Seek the Peace (Some Thoughts on Small Acts)

Last weekend Hillsong came to Boston University. Many, many college students went to see them sing along. The very next day we took a much smaller group of students to serve and learn alongside one of our neighborhood partnerships.

Quick aside: I don’t have anything against a large worship gathering/concert. I’ve been to see David Crowder several times. It’s a lot of fun to sing really loudly in a crowd of thousands.

But, I couldn’t help be struck by the contrast. Getting up early on Saturday morning is harder than going to a concert on Friday night. Interacting with grade school kids who are hyper and say anything that comes into their minds is more difficult and requires more energy than standing in a room with a thousand of your peers. Listening to people who have lived in Boston’s inner city for 4 decades is not as cool as hipster led worship/rock. Spending an hour and half in a quiet reflection is more unnerving than “Oceans” at 120 decibels.

I’m not trying to bash Hillsong. I am trying to honor the choice made by those students who came along to serve on Saturday.

Jesus said: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed.” Friday was awesome, I’m sure, but Saturday was mustard seed stuff.

What I get concerned about is the chasing of experiences. It’s way easier and cooler to chase experiences, to run after the next big thing, than it is to settle down, make roots, and seek the peace of the city.

Our event on Saturday was not designed to accommodate the numbers that went and saw Hillsong, but what if 1000 students dedicated themselves to seeking the peace of the city? What if 1000 stayed in Boston after they graduated to pursue God’s mission right here in this place?

That seed might become a tree.

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Losing, Vulnerability, and Idols

Today I sat in a meeting where we craft teachings for our broader community. The conversation ranged far and wide: worship, self-reliance, vulnerability, joy.

My dad is fond of quoting Woody Allen (which is a lot of fun to write) who once said: “The heart wants what the heart wants.”

What struck me in our conversation today was this: that statement is true, and leading people to say no to what their heart wants is really, really hard work.

The biggest difference between my work in Colorado (with a CTK church plant) and here in Boston is this: the people in our little church in Colorado knew they were broken, and people in Boston won’t admit it.

Here in Boston we can hide behind achievements and opportunities. Busyness and activity are our idols. There is always something better and bigger and more impressive just around the corner if we keep pushing and working and striving.

It is extremely rare to come across a self-deprecating, genuinely happy, average sort of person. (Like this guy). Someone who tells the truth about themselves, someone who is grounded and non-anxious.

In fact, it was mentioned in our meeting today that a person like that would be held in suspicion in most of the circles we run in.

This semester has been fantastic so far. Ministry is going well by several measures. I love the conversations I get to have as students share their hopes and dreams and struggles and questions and ambitions and fears.

It feels weird to, in some way, discourage students from pursuing their dreams, to not go for it. But often the pursuit of that dream becomes their god. And underneath that is the anxious striving of someone who can’t deal with failure and their own brokenness.

If there’s one thing I hope I can do for students it is to remind them that it is ok to be vulnerable. 

You don’t have to rely on your self.

We worship a big God, full of grace, who loves us for who we are not for what we do.

In the words of Brene Brown: “Vulnerability is the birth place of joy, love, belonging, and creativity.

It’s fascinating this paradox we invent for ourselves: the very thing we don’t want to do (be vulnerable) is actually the thing we need to do in order to experience all we hope for (love, joy, community, etc).

Perhaps that is part of what Jesus meant when he spoke of gaining the world and losing our soul.

From the Message:

“Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?

Leonard Cohen On “Hallelujah”

From a fascinating article about Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah:

“This world is full of conflicts and full of things that cannot be reconciled, but there are moments when we can transcend the dualistic system and reconcile and embrace the whole mess, and that’s what I mean by ‘Hallelujah.’ That regardless of what the impossibility of the situation is, there is a moment when you open your mouth and you throw open your arms and you embrace the thing and you just say, ‘Hallelujah! Blessed is the name.'”