Thursday Thanks (76-80)

fiveEach week (I aim for Thursday), I’ll use this space to list five things (items, experiences, people, whatever) for which I’ve been recently grateful. Consider it my “blessings count”. Ann Voskamp’s famous challenge to list 1000 gifts seemed daunting — I’m committing to 500, a task which will take me two years of weekly posts to complete!

Some holiday time put blogging off my radar for a couple weeks. Back at it!

1) Mountains
Part of our vacation was spent in Glacier National Park. Not a hard landscape to take — beautiful!

2) Friends
The other part of our vacation was spent visiting special friends in Manitoba. Some friendships are especially valuable, and one just has to treasure them. And we do!

3) Worship
Glacier National Park featured time at a Family Camp, and I was reminded how powerful it is when God’s people gather to worship honestly and openness. Heaven responds!

4) Bargains
I’m a deal-hunter, there’s no denying it. There’s a special pleasure about getting a great price on something you’ve been needing. Makes me smile!

5) UsedRegina
There’s another special pleasure to using a local website to get rid of items you no longer need. I’m going to purge my storage spaces and make some extra money? Yes please!

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailYOUR TURN: Your input makes this post better!

  • Did any of this week’s list especially strike a chord with you?
  • What’s one thing you’re particularly grateful for this week?

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Thursday Thanks (66-70)

fiveEach week (I aim for Thursday), I’ll use this space to list five things (items, experiences, people, whatever) for which I’ve been recently grateful. Consider it my “blessings count”. Ann Voskamp’s famous challenge to list 1000 gifts seemed daunting — I’m committing to 500, a task which will take me two years of weekly posts to complete!

Here are the most recent entries on my list:

1) Countryside
A relative’s wedding yesterday pushed me to drive hours out of the city into the beautiful parts of our province. Lush fields, golden canola, quiet grids — the city has lots of perks, but these aren’t them.

2) Hugs
I have three sweet daughters and a beautiful wife. All four are exceptional huggers. Count this man as rich!

3) Skin
A week ago, I had a nasty blister that had left a very raw and open sore. A bit of care and a bit of time — it’s nearly healed. Skin astounds me!

4) Music
Our church ran its Vacation Bible School a week ago. In the aftermath, we borrowed the DVD that contained all the songs the kids learned. It is a special joy to watch my girls, right down to my two-year-old find pleasure in worship as they sing and move to those tunes.

5) Quiet
Worship this morning involved a darkened room and some hushed moments. I’m all for energy and celebration — and I want to be even more for them — but somehow the stripped-down hush holds a special sort of essence for this fellow.

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailYOUR TURN: Your input makes this post better!

  • Did any of this week’s list especially strike a chord with you?
  • What’s one thing you’re particularly grateful for this week?

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Six-Pack (57)

Way too long away! I have missed every one of you, AND I’ve missed posting. Time to re-establish order in our post-sickness lives. Cheers to new days and new starts!

So let’s jump in: Here is the first Six-Pack of 2014 — the best pieces that have kicked off my year. As usual, selections are generally centered on faith or ministry, though we leave sufficient license to include who-knows-what as we discover it!

If six ever feels overwhelming, start with my two *Picks of the Week*, and move out from there.

For a steady stream of such links, follow me on Twitter to the right of this post.  Sharp quotes and solid articles are tweeted 3-4 times daily.

Today’s edition:

1) I Should Be Philip Seymour Hoffman (*PICK OF THE WEEK*)
Blaine Hogan provides this reflection on what others might learn from the too-soon passing of one of Hollywood’s finest actors.

2) Would You Convert to Islam?
This brief piece, from Geoff Surratt, nudges Christians to consider their approaches to evangelism from the other side.

3) Preaching as Reminding
Preachers often feel pressure to say something new. The point most of the time is simply to remind people of what they already know. Here’s what that might look like and why it matters.

4) How Christianity Gave Us Gay Marriage (*PICK OF THE WEEK*)
The eyebrow-furrowing-titled piece actually voices an observation of which I’ve long held some poorly expressed version.

5) Seven Things I Hate About Spiritual Formation
Can a pastor actually voice such a thing? John Ortberg does. And then he gives seven reasons why.

6) Donald Miller and The Culture of Contemporary Worship
At the start of the month, popular Christian writer and speaker Donald Miller ignited discussion with confession that going to church isn’t something he does much. Mike Cosper was one of many to respond.

May your week ahead be filled with life, as you seek the One from whom it flows!

leaveacommentYOUR TURN: Your input makes this post better!

  • Which link above was today’s best-of-the-best?
  • Why that one?

Direct others to the best of the bunch with a quick comment.

[You can subscribe to this blog via RSS or email, in the upper right corner of this page.]

Great Worship Music from the Loft

bethel-music-the-loft-sessionsOne of the finest worship albums I know is an unplugged offering by the leaders at Bethel Music. Called “The Loft Sessions”, this beauty is musically pure and spiritually powerful!

The videos take the experience up several notches further still, in my opinion.

Here are two samples of what I’m talking about.

 

 

When Worship Keeps You From God

I have deceived myself into believing that I love to worship.

Man-Driving-AloneThis epiphany has arrived (and re-arrived) in my car. Given the choice to drive somewhere with friends or alone, I will often reveal my introverted portions by selecting solo. One of my simple pleasures is to sing along with a worship album, transforming my little Pontiac into a 21st-century Tabernacle on wheels.

When Worship Isn’t

On one particular drive, it dawned on me that the song I was singing was authentically and deeply prayerful. However, a second dawning followed: Minus the music of that moment, I found it very difficult to pray.  This is coming from a guy who thinks driving alone is one of the best available prayer times. This is also coming from a guy who believes that deep and personal interaction with God is essential to spiritual transformation. This is even coming from a guy who, on a significant level, enjoys that level of interaction with the One I call Father and Master.

hard-to-pray1But on that evening, silence made me squirm. I realized that I was wielding worship as a wand to make me–the real me–disappear.  The music was my mask, and the harmonies were my hiding place.

What do you do when worship is keeping you from God?

You strip.

Strip down the worship–it’s got too many layers.

large_19_agent_orangeTraveling Vietnam in 2008, we were amazed to see the lingering impact of Agent Orange. Most notably, the human toll of this wartime herbicide is seen in lingering birth defects and health damage, now five decades down the road. Geographically, it is observable by the obvious lines in the forests where all previous growth was killed off in the deforesting attempts at flushing fighters from their lush cover.

Beneath the ugliness of chemical warfare, there is a sound strategy here: Strip off the layers, and hiding becomes hard.

If your worship–whatever its form–has created enough nooks and crannies that vulnerability and honesty can be easily avoided, it’s time to strip down your worship. It has become a stumbling block.

And that’s the easy step. Step two…

Strip down the worshiper–he’s got too many layers.

Even more key than your habits is your heart, though be aware that you may need to hit your outer expressions in order to target your inner essence.

Somehow unguarded openness needs to be fostered. For many, this is where journaling becomes a powerful habit. Some will even say, “I wasn’t actually sure what I felt until I started moving my pen.” That’s a writer’s way of saying, “I know a way to strip myself down.”

Writer or not, do you have a way of unveiling yourself?

It might involve visiting with a mentor or trusted friend–somewhere where hard questions are asked and honest statements are made. It might be through music or solitude or exercise or gardening. I see few limits on method, but a means is mandatory. ChangeMinus some thought here, the average person will merely move with the worship currents of assemblies or masses. While important, these frequently fail to strip us down to a place where life-altering intimacy with our Maker unfolds.

And if worship isn’t changing you, it’s time to change your worship.

YOUR TURN: Have you ever felt the limitations of your worship to connect you with God? What do you do to create or foster authentic interaction with God? How do you combat the inclination to hide or limit vulnerability?

Leave a reply–your input betters this post!

 

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Sunday Six-Pack (36)

Saturday escaped me one more time, but here is the latest Six-Pack.

The best ministry-minded or faith-focused articles I could find this week? Here they are, with some grace space for a bit of who-knows-what.

If six options stuns you, start with my two *Picks of the Week*, and pick up steam from there.

For a steady stream of such links, follow me on Twitter ( @JasonBandura ) to the right of this post.  Sharp quotes and solid articles are tweeted 3-4 times daily.

Today’s edition:

1) Autopsy of a Deceased Church (*PICK OF THE WEEK*)
Thom Rainer’s most popular post last week was this piece of post-mortem analysis on a church that he had sadly predicted would die.

2) 42 Leadership Lessons from a Disney Executive
Brian Dodd put together this best-of, point-form review as he listened to Disney’s Brian White (also a church elder) present at the Orange Conference.

3) Fired
In this recent Leadership Journal piece, Nathan Kilgore shares a few lessons he’s learned through an abrupt move from pulpit to pew.

4) Why Traditional Churches Should Stick with Traditional Worship…if They’re Content with Dying a Slow Death
Every church, regardless of heritage or style, will need to figure out how it expresses its corporate worship, and why it chooses that particular expression. Adam Walker Cleaveland interacts with a few recent posts to highlight why he thinks this is so important.

5) The Outside View of a Former Church Insider (*PICK OF THE WEEK*)
Shaun King was wrapped in roles of ministry, serving as pastor and church planter, back into his teenaged years. An unforeseen exit at age 29 put him in the unfamiliar role of church outsider. From there, he’s made at least ten insightful observations.

6) Jerry Seinfeld’s Productivity Secret
Anyone who has ever desired to “get in a groove” will be intrigued by this simple move that kept Seinfeld on track when he was still a struggling-to-make-it comic.

Blessings on you, my friends.  May the week ahead be filled with God in ways that you can sense. Tune yourself in, and walk on!

YOUR TURN: Add a line below to direct other readers to the best stuff above or to highlight the piece that gave you something worth keeping.

Your input makes this post better!

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Saturday Six-Pack (21)

Leaning heavily on the adage “better late than never”, I give you this week’s Saturday Six-Pack… on Tuesday!

The perk? Only five days to the next half-dozen online offerings.

As usual, these articles are mostly faith-focused or ministry-geared, with a bit of disorderly-pile-of-who-knows-what tossed in!

If you need help starting, begin with my two *Picks of the Week*, and move from there.

For a steady stream of such links, follow me on Twitter ( @JasonBandura ) to the right of this post.  Sharp quotes and solid articles are tweeted 3-4 times daily.

Today’s edition:

1) The Bonds of Freedom
There is great paradox within the Christian understanding of freedom.  This piece from Christianity Today‘s Roger Olson fleshes out the tensions that differentiate Christian freedom from the version many of us fantasize about.

2) Tracking Wonder and Making More Time to Create
This non-Christian piece from Psychology Today was my morning call to prayer.  If you need more time for living, your next move is worship.  At least, that is what I read.  For the original statement, click the link above.

3) Great Quotes on Great Leadership (*PICK OF THE WEEK*)
Anyone who knows me knows that I love a great quote. Tim Challies offers this list of the best bits he found in Albert Mohler’s book, “The Conviction to Lead.” (He reviews the book, which he calls “probably the best book on leadership I’ve ever read” HERE.)

4) You Asked: Does the Bible Separate Salvation from Baptism?
This brief but balanced response is offered by the Gospel Coalition to a question received from a reader, a question relevant to the whole of the Christian community, and helpfully clarifying to my Churches of Christ heritage, whose views get unnamed mention in this piece.

5) Why Should We Care About Advent? (*PICK OF THE WEEK*)
In regard to Advent, there’s one question that trips up more Evangelicals than any other: “Why bother?”  Elliot Grudem, for the Resurgence, offers a handful of solid reasons on why the pre-Christmas season of Advent is full of power and potential.

6) Top Ten Gandhi Inspirational Quotes
I have long loved Gandhi. I have long loved quotes.  This LifeHack offering seemed like a no-lose way to close this installment of the Six-Pack.

May your week be full of awareness and enjoyment of the God who already fills it with Himself and every good thing.  Blessings on you, my friends.

YOUR TURN: Direct other readers to the best stuff with a comment below, or weigh in on what you read.  Your input makes this post better!

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