Saturday, July 15, 2006

A Beginner's Catalogue of Cellular Spirituality

i think there's real danger for anyone who says "this is what you have to do to be spiritual"; yet, i am fascinated by just how vast the spiritual life is. i mean, if you were to start listing all of the different things you see admonished in the new testament - different behaviors, attitudes, kinds of speech or associations - you'd get all manner of admirable qualitites, most of which [if you're like me] have no relation to the kind of person you really are.

foolish as i am, i decided to try and list all of the areas in which i thought the new testament really wanted me to develop. here is that list; however, please don't read the list and think i'm saying you need to "be" more of these things.

in fact, i think you should get your own list and quit copying mine.

seriously, just try it and see if you're as amazed as i was at the tremendous reach of god's spirit and calling to you.

the list:

  1. love
  2. peace
  3. grace
  4. truth
  5. beauty
  6. goodness
  7. joy
  8. patience
  9. kindness
  10. gentleness
  11. self-control
  12. humility
  13. selflessness
  14. self-sacrifice
  15. honor
  16. service
  17. discipline
  18. faith
  19. righteousness
  20. godliness
  21. knowledge
  22. wisdom
  23. diligence
  24. moral excellence
  25. perseverance
  26. brotherly kindness
  27. fruitfulness
  28. justice
  29. mercy
  30. compassion
  31. excellence
  32. poor in spirit
  33. peacemaker
  34. maturity
  35. hope
  36. ability to overcome fear
  37. courage
  38. identity
  39. freedom
  40. play
  41. godly pleasure
  42. empathy
  43. sympathy
  44. dreams
  45. visions
  46. submission to authority
  47. submission to god
  48. cooperation
  49. means of dealing with conflict
  50. discernment
  51. fairness
  52. redress of wrongs
  53. repentance
  54. recompense
  55. inclusivity
  56. hospitality
  57. modesty
  58. generosity
  59. gift giving
  60. self-awareness
  61. responsibility
  62. environmental concerns
  63. concern for life
  64. community participation
  65. fellowship
  66. celebration
  67. hope
  68. intimacy with other people
  69. intimacy with god
  70. forgiveness
  71. trust
  72. pre speech
  73. theology
  74. evangelism
  75. witness/testimony
  76. participation in church/with other christians
  77. emotional healing
  78. divine, physical healing
  79. exhortation
  80. thanksgiving
  81. scripture study/reading
  82. prayer
  83. meditation
  84. contemplation
  85. journey/pilgrimmage
  86. silence
  87. solitude
  88. scripture memorization
  89. speaking in other tongues
  90. the interpretation of other tongues
  91. miracles
  92. fasting
  93. rest/observation of the sabbath
  94. personal study/intellectual development
  95. ritual and encountering god through ritual
  96. symbols and encounter god through symbols
  97. baptism
  98. confession
  99. blessing
  100. providence
  101. discipleship
  102. mentoring
  103. security
  104. treatment/attitude towards the other
  105. solidarity
  106. mission
  107. belief
  108. dialogue
  109. health and wellness
  110. uncertainty
  111. creativity
  112. imagination
  113. authenticity
  114. intercession

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Waterworld: A Response to "The Perfect Storm" PART V

Conclusion: Using the Storm Spear

Habakkuk made a decision to accept the opportunities that God provided through the crisis he faced while assaulted by the Babylonians. Knowing that God intended to bring good things out of evil times and evil situations, Habakkuk surrendered his understanding to God and met the oncoming storm head on.

13 You came out to deliver your people,
to save your anointed one.
You crushed the leader of the land of wickedness,
you stripped him from head to foot.
Selah 14 With his own spear you pierced his head
when his warriors stormed out to scatter us,
gloating as though about to devour
the wretched who were in hiding.

Today, God is still capable of delivering His people out of the Perfect Storm and crushing the leaders of the “land of wickedness.” He will defeat the Perfect Storm using “its own spear”, so to speak, by raising up the Stormborn to remix the Christian faith in a post-Christian world, in post-modern ways, using post-scale methodology. He will equip His peopele with whatever strength we need for victory.

17 Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior. 19 The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to go on the heights. [1]

Habakkuk knows that God is in control, despite what he sees with his natural sight – the “fig tree does not bud”, etc… - but instead he chooses to rejoice in the Lord who makes his “feet like the feet of a deer…[and] enables [him] to go on the heights.” This may very well prove to be a promise of our fleetness and adroitness in the midst of the Perfect culture Storm where nothing is certain except God’s promise to be with us. Note that there is not only a promise for deftness here, but also Joy, which is frequently lacking in many churches during times of crisis.

At the end, however, I believe we’re still left with more than our decision to fight-or-flight, more even than our hope that the Stormborn leaders can lead us back into shore after the Storm. I believe we’re left with unshakable confidence that God will be His people through any Storm, helping us navigate bad weather and giving courage in the face of crisis.

[1] Habakkuk 3.13-14, 17-19 NIV

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Waterworld: A Response to "The Perfect Storm" PART IV

An Alternate Ending and an Alternate Reality

Leaders in the midst of the Perfect Storm will be those who, in the words of Walter Bruggemann, “nurture, nourish, and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture around us.”[1]

In other words they will reimagine the world.

For those who choose to run – the flight-responders – effective leaders will cause them to void their bowels, to tell them the storm is coming and that survival in the hills means survival accompanied only by the bare necessities. In real-life terms this means leaders will push congregations and constituents to think more missionally and less about traditions while still pastoring these saints through a painful transition from the safety of calmer climates into a protective shell from the Perfect Storm. These are the people who believe that the Church in the West can be transitioned into the future, and – with some love, care, and strong leadership – be equipped to survive the Perfect Storm.

For those who choose to venture the storm – the fight-responders – effective leaders will drive others far out into sea and do what they can to provide them with instruments of guidance and navigation [along with whatever supplies and tactics can be gathered to increase the likelihood of a return voyage]. Practically, this means leaders who walk away from traditional models and methods and insist on innovative strategies for mission. These are the leaders who are led by their passion to be effective, rather than their passion for the preservation of the good things already in existence. These may be church planters and entrepreneurs who begin indigenous faith communities-at-sea, commercial enterprises as wings of the church, or undertake shared projects with state and secular organizations in an effort to focus on justice and charity. They will be the leaders who chant the mantra “don’t think church, think mission”[2] and they will call it out in the midst of the fiercest gale force winds.

But, if these leaders lead us to survival, it will be the Stormborn leaders who lead us back to land. Just as we need leaders with courage now to take us away from harbor, we will undoubtedly need leaders to bring us home after the Storm, either back from the hills or back to harbor from the sea. Similar to their predecessors who adventurously pushed Christianity out with the bravery of missiology and cultural awareness, the Stormborn leaders will utilize similar skill sets to remind us that no storm lasts forever and that we must once again make a significant change in the way we live.

They will keep us from getting comfortable when the Storm feels like home, for they are the leaders who understand that there will be something that follows post-Christendom and that post-modernism isn’t a satisfying end in-and-of-itself. They understand that there will be a whole future, where we can appreciate the immensity of our technological power and steward it well, where Christianity is redeemed from the margins to regain its Voice as a credible witness for Jesus Christ, and where self-reference once again becomes participation in the divine.

[1] Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination (Minneapolis, Fortress Press, 2001), p.3.

[2] Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch, The Shaping of Things to Come (Massachusetts, Hendrickson, 2003), p.81.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Waterworld: A Response to "The Perfect Storm" PART III

A Different Fate for America?

I think the answer is different here for USAmericans than for most of the West.

For USAmericans, the Achille’s heel will be post-Christendom. Since moving to Michigan from Vancouver, B.C. I am amazed at the groundwater of Christendom – everything here leaks Christian imperialism [bumper stickers, music, films, conversations, schools, media, commerce, politics] in a way I thought was only true in lampoons and parodies. When I tell people I’m from a place where I avoiding using the term “pastor” [I frequently replaced it with “priest”] because that term typically required definition [i.e. no one seemed to know what a “pastor” was], the responses always consist of shock and personal affrontedness [even on the part of atheists and cynics].

Even the atheists in America are part of the assembly line of Christendom, a kind-of quality control for the unsound, fulfilling a similar function to a factory stress-test.

USAmericans just simply cannot fathom a western world without a Christian nation at the center, even if they understand Christianity’s role at the center to be worthy of ridicule and mistrust.

For the rest of the West, and we really ought to include USAmerica in this category as well, the battle we are least equipped to fight is that of post-scale. Our imagination for the potential harm of our interconnectedness has not caught up with our fascination over our genius. We are still so excited that we can outsource to India that we have not thought through the long-term economic implications of taking away hundreds of thousands of jobs from people who do not have the innovation and creativity quotient required to survive in an information industry. We are still so impressed with our ability to create weapons that we now possess an estimated 70,000 nuclear warheads stockpiled by the nations of the world. Atmospheric tests of arms stockpiles have released fallout figures equal to 40,000 Hiroshimas[1] and the accumulated waste will take hundreds of billions of dollars and at least another half century to clean up.

Furthermore, we have no concept of what might happen when the small, tribal-identity groups of global culture begin to unite in transnational identities and become discontent with national authority – through robotics and radio controlled weaponry it is conceivable that we could have a coup d’etats within the United States lead by expatriots who never even return to the country! We have no concept yet for the fact that cities inspire more patriotism than most countries – particularly in places like Mexico and Canada where the quality of life differs antithetically from the rural to the urban [compare Toronto with Enderby, or Cabo San Lucas with the mountains of Chihuahua], and where succession may be occuring unofficially without the required consent of a public vote or democratic sanction.

The sad truth of the post-scale world is that the implications of our actions are still beyond our understanding. We don’t fully understand globalization, we don’t fully realize the phenomenon of the internet-as-parent, and we have no reliable lens with which to view the dystopia of a thousand credible [or even discredited] voices we cannot control or monitor and whom our children may find fascinating.

In such a world we need leaders who are active proponents and purveryors of meaning and relationship. We need those who can guide our communities into an alternative future where we run less risk of inadvertantly killing one another through carelessness and ignorance and instead learn to rule ourselves with love and welcome one another into symbiosis.

I’d also like to make one final note about this season of bad weather, and that is to note the geography of The Perfect Storm. The Perfect Storm is decidedly zephyr-like in that it is a westerly wind and, as much as there may be cause to despair about the loss of influence among Christ-followers in the west, there is so much to celebrate about the rise of Christianity in other parts of the world.

The spread of Christianity in Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia is such that we can already begin to see that, in the words of Mark Pierson, “the true hope for the West will not come from the West”; and, while Pierson may be assuming more than we’re comfortable with here, he reminds us that western Christians are not the only Christians on the planet. As we’re experiencing our Perfect Storm, the rest of global Christianity is experiencing a planetary springtime of spirituality. It may very well be that, as we’re sailing and fighting for our lives or huddled into caves in the hills, that our southern and eastern brothers and sisters are sending out search parties looking for staunch survivors who refuse to be swallowed in order to bring us home safer and more whole.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Waterworld: A Response to "The Perfect Storm" PART II

Fight or Flight? Weathering the Perfect Storm

In any crisis situation, animal instinct responds to danger in one of two ways: either facing the threat or avoiding the threat. This is commonly understood as the fight-or-flight response and was first described by Walter Cannon as acute stress response in 1929.[1] The peculiar thing about acute stress response is that any animal – regardless of its natural aggressiveness or tendency towards violence – can be chemically provoked to fight-or-flight depending on specific physiological actions in the nervous system [i.e. depending on what chemicals the brain chooses to release at that given point in time, the animal may run away or choose to combat the threat].

It would na├»ve to think that there will only be one “Christian” repsonse to the Perfect Storm; rather, I believe we’re likely to see that western Christians will exhibit both flight and fight responses based upon the “chemicals” released by their churches, pastors, media, personalities, and a host of other factors. Those who choose to fight will weather the storm differently than those who seek to escape it; and, for our purposes here, we might best understand the fight-response as a willingness to embrace post-modernism, post-Christendom, and post-scale thus re-mixing our Christianity at sea; while the flight-response might be understood as an avoidance of these cultural cavalcades in hopes of retaining the Christian culture we have now.


The first response of an animal in flight is to void the bowels to shed excess weight that may slow down the animal during its escape. Christians and churches that want to survive the Perfect Storm by running to the hills must similarly void themselves and their communities of waste, excess baggage, and non-essentials in order to have any chance of survival.

Examples of this waste almost certainly include denominational bickering [between denominations over doctrinal issues, and within denominations about status, prestige, etc…], local politics [power struggles within local congregations, worship wars, etc…], maintainence of the eccelesial status quo [a “keep-them-happy” approach to congregational life], avoiding conflict [rather than acknowledging that conflict is often necessary for resolution and that conflict does not have to be unkind], and conformity among constituents [pushing for sameness in behavior and belief].

If the flight-respondees neglect this voiding process they may find that instead of being able to quickly and successfully escape the Perfect Storm they are caught right in the middle of it while trying to figure out what they’d like to save for later.

Incidentally, just prior to Hurrican Katrina, many of the residents of New Orleans neglected to think through what could be preserved in the face of a Hurricane and, as a result, left many things behind in their homes with the assumption that they could be retrieved later.[2] Both perishable and non-perishable items deteriorated into giant poisonous lakes of garbage and disease, as home video components merged with left-over refrigerator contents into a noxious primordial soup that remained behind to afflict survivers with foul smells and airborne maladies.[3]

Perhaps more than anything, this serves to illustrate to those who will take flight the great altruism of any storm: you only keep what you keep with you. And, when you return, you return home to find grottos turned ghettos and streets become swamps, where everything that once gave you life and pleasure has spoiled and remains to supply sickness and sorrow.

The sad truth of flight-responders though, is not simply in the tragedy of their displacement or the narrow-escape of their refuge, but in the horrible awareness that when all is said and done they are only equipped to rebuild what has been destroyed. Anything new will only ever be a better version of the same things, shiny copies of the past which provide no guarantees for future safety.

With the approach of the 2006 Hurricane season, FEMA workers are furiously preparing to rebuild levees that some are certain will not withstand category 5 hurricanes like Katrina. Architectural firms and schools compete for better housing development proposals, expressing innovation at every turn; but, for more money and less satisfaction, FEMA trailers are being distributed instead.




If the choice between two attitudes towards the future, as Steven Toulmin so eloquently put it, is one of imagination or nostalgia, then fight-responders are making the choice to face the future, not back into it.[6]

Those who choose to meet the Perfect Storm and weather it do have a far better chance of personal survival, but they immediately surrender solid ground; that is, when you sail into the waters you are given the opportunity to sail around the worst parts of the storm and are given space to maneuver and thus maintain a degree of control and the abilitity to “ride-it-out.” You do, however, lose any guarantees about ever seeing land again.

These are the people who can see that post-Christendom neither means anti-Christian nor post-Christendom in all parts of the world [partcularly in Southeast Asia, Africa, and Latin America where Christianity is growing exponentially without yet having become Christian-political heirarchies and cultures]. These are the people who anticipate “new and liberating discoveries as Christians explore what it means to be a church on the margins that operates as a movement rather than as an institution”[7] and reinvent how we live as a church, subverting the influence of the world’s dominant forces rather than protecting them.

These are the people who believe that the response to postmodern nihilism is not defamation or villification, but the provision of meaningful narrative – the story worth entering and believing in – to replace the existential and critical commentary that has led postmoderns away from the Christ and His followers. They are the people who understand that there is a difference between critical engagement of a culture and unthinking absorption into it, and who seek to avoid “absolutizing their own notion of what is essential to the Christian faith.”[8] They are the people who deconstruct the barriers between life and ministry, work and mission, play and worship, and offer to the rest of us a worldview healed from the dissection of modernism through the recovery of mythology.

Lastly, these fight-responders are the people who understand that post-scale doesn’t have to mean simply the end of geography and chronology, but the beginning of multi-dimensional relationaship. In a post-scale world, fight-responders will proclaim that no one has to feel alone because nearness is “a space in which we can feel at home.”[9] They are the people who understand that in a post-scale world “distance is a social product”[10] whose barriers can be overcome through technology, utility, and economy; and, where once that distance meant that it took incredible time and effort to pass information between communities – thus making those communites close-knit by virtue of pragmatism and convenience – now those distances are technologically irrelevant and inter-community exchange is done with equal ease and availability.

There are two ways that fight-responders may choose to engage the Perfect Storm that bear upon our discussion here: total daring, or calculated risk. In the former, fight-responders will take to the high seas with no relationship to the land or ocean floor whatsoever, trusting instead upon their skills as navigators and pilots or their luck and bravery. In the latter, they will choose to engage the storm while maintaining some reference or point-of-contact with solid ground so as to ensure a smoother transition back to land life. Those who engage the storm with total daring make no early plans to come ashore in the same place they left.

Those who completely abandon shore with no reference to land could be considered the new missionaries of the Perfect Storm. Leaving behind all traditions, all practices and liturgies, these brave pilots will literally do whatever it takes to survive.

Their course-of-action will be reaction to the elemental components of future’s fury, steering away from the most dangerous components of the storm while simultaneously lashing themselves to their vessels for security. We might consider mission their vessel, and the dangers they may face could be dislocation – a loss of place resulting in lonliness and despair – or being capsized – whereby the find their mission ultimately defeated by the crushing weight of cultural upheaval – or perhaps even drowning – choking on the storm itself because they cannot get their heads above the waters of the new world.

On the other hand, those who take calculated risks may invent some manner of anchoring themselves to the land and their past. Similarly to these designs by Harvard students [see illustrations below], these sailors may discover a way of keeping a lengthy anchor, or tether perhaps, that will rise and fall with the level of the sea. Within their marshmallow-like protective enclosures they may bring all the conveniences of home while they wait out the end of the storm, still riding it like those with complete daring, but simultaneously aware


that there will be life after the storm and that some planning can make reparations far easier.

These may be the ancientfuture practicioners whose mission vessel allows them the leeway to stay close to the parts of their past they still hold dear – the homes of liturgy, the street of creeds, the hymnal ave – while innovating ways to buoy their chances of survival.

Regardless of which tact fight-or-flight respondees choose, we can almost certainly speculate that they will spend more than a little while within the storm. In fact, we might estimate that much of western Christianity has been in the storm for several decades and that all of western Christianity may very well spend the next century within it. This, then, changes our understanding of how to live in the midst of the storm because we must realize that it is only a storm for those who lived before it began.

But what about those born during the storm? The Stormborn? What about those who don’t remember Christendom? Who’ve never prayed in schools or lobbied against abortion or voted Republican out of conscience? What about those who have come into a world where faith isn’t privileged, and there has never been a Christian right or a moral majority? Those born in the Storm will never have known any other reality, and the expression of their faith will be centered around God’s presence in the storm and the promise of land.

These Stormborn saints are men and women who came to life – either physically or metaphorically – in the midst of the Perfect Storm and have had to follow Christ without the benefit of national religion or median peer support. Consequently, I believe it is the Stormborn who will ultimately teach us the faith once again.

The Stormborn will be the first of us to foster community before the storm settles. They are the ones at home on Waterworld, and will be the ones who send out the first scouts to see if the land is safe once again. They will be the kite-flyers, the branch-gatherers, the divers and swimmers and fisherman in the middle of kite-killing, branch-breaking waves and winds.

Similar to the ways in which present-day young people, and the youth of each epoch of Christendom in addition, have pressed the Church to be relevant to the world around them, the Stormborn will be the midwives of faith-at-sea; for “the people who care most about whether the church is up-to-date…will always be the youth”,[12] and – in this case – that youth is not valued so much because of its inherent verve as its indigineous character and natural relationship with the Storm.

[2] NOTE: this is not a commentary on those who were unable to take everything they owned with them, or even those who had time to collect only a few items; this is a reference to those who naively left items behind and had been warned of the disasterous effects of a hurricane and refused to believe in its destructive potential.

[3] Westwinds’ youth have recently returned from a humanitarian aid trip to New Orleans and witnessed this phenonmenon many times over – both the destruction and the surprise of the home-owners.

[4] Alternatives to FEMA trailers by Marianne Cusato, principal of Marianne Cusato Associate as photographed for Architectural Record online. Cf. Cusato's traditional-style cottage is a 300-square-foot structure that can be constructed faster than a FEMA trailer for less than $35,000 (FEMA trailers cost an estimated $60,000 to $100,000 each).

[5] FEMA trailer on gulf coast during Hurricane Dennis 7.10.2005. cf. . Caption: “A FEMA trailer floats in a spot that was once a home for some residents. Their home was destroyed in Hurricane Ivan. Now there temporary home, the FEMA Trailer, is destroyed in Hurricane Dennis.”

[6] Stephen Toulmin, Cosmopolis: The Hidden Agenda of Modernity (New York, The Free Press, 1990), p.203.

[7] Stuart Murray, Post-Christendom (Waynesboro, Paternoster Press, 2004), p. 21.

[8] Dave Tomlinson, The Post-Evangelical (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 2003), p.45.

[9] Zygmund Bauman, Globalization (New York, Columbia University Press, 1998), p.13.

[10] Zygmund Bauman, Globalization (New York, Columbia University Press, 1998), p.12.

[11] Honor Award, Prototype House Competition for Architectural Record Magazine: Kiduck Kim and
Christian Stayner from Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. Cf.

[12] Chuck Smith, Jr, The End of the World As We Know It (Colorado Springs, Waterbrook, 2001), p.91.