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The Book of the Shepherd: Book Review

Shepherd
I was truly hoping to like
this book. I am a fan of the business parable genre as well as using modern day
parables to teach. The Book of the Shepherd sounded like it might deliver a
parable that would affect the way we live.

I quickly glanced at the
book and checked out the jacket credits and thought, “hmm.” Paulo Coelho,
author of “The Alchemist” endorsed it as did James Redfield (author of The
Celestine Prophecy) and even Meredith Vieira (co-host of the Today Show).

The jacket credits,
interestingly enough, had no Christian endorsement. I am not a person who
limits his reading, believing there is something I can learn from everyone, so
I sat down and began reading the smallish book published by Harper Collins.

In a nutshell…an ancient
book is discovered in the house of deceased Professor Orlando Roberts. The new
owner of his house, Joan Davis, finds the ancient scroll and has it translated.
The vellum describes a “New Way” of living, and the journey begins.

The story begins in a small
village where three events transpire that set the book in motion. A young boy
is abused by his father; a shepherd decides to intervene in the domestic
situation, and the young boys sister becomes guardian and is removed from her
home with her little brother. The set-up is a world without grace.

The book moves quickly
through very short chapters as the three travelers are introduced to various
people who have a truth to instill and directions for the next leg of their
journey to help them find a scroll that will reveal this new way of life.

There was never a moment for
me in this fabolic-quest book that I said, “Wow, that was powerful.” The
character development was shallow at best and never really drew me into the
story. At times I thought, “Okay, now maybe we will strike some gold, but alas,
it was always fools gold.

With each new chapter there
was hope for something profound to be spoken or said or revealed, but it never
happened. I felt like the author was trying to write an Alchemistic-esk book,
but fell far short of it on both the content, and the writing.

“The book has no teeth” was the phrase that keep going through my mind…and
then I noted that most of the spiritual maxims that the author brought in were
from Gnostic sources (The Gospel of Thomas), or other New Age writers. The
author wove the Golden Rule (treating others the way you would want to be
treated, reciprocity), with Gandhi’s, “Be the change you want to see”. With
these tow thoughts combined, the author creates a “New Way” for us to journey
on and calls this new way “The Law of Sacrifice.”

The Law of Sacrifice moves
us from the mantra of the Old Testament: An eye for an eye: to the new path of
loving our neighbor as our self. The author garners her concept for the new way
by adapting  St. Francis of
Assisi’s’ “Peace Prayer” and calls that the Law of Substitution.

I love that prayer, my only
wish is that the author would not have changed it, and then given Francis
credit for writing it.

So, save your money. This is
a weak book. Better yet, go and buy a book about St. Francis of Assisi and be
challenged to live a life devoted to the betterment of each other…I’m sure that
will have more teeth than this book!

~M.C Wright

Joy and Sorrow: Gibran

The-prophet I was reading through "The Prophet" by Kahlil Gibran on my hike today. Kahlil is considered to be the third most read poet right behind Shakespeare and Lao Tzu. Gibran was born in Lebanon, but his family immigrated to the U.S in 1895. His most famous work "The Prophet" has been translated into over 40 languages. As you read his ability to paint with words you will know why.

Relax and read as Gibran waxes poetically about the connection between Joy and Sorrow.

~M.C

Joy and Sorrow

Then a woman said, "Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow." And he answered: Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. And how else can it be? The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.

Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven? And is not the lute that soothes your spirit the very wood that was hollowed with knives? When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.

When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Missio Dei or Missio Moi’

Bad things
I was at a conference recently that had a powerful missional heart-beat. As for me, I am incapable of separating and dividing the functions of faith into nice little boxes that we all pick and choose from depending on our preferences. Some like to live in the prayer box while others dwell only in the land of the Bible study box, while others are barricaded in the social action box.

As I look at Jesus, he managed to integrate into his life and ministry all of the faith expressions that most churches separate into distinct expressions, and then try to make Jesus the poster boyt for whatever expression they happen to have, or think is the only right one.

The church, however, is most reflective of Jesus when we integrate all the various passions, instincts and expressions of our faith under a healthy missionality that comes from Jesus Himself. For Jesus His worship and actions all flowed from His purpose, so while He operated in many expressions, His missionality, or His purpose was the thread integrating them all into one. Jesus was not a poster boy for a social Gospel, a Charismatic gospel, An Evangelical Gospel, or a Contemplative Gospel. He was the beloved of His Father, and that is where the compassion that fueled His every action had its origin.

While it seems to me that God has established our prime directive, the reality that we need to have a "missionally-focused" conference tells me that we have missed it somewhere. Perhaps even worse, there are those who don't even see the necessity of the Body of Christ operating from an -others-centeredness. Instead, they see the church primarily as an entity to meet their own person needs and desires.

Which floods my brain with the thought:

We have a dead orthopraxy when the missio dei is subordinated to the missio moi'!

When the Mission of God is subordinated to the Mission of Me, we end up with a religiosity that is self absorbed, unattractive, and completely other than God's plan.

  • Missionality motivated by love gives us the incarnation.
  • Missionality motivated by love gives us Forgiveness and grace when we don't deserve it.
  • Missionality motivated by love gives us the Crucifixion.
  • Missionality motivated by love finally gives us resurrection!

But in church after church I see the missio dei subordinated to the missio moi! In otherwords, it is commonplace to see communities of faith so self-foucused that it has become a rarity for them to follow God's Spirit on a journey that puts their energy, time, and finances into something that doesn't directly benefit them. Then, viola!' we need to have seminars to remind us of the Prime Directive of missionality!

When we become better at justifying why we don't do something missional than we are at saying yes to Divne opportunities of "others-ness" our orthopraxy is dead, our love is selfish, and we have forgotten the Prime Directive Jesus gave us. Over and over again, Jesus directs us to a path of love towards all people.

As we love others because of Christ's love for us, and then allow that to be the motivation behind our actions and involvements with people, we have stepped into the realm of misisonality…we have made movement toward fulfilling our prime directive and consequently we balance all the other faith expressions that the Holy Spirit has given to the Church.

The ancient goal of spiritual formation was the elimination of the "I", or a self-centered spirituality. Instead, words like service, surrender, supplication, and sacrifice were the language and actions of a life formed by the heart of God. The ancients knew that the self-life stood in the way of the Divine-life. An emphasis on taking what God has done internally was automatically connected to extending that awareness outwardly to others.

The practice of humility, simplicity, prayer, meditation, even fasting were not to be an end in-and-of themselves, but rather portals to receiving grace and then the empowerment of the Spirit is within us to extend that grace. Today, we have become masters at taking a practice and creating a denomination.

Maybe a better way to look at it is by comparing our lives to either a bowl or a hose. For many people, their spiritual life is like a bowl. They paint the outside of their bowl so that it is attractive. They take it to places where their bowl can get filled up with all the things that make them happy thinking that "When I fill my bowl with happiness I will have arrived."

Many even fill it with good things like church, family, PTSA, scouts, and prayer. Then add a job, career, cultural toys, stuff & things, you name it, everything goes into the bowl of us. Then when we say to God, "Okay, I'm ready for you to fill my life, lead me, direct me and…guess what? There is no room left in the bowl for God to even wriggle in.

The empowered spiritual life is not about filling our bowl with spiritual stuff, it is about turning our bowl into a hose that becomes a rushing conduit of Christ.

You see a hose works both ways. It can pour out, but it can also pour in. Spiritual disciplines exist not as a bowl filler, but as a way to empty the bowl and then transform it into a holy hose that gushes with the grace of God and waters everyone it comes into contact with.

A hose simply becomes a channel or a conduit for what ever is being poured out through it. A hose really doesn't care about how it looks. only that it is able to maintain the dynamic force that is flowing through it. Similarly, our lives transform from a bowl of religiosity to a channel of grace when we begin to view our beliefs through a missional lense.

When we become that spiritual channel/hose, we are filled with grace, life, goodness, beauty, provision, promise, and everything that is encompassed in Christ. All of those things are given to us as we become willing to allow God to move through us. We create a blockage when we are self-focused, and the result is a waterlogged believer. We have been designed not to merely receive, but also to freely give.

Let's keep the Missio Dei in the pole position to our cultures infatuation with the Missio Moi' and I believe we will see God move in surprising ways!

Dei Gratia,

Monty