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I just finished reading a book and figured I would post my thoughts on it here on ye-olde blog so here is my psuedo-review of Brian McLaren’s Finding Our Way Again. Just as a preface, I have heard about McLaren being a controversial figure within Christianity, but this book doesn’t really hit any of that so I hope to push those things aside for this post’s purposes. This book is essentially about looking to Christianity’s past to help us find our “Way” in this post-modern world. McLaren likes the word “Way” in this book partly because the first Christians identified themselves as “The Way,” partly because Jesus is “The Way,” and partly because he really wants us to picture our Christian life as a journey we are on and “the way” is the path we take to get to our destination.

Something I appreciate about McLaren in this book is he presents a reconciling and unifying front and roots it in the simplicity of being disciples of Jesus. He really works (and successfully, I believe) to reconcile religious fundamentalism with hot-headed social activism, and paints a much larger picture of Christianity than we typically see or show. I am also very impressed at how he expressly writes this book from a Christian perspective to a Christian audience, but he also writes to the other two Abrahamic Faiths, Judaism and Islam. I can only speak as a Christian so I cannot attest to whether or not he successfully brings along readers of these other faiths, but that he intelligently works toward reconciling them is a statement to his courage and peace-making.

Anyway, this book serves as an introduction to a series of books on 7 or so practices that we derive from Abrahamic faith, so by nature he doesn’t delve deeply into those practices, he simply introduces them and leaves the other authors to cover each topic in their book. He does, however, point Christians to an ancient practice, his three-fold way. I know that there is a little bit of a fetish with all things ancient within Christianity right now and I don’t want to seem like I’m jumping on that bandwagon but I think time-tested practices like these carry much weight and we should look to them for guidance.

That being said, McLaren discusses the three-fold way of Katharsis, Fotosis, and Theosis (in Eastern Orthodox or Greek terminology) or the Via Purgativa, Via Illuminata, and Via Unitiva (in Western, or Latin terminology). I love this process and many of us protestant Christians take part in it without realizing, but I like how the process gives us a guide as we journey on our way. Through a couple different things, God is showing me this threefold way all over my personal map and so I think it is significant and am working to make it more of a reality in my life.

This is an aside, but I recently started following my younger brother Kenn’s lead and have begun looking things up on Wikipedia like it’s my job. I know it’s a little nerdy, but it’s like hearing a conversation on whatever topic you want to know about, and the wealth of current information available to us is amazing. Anyway, I was looking up some church history and the article I was looking at also outlined this three-fold way as it is pretty standard teaching for non-protestant Christians. I started to get the picture that this is important when Kenji and I were discussing this week’s difficult JR High bible study passage from the book of James (4:7-10), in which James seems to be giving a biblical primer for this three-fold way. Anyway, all these were happening in my life at once and it seems like God might want me to take notice, so I am.

Back to the book, McLaren uses a couple AWESOME metaphors to describe this way and I thought I would sew this post up by sharing his brilliant and explanatory images. The first is that of a dilapidated shack or cottage. A nun offers a someone a place to stay and study within their monestary, but the only place available for them to say is in this shack/cottage. So the person needs to go the the cottage and clean it out to make it livable. He describes the cleaning and clearing process as Katharsis or the Via Purgativa, where we as Christians examine our lives (the shack) and clear out (purge) the things making it dark and inhabitable. He describes how it’s not a very comfortable sleep the first few nights, but as more and more is cleared out, it becomes more habitable.

He then describes the process of Fotosis or the Via Illuminata as letting God’s light into the shack. So once we begin clearing the shack out, we also let more light in and that Illuminates more that needs cleaning, but also makes it livable. He really camps on the images of darkness and light for sinfulness and God, as these were important Christian images before the light bulb was invented.

The final metaphor he uses explains the Via Unitiva or Theosis. This is the process of us uniting with God, becoming more like God and almost being “infected with God”. He uses the image of a fire-poker left in the hot coals. He describes it heating up, developing the same color, the same pulsing heat. It literally catches the coals’ heat, and even transfers it throughout the rest of the poker, though it is still black and seems cool. He talks about Theosis as our goal as Christians, union with God; and this image also alludes to the way that intimacy with God necessarily transfers out to others.

Anyway, this three-fold way is like a guide for what I try to do in my life anyway; examine the sin, purge it, let God’s light in and draw closer to God. McLaren correctly points out that these aren’t levels and one doesn’t move past or one, but they are all working together once we begin the process through Katharsis. I must say, I love the picture and guide this system provides, and am actively working on making these things a little more real in my life. So I really liked the book and it’s content, as well as the author’s writing and the chapters-end spiritual applications, and am trying to make these things happen more in my life, as well as look more to my spiritual mothers and fathers as guides along the way.

PS; Still no birth. Annie is VERY pregnant and VERY uncomfortable. Please pray for our patience and for her and little Groves’ health.

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I saw this on my friend Rhett’s Blog and I love it. I love Colbert’s immense scriptural and theological knowledge and how he intertwines his lightning-quick wit with it. I love the message the bishop is preaching here as well. How wonderfully hopeful and encouraging.

BTW. The Colbert Report is something I miss big time in my life now that I don’t have cable.

BTW #2. we are still without a baby. the due date was Saturday and we have no labor and no baby and we are getting pretty stinkin’ anxious. This is a time when I really need patience and it seems like I have so little.

update: I am an idiot and am still learning to use wordpress, therefore I cannot get the video to embed. if you click on the Colbert link and scroll down the video clips you can check out his interview with Bishop NT Wright.  That is the one to watch. sorry to those who were trying to watch that and could’t.

To clear up anything, my wife, Annie isn’t in labor yet, but experiences pre-labor or false-labor quite a bit. Pre-labor or false-labor is when the about-to-pop-pregnant-lady experiences the contractions normally associate with childbirth, but does not actually birth the child. Anyway, Annie has these contractions frequently, and the cool thing is that they mean her body is getting ready to get this baby out, which we both are really excited for.

Anyway, on Father’s day we experienced a doosie of a false-labor, and Annie wrote about it on her blog, but I thought I would add my two-cents to the blogosphere. So I got to surf a great day at Sandy’s for father’s day and Annie took some pictures for me. Right when I got out of the water, I noticed Annie looked very uncomfortable and as we drove home, she looked like someone who was in pain. So we got home and mom-mom, Pattie B, began making the father’s day dinner of fried chicken, dirty rice and creamed corn (it was AWESOME, btw). While this was happening, Annie and went into the room and began our relaxation stuff. We played her relaxing labor playlist she made, I rubbed her back and we practiced the mental relaxation. We also timed the contractions and they were very close together, but not super strong.

After about 20 minutes we went out to the living room, pulled out the hide-a-bed and threw some Friends on the tv. We figured it was going to last a while and so we wanted to do something else and not leave mom-mom out there by herself. So we watched tv and enjoyed the great food, I enjoyed a couple Sierra Nevadas with my meal and Annie became worried because she didn’t want a drunk labor coach (I wasn’t worried or drunk, it was a 3 beers over 4 hours and our trip to the hospital was a long way off, to be sure). After dinner we went to do the security check at church and Annie wanted to walk with me so we did, and then walked a couple laps around the parking lot to boot.

We returned to bed and went to sleep. It took me quite a while to get to sleep because I was pretty darn excited about the possibility of being able to meet my child. It is pretty awesome to lay in bed next to my wife and feel our child move through her stomach, but I am so excited to see what this kid looks like, to touch his/her skin and to even find out if it’s a Jonathan or an Anne. Plus the exciting thing, as my new-father-friend-Daniel says, that the dad gets to help care once the baby is born (Daniel is a new father, btw, not a new friend, we’ve been friends since we moved out here). Well, because of all this, I didn’t get to sleep till well after 11pm (I know, I’m an old man, that’s not late).

I awoke in the 1am hour to Annie telling me that her contractions were getting much stronger. I was pretty drowsy so I -in my extreme helpful-ness- tried to encourage Annie to put herself into a relaxed state. That is to say, I mumbled, “relax, honey,”. After this I was still my half-sleep-stupor and I was trying to pay attention to whether or not Annie actually became relaxed. She did not. Even with my incredibly helpful advice, I could still hear her breathing heavily and tightening her chest in doing so, and I also noticed she was moving quite frequently. If anyone is Bradley Trained they know that relaxation occurs with slow, controlled deep belly breaths that are hard to hear, and that if you are in your relaxation position you should be as mobile as a bowl of pudding.

So I reached over and stroked her leg and encouraged her to relax more. She did not appreciate this. Her activity continued for a few more minutes when in painful frustration, Annie kicked her leg against the bed (kicking my leg in the process, though not on purpose). I realized that she was clearly not relaxed and they my passive encouragement was the opposite of helpful so I got up, went around to her side, began massaging and did a relaxation exercise with her. It slowly worked and after a while she felt relaxed even though her contractions continued.

We stayed awake for a while longer and eventually, sometime around four in the morning, the contractions stopped and we both fell asleep. Thankfully Monday is my day off so I slept in a bunch. we were both a little sad afterward, though. We got pretty excited about the idea of meeting our child, and now we have to wait a little longer, but we are trying to be patient and are getting closer, by the day. As my boss and pastor said earlier today, “God is never early. God’s never late, but also never early.” So we (almost) patiently await this kid’s arrival. More to come.

I just wanted to point any blog readers to probably my favorite blog right now, Stuff Christians Like. It is a funny, sarcastic look at the things we Christians do, like, and say that sometimes aren’t right on, sometimes are hilarious, and sometimes just need pointing out. This is one of few sites that I really read daily, and this writer is just hilarious, but his site drips with theological and biblical truth. Also of note, the comment-ers on the site are just as funny, so check out the comments as well. It’s also fun to go back and start at number 1 on the list.

Off to staff meeting

So I frequently visit Mark Oestreicher’s blog.  He is the president of Youth Specialties and a great voice in ministry, youth culture, and internet fun.  So he linked his results from the Pittsburgh Paints test and I thought I would do the same.

My primary color scheme is called Waterbead and focused on blues and calming/restful rooms having to do with the ocean.  My secondary one was almond and honey and also had to do with rest and had a little image of a guitar or some stringed instrument like that. anyway, it’s a pretty fun test if you have ten minutes to kill.

to the three people who regularly check this blog I apologize, it has been like finals week at the Groves house.  We had about 2 weeks of big ministry stuff including a leader’s training day, 80’s bbq, promotion Sunday and more as we prepare for this baby due in 2 weeks.  Anyway, I will be posting soon and hopefully will make up.

Additionally I am working to add a resources page with some of the different YM resources I create in hopes that maybe others can be use them. Keep an eye open for that.

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