Tag Archives: Church

A Year of Living Prayerfully

978-1-4143-9213-4In his book, A Year of Living Prayerfully, Jared Brock explores “man’s desire to know the mind of god.” He is humble in believing that his prayer life falls short and that there is much more knowledge to be acquired on this subject. As he embarks on a journey to far away places to learn from some of “the best” in the world, he finds that the more he learns, the more questions he has. Jared manages to keep an open mind in most situations by injecting a bit of his humor into every situation, which made learning about different prayer practices very enjoyable.

In my opinion, a book like this can be very unifying and reconciling. With a broader understanding of religious practice and a broader worldview, we can begin to humanize those who are different from ourselves, and those who seem to have what we believe to be peculiar methods of practicing Christianity. Jared paints a great picture of not only the knowledge he acquires along the way, but also how it affects his personal relationship with God, and how it can be applied to his life. He states, “Prayer is about steeping in the Spirit of God so loving that He totally changes you.”

Some of the highlights for me were funny moments, like the ones spent with Hasidic Jews in New York City. There were some scary moments, like praying in North Korea. There were some great learning moments, such as the Ignatian prayer practices he learned about in Spain. There were some beautiful lessons learned in France on sharing a common life. There were some important criticisms and realizations on American theology, as well as some questionable moneymaking practices in other countries. The last highlight I’ll mention is his personal growth and reflection.

I would recommend this book to those with an adventurous spirit, to those who wish to become a little bit more culturally competent in a light hearted way, and to those who are honest enough with themselves to acknowledge that they may not have all of the answers when it comes to religious denominations and prayer. You will learn more about Christianity and its roots. Incidentally, you will also take away some knowledge about community and have some good laughs doing so.

 I received a free copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.

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I’m a Media Bigot

In celebration of my 10 years as a so called follower of Christ I will be laying out my thoughts on what has changed, evolved, grown, or what plain old sucks about my faith. As I continue on in this journey of discovery of who I am meant to be before God, I just might have more questions than I did 10 years ago. I may just have fewer answers.

A big part of the lives of those around me most of my years has been media. As a new “convert”, in 2003, I found media to be annoying. TV shows and movies were filled with things the “Godly” eye should not see. Radio and Internet was filled with words the “Godly” ears should not hear. I began to realize that all around me was the lack of wholesomeness in the world. I soaked in verse after verse dealing with the subject. I began to question a lot at what seemed like the most logical place for me to ask questions. The church. At one point, I was surrounded by my newfound churched peers discussing their favorite Friends episode. This sitcom that ran through the 90’s is a classic example of what my newfound faith told me not to look at or listen to, yet all around me were people obsessing over sexualized characters on a TV screen. Next, it was movies. Then, it was music. Why are all of these people faking their Christianity and set on going to hell, I wondered.

I am both proud and ashamed of my media blackout of 2003 to 2005. I stayed true. I stayed in the word of God. Eventually though I thought, I couldn’t become a bible robot. I am alienating myself. I believe that this is one of the best realizations I have ever had. I am missing out on conversation. I’m missing out on getting to know people. I’m missing out on coffeehouse night where we bond over the open mic singing of songs. If outreach is to be successful you must be where there are people. Right? You must understand them. Right?

People are funny things. I now claim no righteousness over what people watch or don’t watch. Nor do I care what they choose listen to. Truthfully, I barely listen to any Christian music. I prefer the songwriting and passion of Dave Matthews to the mundane songs of a Christian singer songwriter that apparently can only play the same 4 chords with a pretty good melodic chorus.

Since I personally had struggles with who I am and who I wanted to be. (Maybe I still do at times) I can’t help but observe those of the people in my life doing the same. I have a friend who even today, still loves Friends, still watches rated R movies (sex/violence/language), still sings along to songs about drugs and sex, but stopped watching How I Met Your Mother because it started getting perverted. Newsflash, always been perverted! I have another friend who only plays praise and worship music. He will only sing of God’s greatness. He won’t even sing a Christian song that acknowledges brokenness or any negative emotion a Christian might have or have had. He listens to Pantera and Slayer in his car because that makes him think of his crazy High School days. While we are on the topic of media, his former roommate, who is a church Elder, will not knowingly pirate anything. He will not take part in the stealing of software, music, or movies. He is proud in this and loves to make others feel bad for it. Somehow, he has no problem with illegally streaming TV shows off of the Internet, or illegally sharing passwords for paid services to do so. Now before picking up stones and joining me on my crusade, understand that these people I am mentioning can somehow completely rationalize everything I just mentioned. Guess I’ll throw my stones back on the ground.

If the media consumption of the church tells us anything it is that we are fooling ourselves by telling others what is right or wrong in the media world. Lines are drawn and we are probably all on the wrong side. All of us. I enjoy an occasional show that is most certainly unethical and I have no problems with that. Anyone else out their care to admit the same?  I will not make excuses or justify my tastes for you. But feel free to continue to point out my shortcomings as a follower of Jesus. That only helps me think about your flaws and further divides us, which might actually be what you want. I wish it weren’t.

My friend Rachael makes a lot of sense.

“Sometimes we need to remember that the things we like don’t define our worth as people. So there’s no need to defend them from every single criticism or pretend they are perfect. Really loving something means seeing it as it really is, not as you wish it were. You can still be a good person while acknowledging the problematic elements of the things you love.”

Can we back off a bit and admit that maybe pointing out people’s media consumption flaws and telling them how they should be living their life may not be the most effective ministry? It is important to have spiritual discipline and an example to live by, but do you really think you can impart that by criticizing the watching and listening habits of others?  Doubt it!