Tag Archives: religion

Guest Writer: Shane Tucker ‘Aesthetic Spirituality’

I invited Shane to post here, chiefly because I feel a kinship to Shane. The artist and the spiritual formation learner I am jives so nicely with Shane’s outlook, and what he does as his life’s work. Writers, artist, thinkers, creatives, musicians, and so forth bring vital perspective to Christian Spirituality, and walking with God. Shane tends to this group, which is not an easy task.

Shane Tucker

 

Who is SHANE TUCKER?
Shane lived in Ireland for eleven years with his wife, two daughters and son. Now, he serves as Creative Director for ‘Dreamers of the Day‘ [www.dreamtoday.org] – a network utilizing the arts, spiritual disciplines, evocative messengers, and symposiums to engage people in their journey with Christ. He is passionate about seeing people live into their purpose in life, and he finds applications for that as a ‘soul friend’ (spiritual director) via Soul Friend (www.ArtistSoulFriend.com). He can be reached via either website or at shane dot tucker at gmail dot com.

Please enjoy Shane’s post, and feel free to offer your insights, comments, or questions.

Aesthetic Spirituality
by Shane Tucker

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”
-ThomasMerton

We have an innate quality to notice beauty at every turn. To know that something is ugly or unattractive we must, of course, know that true beauty exists . . and in some way, to have experienced it. We resonate most strongly with that which seems to offer wholeness or a sense of completeness to our lives. That resonance may also be experienced as a deep hunger. Seldom do we know ourselves well enough to be able to express those yearnings in a coherent fashion. Itʼs in those times we need a bridge – something enabling us to connect, to integrate disparate elements into a whole. . . into a sense of being whole.

Art – any method or medium of creativity – can often serve as this necessary bridge, this connection, between what we know and what we long or yearn to know. Art gives us the tools, the words, the motion to live into what we sense is already there, but as of yet remains unseen. In this sense, art itself is a means by which we find ourselves by moving beyond ourselves. Through art (the highest sort) we are transported into places and spaces where we can lose ourselves. Itʼs a gift to be fully present to, and fully absorbed into, a situation or individual where weʼve forgotten to be concerned with our own desires or even aware of our image before others. Iʼve had a few experiences like this directly and by extension.

One of those experiences occurred three summers ago while I was attending a festival of creativity in middle England. I sought out a band I wanted to become acquainted with and unexpectedly, during their set I was in continual awe. Through their skillful use of music and visual elements, I was caught up in the moment and I forgot myself. Classic. Iʼve had similar experiences standing on green, broad, bald hilltops around Ireland as I drank in the arresting landscape around me. Another example are Christmas mornings since my three children arrived on the scene. Experiencing the uninhibited enthusiasm and joy demonstrated by these little people as they open gifts and share their excitement with the family – these are moments of pure bliss.

In times such as these we are given the gift of losing ourselves . . more specifically, concern for ourselves. The end, however, is not the experience of forgetting oneself in beauty, wonder, and awe; or even that of knowing a deep resonance which affords us the equivalent of tonal tonic through lifeʼs journey. Itʼs knowing Him. I hear, see, touch, taste and feel the Creator in this God-saturated existence called life. Heʼs made Himself ever- present in the created order and ever-accessible. He has, in fact, painted Himself into the portrait, written Himself into the narrative and sung Himself into our lives – even into existence, in Jesus Christ. When we recognize His overtures of love, our moment is to respond whole-heartedly, in trust, recklessly abandoned. In His hands, we then become the artwork by which He invites others to lose and find themselves in Love.

“Those who want to save their lives will lose them. But those who lose their lives for me will find them.” – Jesus, Matthew 16:25

by Shane Tucker / Soul Friend (Spiritual Director) / www.ArtistSoulFriend.com

Thank you, Shane.

Can a Person Absolve your Sins? Drum roll please…

A penitent confessing his sins in the former L...

Image via Wikipedia (confessing to another)

About 500 years ago there was this spat. At the time, having your sins forgiven was a sort of pay as you go thing. It was a bit like a toll road.

The toll booth worker was the Priest. If you bought “indulgences” the Priest could better settle up your debt with God.

Handy little business model, especially when folks hope to avoid damnation, right?

This became rather upsetting. So these Reformer types started protesting. It was not so much to split from the Church, but to transform it–at first.

Of course, men can get pretty riled up about their new fantastic ideas (ever seen that?), and before anyone realized it, a huge split…others might say a heresy or rebellion… was cemented into place in history–forever changing the landscape of Christianity.

Spiritually speaking, some good was gained (and Catholics adjusted to these grievances by the 1960s with Vatican II), but as more and more people are beginning to realizing now, some very good and important things were lost because of going this route.

So, what is the real purpose of a priest, or priest-like figure? Is it necessary? Can absolution of sin come from a man in a white collar? What about a teenager in a crew neck? Or a lady with a scarf?

Drum roll, please…..

Oh!  Wait! Before, you start gathering firewood and a sturdy stake for my conflagration, please hear me out the entire way. (Then have at it; I’d like to hear from you.)

The I Timothy 2:5 “one mediator” verse is often used to underscore that Christ alone can forgive sins and be our mediator to God. It’s true. This was the mission of the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth.

But Protestants have, by the over-reactive trailblazing of the Reformers, missed quite a bit of the spiritual benefits of what Jesus’ brother James talks about:

James 5:16
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

What is James saying…that confession and other believers’ prayers are powerful and effective against sin? Yes.

GASP.
Okay, not a total gasp. But how does this play out? You may wonder…

This confessing to each other is not the same as be able to actually take Jesus’ place (obviously). James shows us that confession to each other works. It does something important. God wants it to be done this way.

It absolves us (because God absolves us). So, it is true that we personally experience the relief of our guilt being removed. We experience, in real terms, the agency of God’s forgiveness of our guilt. Someone is there beside us, standing in the gap for us, so we can be reconciled more thoroughly, more completely than we can experience it otherwise. It is God’s work; and we are agents of his ministry.

These confessors  to whom we confess become a flesh and blood representation of God’s love that promotes gracious forgiveness and offers wholeness. It offers us freedom from guilt (felt guilt, and feeling or thinking as if Christ‘s work is not complete). It puts flesh on our spiritual justification.

It seems we can’t handle our sin on our own too well, at all.

We are sinful, and it’s not a private matter.

Just confessing to God, and keeping our mistakes and sin to ourselves, is not the recommendation and requirement of Christ’s disciples.

The Community of God (i.e. the Church; our brothers and sisters in the Lord) plays a vital role in our spiritual growth and growth in grace. Confession ushers in that felt healing of the sin and guilt which weigh us down, and disables us.

Our sin is a rejection of community (aka The Bride of Christ) and an act of selfishness.

Our sin is a destructive thing. Socially and spiritually destructive.

Confession and absolution, (the kind you might say/declare out loud to another person) restore us at a core level. To ourselves, to God, and to community (aka The Bride of Christ).

In this way, we act not as God, but on God’s behalf. We minister.

It is simply true that he forgives us. We concur and offer social restoration, and remind the confessing one of God’s gracious work and love for us.

We minister to each other, on equal footing, and we may offer God’s grace to a brother or sister who cannot yet properly apprehend it. We can accept their confession and offer forgiveness, so we speak the Truth of God’s Kingdom into their life. We help set the captives free. (Not because God can’t do it without us, but because he wishes to use us this way.)

YES. We may say, “You have confessed, and you are forgiven. God absolves you. I, too, forgive you. Go in peace, and rest in his love.”

Please offer this to others. Ask for it on your behalf, too.

Will you comment on this topic, please? Your input is vital on this one. Thank you.

Prayer: Benediction

photo/link by Rolf Potts. (St. Petersburg, Russia Midnight sunset near Nevskii Prospect)

(I’ll be a professorial substitute on Thursday, and I’m really looking forward to it. Below is the prayer from Dr. Laurie Mellinger’s lesson plan for that night. It’s the Benediction Prayer.)

I post it today for your personal reflection. Sometimes we don’t make the time to collect ourselves this way. Here’s a our chance today. Maybe it’s also something you’d like to share with someone else.

Let us receive Your words

and treasure up Your commandments within us;

Make our ears attentive to wisdom

and incline our hearts to understanding;

yes, may we call out for insight

and raise our voices for understanding.

Let us seek it like silver

and search for it as for hidden treasures,

that we may understand the fear of the Lord

and find the knowledge of God.

For You, Lord, give wisdom;

from Your mouth come knowledge and understanding.

(Share your comments and reflections)

Traveling Light with Crazy Love

Francis Chan

We don’t just have upon us a crisis of faith, but also a crisis of faithfulness.

We’ve been reviewing Francis Chan’s book Crazy Love. I encourage everyone to read it. It’ll do you good. Also, it makes an interesting and thought-provoking small group study, or Sunday School class.

"Crazy Love" by Francis Chan

This last lesson was on Risk and Faith. Chan asked everyone to do something in their regular life that requires faith. He asked that we abandon the typical planning we do to minimize our risk. We should do something others could think of as silly, and allow ourselves to live and act in a more vulnerable way. We shouldn’t rely in our stuff to satisfy us. We should live bigger lives.

Along the same lines, Rolf Potts leads this sort of recommended simpler type of lifestyle. He calls it vagabonding. (I found out about Rolf through the Tim Ferriss site. Thank you, Tim.)For Potts, a travel writer, his style is not just a method of travel, but a way of life. It’s unlike the American way of life, because it does not trust in stuff.

I’ve wondered if it’s the case that in America we seem to act like “in god we trust” refers to the money itself, or the things we can buy with it.

We do a lot to feel safe. We buy insurance to minimize various kind of threats. We buy things we feel sure will help us, or at least soothe us. What is the lasting consequence of this approach? A false sense of control? Feathering our pillow of self-sufficiency? Other things…

Rolf Potts takes the theme of traveling light to a whole new level, as he now begins his No Baggage Challenge: Traveling to 12 countries in 6 weeks—With NO baggage (not even a man purse/satchel). [His blog details his travels, and his packing techniques are also quite useful.]

The journey of faith is the same way. When we seek out the comfortable, and we travel heavy, by preparing (mentally or physically) for every potential event, challenge, or threat–something important gets left behind. Perspective for one thing. But what else?

In the life of faith, “taking nothing for the journey” means that one must trust in God’s provision (and his way of providing), trust others, and build relationships. It’s not about what we’ve packed (prepared) for, it’s about the trip itself. It’s about being brave, and opening up to others, and the experience of not being weighted down (both literally and figuratively) by our presuppositions: What we think the trip should look like, and feel like.

You don’t like bumps, you say? Sorry, it’s bumpy. You just might have been insulating yourself. For some perspective… Think: padded cell.

The spiritual journey (journey of faith) is undertaken so optimal preparedness is removed as an option: It’s a method of living, not to be comfortable, but to survive, live, and eventually thrive, where you are, as you are. You come as you are. When the going gets tough–and it will–you stay. [The only thing you “plan on” is love and loyalty.] You work it out. You don’t let yourself have but that choice. You live has though you don’t have a chance/option to flee–like we are too often ready to do. We trust others, and God with abandon, despite the risks, or pain that may/will come.

Why? Because it is the surest way to growth, more rewarding experiences, and a sense of being in a Story bigger than yourself and your self interests. In spending ourselves, we gain our lives.

When we take a risk to help or love (without examining the our potential losses, and assessing all the personal risks) we live by and in faith, not by sight.

[Now, realize, I’m not talking about a life of folly, or veritable reckless behavior. I’m talking about being okay with discomfort, and sacrificing the known and manageable, for something greater at stake.]

What could that look like for you?
Please-Leave your ideas.

Maybe giving away the extra car to someone who needs it? Opening up your home for someone else to live in? Inviting a family to your home for supper once a week? Using a paycheck to buy someone groceries?

What kind of faith will you live by?

In this sense, a little pain goes a long way. Soon, our sights move away from ourselves in pursing selfless faithfulness.

AND-How light can you travel? (on vacation, etc.)

Comments, thoughts, and questions welcome.

Blooming Rose of Sharon, evangelism, and spiritual conversions

For mother’s day my family got me a Rose of Sharon plant.

Rose of Sharon blossom (from my yard)

My Rose of Sharon shrubbery

As you can see it’s nearly in full bloom. Although a lot was happening in the life of this new floral addition to my yard, it is the blooming that get us to notice it most, and think of it as really “coming to life.”

Working this week doing the Bible lessons for Vacation Bible School has gotten me to thinking a lot about ordo salutis (“the order of salvation”). This refers to the series of conceptual steps within the Christian doctrine of salvation. Evangelical tradition is particularly focused on “the decision” to follow Christ, and “accepting him into our heart.” While a choice is involved here that can change one’s life, we might be noticing the spiritual blossoming when we concern ourselves primarily with a person’s sudden conversion experience.

Today, my former theology professor, Ken Miller (of the Methodist tradition), posted quite an insightful piece on spirituality that we in ministry and soul care are wise to read:

excerpt: -by Ken Miller
Let me put this out there up front: I grew up in a revivalist tradition, in which a signal experience is what initiates one into the faith. Further, in that tradition it is more similar events which act as catalysts for further growth in the faith. Crisis experiences, usually building on emotions and culminating in a trip to the front of the church/campmeeting/crusade venue and subsequent prayer, are what create significant growth in the Christian life. These experiences likely have to do with the confession of a known sinful act or habit or the sudden realization that one’s current pattern is displeasing to God.

I am not about to dismiss the potential value of theses events/experiences. But I will question their sufficiency. Too often we watch the same individuals having emotional releases, only to return to the same patterns of life. It’s a problem at least as old as the revivalist tradition itself, as John Wesley himself struggled with it and created the Methodist system as a corrective. One could conclude, as Wesley did, that those who reverted to the old ways never really tasted the saving power of Christ; others, wrongly in my reading of scripture and Christian doctrine, claim that the experience itself authenticates one as “saved” for eternity. Apparently, change is optional. Tell it to Paul.

That brings me to the subject of the day, and of the brief passage below. Transformation happens not by an emotional experience, but by the renewing of the mind. We may well experience—and many may well need—the jolt of the emotions provided by the revivalist approach. But change will only come when the mind is changed. We need to think differently about things if we are going to act differently. We need to unlearn some things, some of which were certainties before the word of God pointed in a different direction. We will have to take a look at the ideas we’ve adopted from the culture, along with the ones we didn’t even think were open to serious challenge.

But there’s more to it than turning the faith into an intellectual battle with “worldly” ideas. As Paul’s argument continues, we find that we are called into action immediately, requiring a different attitude and set of habits toward the people we live with and encounter on a regular basis. Is it the case that these ways of dealing with people constitute the renewing of the mind as much as the bigger worldview questions?

Miller’s full article here:

It’s interesting to note that if we think one must be “saved” from spiritual separation from God–by mainly the act of a conscious choice–the mentally handicapped and others are excluded. It also erodes some of the proper understanding of God’s sovereign work (as if Salvation is “up to us”).

If however we see both the hunger to seek the truth about life and God, and also we perceive the work and indwelling of God, (seen best in the fruit of the Holy Spirit), we may be noticing the blossoming of God’s continuous work (of which is largely a mystery).

It seems we must be careful to understand the entire process, including the disciple-making (training) and sanctification process, post-decision…if “the decision” is even the crux of it all in the first place. For us it may seem pivotal, but later a deeper experience could follow, yet for God, it’s one long Story that includes his work, and us (individually) and the rest of humanity.

In truth we have a limited and frail concept of what God, by his grace, gives us.

What are your ideas regarding salvation or conversion?

Some flowery information:

(found here)
Chavatzelet HaSharon (Hebrew חבצלת השרון) is an onion-like flower bulb. (Hebrew חבצלת ḥăḇaṣṣeleṯ) is a flower of uncertain identity translated as the Rose of Sharon in English language translations of the Bible. Etymologists have inconclusively linked the Biblical חבצלת to the words בצל beṣel, meaning ‘bulb’, and חמץ ḥāmaṣ, which is understood as meaning either ‘pungent’ or ‘splendid’ (The Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon). The name Rose of Sharon first appears in English in 1611 in the King James Version of the Bible. According to an annotation of Song of Solomon 2:1 by the translation committee of the New Revised Standard Version, “Rose of Sharon” is a mistranslation of a more general Hebrew word for “crocus”.
The most accepted interpretation for the Biblical reference is the Pancratium maritimum, which blooms in the late summer just above the high-tide mark. The Hebrew name for this flower is חבצלת or חבצלת החוף (coastal ḥăḇaṣṣeleṯ). It is commonly assumed by most people in Israel that, the Sharon plainbeing on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, the Biblical passage refers to this flower.

Likely "rose of Sharon" Mediterranean Sea flower (lily)

Banqueting Table, Part 1

ONCE UPON A TIME~

You hear a famous chef will be working his magic at the neighborhood restaurant, so one night you stop by for a sumptuous meal. Inside, you are welcomed by a maitre d’. Curiously, he’s wearing a name tag that reads, “Hello, my name is: Friendly Maitre d'”. His large teeth settle wide and inscrutable, as he motions his branchy arm for you to follow him. A large room decorated in rich browns and warm accent lights and sconces awaits you. A marvelous walnut table yawns out, bare. Below the table is an enormous drop cloth. You sit as directed, and wait.

Gazing around the room, you shiver a bit in your chair, as you notice light and airy music just a bit out of hearing comprehension. A candle might be nice, you daydream.

Out of the blanket of quite three people bustle through the swinging door. One holds a glass of water, another plastic utensils and cocktail napkin, and then the chef brings up the rear with a partitioned plate in his hands.

“Sorry for the wait,” he says. We’ve been planning this for a while, but now that you’re here, we’ve had to step it up a bit. We hope you know that we want you to feel comfortable.”

“Yes. Very, very comfortable,” say the other two together. You spy their name tags. Both read: “Hello, my name is: Casual and non judgmental host (pre-friend).”

The chef doesn’t wear a name tag at all, but his chef hat has “chef de cuisine” embroidered on it, large and flowing. He is sweaty, but cheerful, and a bit out of breath.

“You don’t want to go anywhere else. You feel welcome, and at home here. This is the banqueting table, friend! We don’t want to be pushy. Just, please, enjoy,” he says wiping his top lip, and setting down the steaming plate in front of you.

“Soon after you begin your entree, we should begin with our spontaneous conversation,” says a beaming host.

“We’ve prepared well in advanced to be natural and friendly with you,” says the other.

You look down at your banquet meal. The cocktail napkin is imprinted with, “Psalm 34:8 Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!”

Appetizing Spiritual Food?

to be continued…

(responses are welcome)

Nothing says Crucifixion like pastry!

Being Crucified with Christ has never been so Sweet!

Yes, this is “Something Christians Like” in Jon Acuff style… you can’t make stuff like this up.
Besides the Lamb cake, (Lamb of God or maybe spring lamb… the jury is still out. See previous post.) my sis also brought over a Crucifix Pastry. She said a local Catholic-owned bakery in Mt. Lebanon (PA) makes super, delicious products, including religious themed items.

(To be honest, I found it a bit dry. This was remedied by dunking it in good coffee, and soothing myself with chocolate.)

I can’t help but wonder, if Jesus Christ had died by stoning, would it have looked like a pile of stones? Or, if the electric chair had been around…. oh never mind.

What do you think about religious baked goods?
1. No way-Not for me!
2. Not sure.
3. Delicious!
4. Other ___________ (explain)