Pew Note 1-14-17

 “Compassion is the sometimes fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else’s skin,” writes Frederick Buechner. “It’s the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.”


What If?


What if?

What if churches and Christian organizations had a vision to be “countercultural” in truly meaningful ways?

What if we woke up and realized that all our talk about “changing the culture” is empty because we are just as culture-bound as anyone?

What if we realized that ideas don’t matter as much as we think they do, and that practices mean a whole lot more?

What if we understood that the power of God’s Word doesn’t depend on us talking all the time, that expressing our opinions and judgments is not the same thing as letting God’s Word loose in the world?

What if we stood against the busyness, noisiness, activism, do-gooderism, media-saturated, virtual reality style of our contemporary world and instead offered churches as places of true sanctuary, true humanity, quiet, and peace?

What if our consistent invitation was: “Come to a quiet place and find rest”? What if we saw it as a primary contribution to our world to provide sacred times and spaces where weary, exhausted people could find true solace and retreat?

What if our church campuses were no longer dominated by functional buildings designed to be busy beehives of activity and pep rally enthusiasm? What if, instead, we cultivated gardens and glades, created walking paths and forest trails, developed lakeside amphitheaters for regular outdoor worship gatherings and church buildings that were essentially glass houses designed for contemplation of God’s works?

What if we, as congregations, refused to have any church programs other than providing opportunities for retreat and holding regular worship gatherings?

What if we sent people out at the end of worship with the simple admonition, “Go in peace. Be Christians!” and then just let everyone go live their lives?

What if pastors and “leaders” in the church saw their duty in terms of presiding over worship, and then spending the rest of the week out there in the midst of daily life with people, listening and encouraging, apprenticing them in the life of Christ, and caring for the poor and sick?

What if, as the monks understand, we taught each Christian that his/her whole duty was “Ora et Labora” — prayer and work — in the love of God, to bless the world?

What if we told believers that they shouldn’t wait for “the church” to develop “ministries” to help their neighbors, but that they are free to work with others in the community to formulate ideas, strategies, and programs for the common good?

What if we prioritized slowness, quietness, listening, contemplation, prayer, minding our own business yet being sensitive and available to those in need around us, a devotion to serious study and thoughtfulness, a charitable spirit, respect for all people and a willingness to engage all people in love and service?

What if?

Posted by Internet Monk  1-10-17

Pew Note 1-6-17

Our vocation is not a sphinx’s riddle, which we must solve in one guess or else perish. Some people find, in the end, that they have made many wrong guesses and that their paradoxical vocation is to go through life guessing wrong. It takes them a long time to find out that they are happier that way.

Thomas Merton

Original Sin – Richard Rohr

For some reason, most Christian theology seems to start with Genesis 3—which features Adam and Eve—what Augustine would centuries later call “original That is not what Franciscans and many other Christians believe. And this is notsomething the loving Abba Jesus would do. Because the belief in substitutionary atonement is so common and so problematic, we will explore its alternative—at-one-ment—in depth later this year.  When you start with the negative or with a problem, it’s not surprising that you end with Armageddon and Apocalypse. When you start with a punitive, critical, exclusionary God, it’s not surprising that you see the crucifixion as “substitutionary atonement” where Jesus takes the punishment that this angry God intended for us.

Why did Jesus come? Jesus did not come to change the mind of God abouthumanity. It didn’t need changing. God has organically, inherently loved what God created from the moment God created it. Jesus came to change the mind of humanity about God.

As our image of God changes, our image of God’s creation, including ourselves, changes as well. Jesus shows us what it looks like for God to be incarnate in humanity. He holds together the human and the divine so that we might follow him and do the same.

Conversation and Transformation

I am currently reading a paper I “accidentally” came across. Written by Peter Block, it is entitled  Civic Engagement and the Restoration of Community – Changing the Nature of the Conversation. It is a challenging read and contains some really powerful ideas about community, leadership and conversation, to name a few. Although civic engagement is not my immediate concern, I am finding his ideas are also relevant to spiritual community engagement. Though all the content is not likely  directly transferable to a  spiritual community context, there appears to be some important ideas that can be relevant.

For example, the citation below on Conversation and Transformation is personally painful. As I read it, I realized the conversations to be avoided or postponed, are  conversations I mostly engage in when in a small group setting. Since transformation is high on my agenda, and my conversations aren’t contributing to transformation, my interest in the article has increased significantly. Hopefully, I will be able to gain some insights into the kind of conversations through which transformation occurs.

Certain conversations are satisfying and true yet have no power and no accountability. For example, the conversations we want to avoid or postpone are:

  • Telling the history of how we got here
  • Giving explanations and opinions
  • Blaming and complaining
  • Making reports and descriptions
  • Carefully defining terms and conditions
  • Retelling your story again and again
  • Seeking quick action
  • Talking about people not in the room

These conversations characterize most meetings, conferences, press releases, trainings, master plans, summits and the call for more studies and expertise. They are well intentioned and valid, but hold little power.

These help us get connected, they increase our understanding of who we are, and most of all they are our habit; they are so ingrained in the social convention of our culture that they cannot be easily dismissed or disrespected. They just do not, however, contribute to a transformation.

Transformation is a change in the nature of things, not simply an improvement. More clarity, more arguments, more waiting for others to change does not change anything. If transformation occurs primarily in language, then a different kind of conversation is the vehicle through which transformation occurs. And the transformational language that is restorative is the one where accountability and commitment become viral and endemic.


To be committed means we are willing to make a promise with no expectation of return; a promise void of barter and not conditional on another’s action. In the absence of this, we are constantly in the position of reacting to the choices of others. The cost of constantly reacting to the choices of others is increased cynicism and helplessness. The ultimate cost of cynicism and helplessness is we resort to the use of force. In this way the barter mentality that dominates our cultures helps create a proliferation of force. The use of force is the essence of the past we are trying to transform.

Commitment, the antithesis of entitlement and barter, is to choose a path independent of reward. It is a choice made in the absence of reciprocity. This is the essence of power.

Pew Note 12-8-16

Jean Vanier, founder of the L’Arche communities, has written, “To love someone is not first of all to do things for them, but to reveal to them their beauty and value, to say to them through our attitude: ‘You are beautiful. You are important. I trust you. You can trust yourself.’ We all know well that we can do things for others and in the process crush them, making them feel that they are incapable of doing things by themselves. To love someone is to reveal to them their capacities for life, the light that is shining in them.”


Dear Shadowland Family,

If you read Emily Groves’ email last week, you may remember this quote from her:

“I don’t remember well. In fact, I’ve never remembered well. I literally don’t recall my childhood prior to age 12 except for a handful of isolated events. And when it comes to remembering spiritual milestones and breakthroughs in my life, I’ve come to realize that I forget more often than I remember.”

I very much appreciate Emily’s admonition for us to “be a people who practice the discipline of remembering” I would like to build upon the idea that remembering is an essential trait of discipleship.

2 Peter 1:3-9 is a favorite passage and helps to remind me of the importance of remembering.

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.”

There is a lot to glean from this passage. I find several key ideas about daily living in the kingdom of God.

God, the king, provides everything we need. When we enter the kingdom of God we surrender everything to His reign over our lives. We look to the king for not only sustenance but also protection and strength. Our days are shaped by our trust in our king.

In his kingdom we enjoy a relationship with the king that is deeply intimate. So much so that we are endowed with his very nature. He dwells within us. As we nurture that relationship, we will find relief from corruption and evil in our lives and increasingly enjoy the benefits of living under the reign of God our king.

Living in the kingdom of God brings the responsibility of being good subjects of the king. The fundamental trait of people living in the kingdom of God is that they are uncompromising in their trust of the king. For that trust to be demonstrated, we must use the knowledge and power he has given us to be effective and productive citizens of his kingdom. Our efforts are to be directed toward adding the qualities of goodness, knowledge, self- control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love to our trust of God.

If we are not seeing these qualities increasing in our lives, Peter says we are nearsighted and blind and have forgotten that our sins are forgiven. This is, for me, a critical aspect of understanding and living out the gospel in my life. As I consistently struggle with being a good citizen in God’s kingdom, what am I to do about my failures? And just as important, why do I keep failing?

In contrast to some Christian counsel on these questions which mostly insists that I “do better”, Peter defines the core problem: forgetting our sins are forgiven. Thus, rather than frantically running about doing better, or perhaps, giving up in despair, I need to remember and keep being reminded that my sins are forgiven. It is the power of the Gospel, the goods news, that enables and sustains me daily to be a good citizen of God’s kingdom.


I believe the need to remember and continually be reminded of our forgiveness explains why community (the body of Christ, church) is so important. In the absence of community, we give up the best source of and context for remembering our forgiveness. For that reason, I would suggest that an important metric for Shadowland is whether or not the Gospel is our centerpiece, and, to what extent every aspect of community life is in someway reminding me of the Gospel… my sins are forgiven.