weaknesses were underlined to me…in much the same way that God spoke to Elijah on mount Horeb to correct his errant thinking and I limp with them as Israel, né Jacob, did after Jabbok (Genesis 32:22-31).
I’ve loved serving God more than I’ve loved God Himself. I’ve been thrilled with the gift of being called into Kingdom service in things that personally I enjoy doing. However, even “enjoyable Kingdom work” does not bring a level of satisfaction and pleasure that greatly surpasses other earthly pleasures, nor does it renew and refresh over the long haul. It drains, perhaps slowly…but surely, and doesn’t provide a “protective pleasure” that makes worldly pleasures “pale in comparison.” Only loving God does that. This is subtle mind you… One can’t focus on loving God directly and somehow leave Kingdom service behind. The two are inextricably bound. It’s an issue rather of motivation and priority…but it is an important issue.
The hour is such that my need to make a distinction between the #1 priority of the “One Thing” (Psalm 27:4) and #2-#n priorities can no longer suffer neglect…neglect must now be reserved for my “urgent matters” that pop-up to take me away from my One Thing. Included in the “not #1 priorities” would be clear direction for all activities. That’s for the Lord to reveal when He wants…my pursuit is Him.
My thanks go out to my friend Keith who, probably 2-3 years ago, turned me onto Maxthon. Never heard of it? It’s the best-kept secret in the browser wars…the stealth weapon if you will.
Personally, I hate the browser wars…or any “technology religious war” for that matter. Just use what you want to use and don’t feel like you need to prove that your choice is the best…period…full-stop…point-bar (ok, I’ve run out of languages).
Having said that, I’ll fire a shot across the Firefox bow anyway. There is such a high-and-mighty attitude that people take about *you-name-it* vs. Microsoft’s offering in all sorts of software categories that I simply get annoyed.
Anyway, Maxthon is a browser that sits on top of the same rendering engine as Internet Explorer. Yes that might turn some people off and understandably so…BUT, IE does create, for better or worse, a “defacto-standard” of sorts in its page-rendering…and IE7 is way better than IE6 and hopefully standards compliance will continue…just try to not nurse those wounds so actively all you Firefox evangelists!
Because Maxthon “sits on top of” IE so to speak, sites recognize my browser as “IE” and if they are annoying about this, they’ll provide some sort of message that I’m living a substandard life because I’m using IE…how arrogant is that!? Don’t get me started…ok, don’t let me continue!
Why do I say that Maxthon is just too cool? Because it works the way I want it to work right out of the box. With Firefox, I have to suffer with a clunky interface until I search through a mountain of plugins to make it a little better. Yes, I’m a feature freak. I LOVE features. I know that there are some who do not even want to know about features that have not entered into their mind. If they desire it, they’ll look for it. That’s great, more power to you. I’m not like that. I appreciate software design that anticipates what a user might want to do and provides for it ahead of time. I see it as being a “thoughtful software designer.”
So, if you like feature-rich software that’s designed to anticipate what you think you’ll want to do. I’d highly suggest that you check out Maxthon as your browser of choice.
Once you’ve installed the basic package, you’ll have tons of features to explore. However (in ginsu-kife parlance), wait!…there’s more! Yes Virginia, there are plugins! And the reason I’m blogging this particular entry is that I’ve discovered the BlogEX plugin to make quick blogging easy in Maxthon. This is my first post with it and I’m hoping that I like what it does. So far the setup is great and the composing experience is admirable. I typically use Zoundry Raven as a full-featured blogging client and probably will continue to do so, but for the “quick post”, this may be the ticket!
(This post is an excerpt of my daughter Rachel’s Facebook post about her participation in the Freedom Walk in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania a couple of weeks ago)
Around 300 years ago, a religious group of people suffered severe persecution in Switzerland. A certain Lord Ribeaupierre invited those people to come and live in Alsace, France and farm the land. Among his conditions were that the people take a ‘vow of silence’ and refrain from any kind of witnessing or proselytizing. They agreed, moved, and withdrew as religious communities from the outside world. Later, many emigrated to the United States.
This story is about the Anabaptists, who are still around and known as Mennonites, Amish, and Brethren. And strange as it may sound, this is the reason I went to Pennsylvania last week.
Sins committed in the past can be confessed, repented of, and forgiven in the present. God leads individuals and groups today to stand humbly in the place of their ancestors and deal with these sins. This work of reconciliation breaks off generational curse of sin and spiritual strongholds that affect and imprison places today.
A team of people from my church in France flew to Pennsylvania to ask forgiveness for having imposed the ‘vow of silence’ and to intercede (pray for) Lancaster by joining a group of various believers to complete a prayer walk around the perimeter of Lancaster county.
I was invited to join by the leaders of the prayer walk (who are good friends), and to help with translating for the French team!
And it was awesome.
Revival is coming to Lancaster.
Revival is coming to the Amish.
We saw some of the beginning signs of this in the 5 Amish families who prayer walked with us! A few years ago, they were given a supernatural healing ministry and were consequently excommunicated from the Amish church. Now they are a community and call their work Light of Hope Ministries. They see themselves as bridging the gap between the Amish and the rest of the Christian community. I LOVED (lovedlovedloved) being with them, spending time with the children, mixing with another culture, and being challenged by their passionate spirituality and vision.
Read more about them here: https://charismamag.com/articles/index.php?id=17482
Because of the French team and their need for translation, I feel like God has also used this week to give me a second chance – (that I really didn’t deserve – to appreciate the French and the French language. For the last few years, I’ve generally resented speaking French and feeling doomed to substandard communication. Despite what people say, I know just how far from fluency I am! Not only that, but my confidence had gone way down after being away at BFA for two years…
So, knowing that He could, I asked God to help me translate beyond my abilities this week. There were MORE than enough opportunities to serve, and of every variety – French to English/English to French, simultaneous/phrase-by-phrase, informal/formal, one-on-one/group situations… and yes, many times it was easier than I anticipated. God was helping me! I learned several things: first, that I may actually be gifted in translating. Second, I learned better to dismiss the fear of being judged for my mistakes. The fact that the people in the French team all know and love me helped. I had to think about others first, and realize when they weren’t understanding… forcing me to be very NOT self-centered. Not always easy.
I’ve been on a total of eight plane trips this summer, and – what are the odds – been given a window seat every time. I know heaven isn’t really a straight up shoot from earth (more of a parallel realm), and yet, there’s something about that “God’s eye view” that takes my mind outside the box… and I smile at the big screaming deal we think we are.
Do you ever wonder what it would look like to fly over the US on July 4th in the evening? I do.
Perhaps you’ve heard the “buzz” about Bill Johnson or Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry. Maybe you’ve read a book or heard a testimony, etc. This is a group of folks that I think would gladly wear the label “radical”…or perhaps more accurately: “radical is normal”.
Bill would like to have the Church understand, among other things, that our job as the Body of Christ in this world is to make the miraculous common place.
I’ll admit that this challenges me…and I’ll admit that this challenges me primarily because the supernatural is still more super than natural. This often uncomfortable postion of standing in the natural and reading about, praying about and desiring the “super” is not a place I want to stay…it takes a lot of energy. Either I slump back on the couch or I press into Jesus and contend for something more. As far as I can tell, it’s this 2nd choice that Bill Johnson has grabbed a hold of and is running with.
In these messages, he sheds (for me anyway) some new light on several passages in the Bible. You simply have to listen more than once to grab it because he makes a statement and you know there is much theological unpacking to be done behind that…and then he moves on to the next point! 😮
May these messages become seed in your life to contend for breakthrough in the world of the Kingdom of God in fullness!
In my ongoing quest to juxtapose two teachings that come from different perspectives, yet both say very important things, I offer to you a teaching by Martin Scott called “Prophet as sign” and a two-part teaching by Dave Sliker of IHOP called “Signs of the Times.”
Both speakers make excellent, if divergent points about “signs” and I believe there is value in holding these somewhat divergent perspectives in tension. It’s the “triangulation” of two valid, well-thought-out, biblically-justified, coming-from-godly-people, and yet divergent perspectives with what we feel is God’s perspective that brings “3D” depth to our otherwise “2D” theological understanding. So, while I’m not encouraging that we simply listen to something and then find someone who disagrees so that we can wallow in discord, I am saying that we can increase our depth and breadth of understanding of who God is, His heart, and His plans when we tenaciously (in prayer and meditation) hold in tension two such perspectives.
NT Wright is one of my favorite teachers and since discovering him (thanks Martin!), I’ve gleaned so much from his insights. While he lectures frequently in the States, it’s very often in the context of very “established” denominational streams…the sort that probably would invite a renowned New Testament theologian and prolific author. Consequently, many people that I connect with in the States, mostly from “charismatic” and/or “evangelical” contexts might not have yet stumbled upon him. One of the reasons that I find him stimulating is that he manages to place his feet firmly in more than one theological camp. I love those voices that challenge my boxes well, without simply being from “another box.”
This particular message that I recommend here is “Can a scientist believe in the Resurrection?” It was given at the The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion in May 2007. What I found particularly interesting was NT Wright’s discourse on how we know something. Really worth listening and understanding!