Archive for October, 2010

Good article, cheesy photo

The Calgary Herald ran a nice spot on my book Seeking God’s Face in today’s paper – you can read it here. Although the article’s title (“Taking the struggle out of prayer”) might lead you to think I’ve discovered the magic bullet to your and my prayer woes, I have not.  Prayer is still work – which is what praying the office literally is.

Seeking God’s Face is a daily prayer book modelled after the ancient Christian practice of prayer called the daily office (more on that in future posts).  Office comes from two latin words, opus (work) and facere (perform).  The daily office is the work of every Christian – the service of prayer.

However, the photograph that accompanied the print edition article was typical church cheese – me holding my book sitting in front of a stained glass window in our church.  And I knew this was the photograph they were going to run in the article long before the photographer ever showed up.  Photographers are looking for something interesting in the image; and nothing screams “churchy” like stained glass.  I offered other ideas, almost begged for something different, but it was the usual suspect that ran in the paper.

I wonder if that’s the image many people in Canada have of the church and the Christian life – this quaint but dated, stained-glass religion, a very Sunday-ish life and generally limited to a building.  Can we not find something better?

But then again – take a look at stained glass.  It can be arrestingly beautiful, magnificent art.  Most of them tell a story through image.  And here’s the interesting thing about stained glass.  Without backlight, you won’t see its beauty, you’ll miss the richness of its colours.  But when that light shines through, they’re incandescent, almost electric that makes any neon sign pale.

What if Christians could be beautiful stained glass icons through which the light of Christ bathes this world in colour, the Church a masterpiece through which people could see the beauty and radiance of Jesus?

I still think the photograph in the article was cheesy but perhaps we just might reclaim the stained glass image after all.

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Kind words for a newbie

As a newbie to the publishing world, finding important people to say nice things about my new book, Seeking God’s Face, is a well-used marketing tactic.  The reality as a rookie author is that I’m an unknown to most people beyond my family, friends and church, and so for the book to find appeal beyond that very limited audience, the trustSeeking God's Faceworthy words of known or important figures is helpful.  So I’ve been seeking out endorsements, mostly from people who don’t know me from Adam – such a risky thing for these authors and leaders, to attach their good name to someone’s work they know little about.  What a good gift they’ve given me in these endorsements – not just kinds words but a generous act.

I’ve got to tell you, it’s a pretty sweet thing when you get a glowing recommendation from someone you really admire (to be honest, I took a little too much delight in some of these endorsements).  But here’s a few of the endorsements I’ve received lately.  Now I’d love yours too!

Seeking God’s Face melds prayer and Scripture into a companionable guide for becoming a participant—both listening and speaking—in the great salvation conversation that is the Christian gospel.” Eugene Peterson, author of The Message

“Inspired in every sense of that word and masterfully compiled, Seeking God’s Face is a prayer book always and everywhere to be treasured.  From our very beginnings, we have understood that fixed daily prayer is just as necessary to the fully realized Christian life as water and food are to the body’s sustenance.  The problem for many Christians – and especially those from Reforemed branches of the faith – has been the lack of prayer tools and prayer books that accord with their communal traditions.  Now, in this one volume, Philip Reinders gives the Church not only a solution to that problem but also a God-drenched prayer tool suitable for all of us.” Phyllis Tickle, Compiler, The Divine Hours and The Words of Jesus – A Gospel of the Sayings of Our Lord.

“Philip Reinders has rendered us all a profound service by preparing this superb guide for prayer.  For all of us who know we are weak in prayer, this volume will train us in habitual practices that lead to delightfully fruitful conversations with God.” Marva J. Dawn, theologian, educator, and author of Keeping the Sabbath Wholly and Being Well When We’re Ill, Teaching Fellow in Spiritual Theology, Regent College, Vancouver, BC

“Phil has significantly lifted the quality of devotional life in putting together in one book important components: the biblical text, worship, prayer and reflection. This is a tool for daily faith-development that I’ve looked for in some years. What an enormous gift. An important book to keep handy for daily devotions. It is one of a kind.” Dr. Brian C. Stiller, Tyndale University College and Seminary

“I have observed the daily office for many years and am always looking for new resources.  Seeking God’s Face is a great addition to my reading list.  Its short, encouraging daily prayers are soothing and uplifting.  Just what I need to get my day started.”  Christine Sine – Executive Director Mustard Seed Associates

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Going without knowing

By the end of this Sunday I’ll officially be an unemployed pastor – and by my own choice.

About a year ago, I realized that I was somewhere at the mid-point of life and felt this heightened burden to steward well the next chapters of my life.  Betty and I felt the strong need to pray and discern what this next chapter might hold for us but the pace of ministry simply didn’t afford the time and space to do that (or more accurately said, the way I had chosen to carry out my ministry didn’t create the space and time to do that).

Last March we had dinner with another couple, in town from Vancouver, who shared their story in which they took a year off from pastoral ministry, and the idea was hatched.  To be honest, the notion to take extended time away simply wasn’t on our radar – we never imagined we could do such a thing.  But after praying it through, talking with friends and figuring out how we could manage it financially, we decided to take the plunge.

“But why?” people still wonder.  I get that – this is not the usual thing to do.  But I recently came across a quote from Henri Nouwen, the Catholic spiritual writer, that captures well the impulse behind this decision.  It’s written to pastors but is applicable across the board.  He writes:

“In general we are very busy people.  We have many meetings to attend, many visits to make, many services to lead.  Our calendars are filled with appointments, our days and weeks filled with engagements, and our years filed with plans and projects.  There is seldom a period in which we do not know what to do, and we move through life in such a distracted way that we do not even take the time and rest to wonder if any of the things we think, say or do are worth thinking, saying, or doing.  We simply go along with the many “musts” and “oughts” that have been handed on to us, and we live with them as if they were authentic translations of the Gospel of our Lord.”

I don’t want to go along with the musts or oughts that have been handed to me.  Mostly, this decision is a response to what I’ve sensed is an invitation from God to examine my life and how I’m living it, opening myself to something new.

So here we go, jumping without a net, in the spirit of Abram who was called by God to leave but not told where they were going.  Say are prayer (many prayers actually) for us as we head out going without knowing where to next.


Welcome to Squinch

Hello and welcome to my blog, Squinch.Squinch

So first thing off, why the name?  It is actually a word in the English language (more on that later), but I’ve named it squinch as a made-up, mashing together of “square” and “inch.”  One of my spiritual forefathers, Abraham Kuyper, once famously said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!'” 

He was talking about the breadth and depth dimensions of the Christian faith; it’s not merely religious piety, a one-day-a-week faith or an insurance package for eternity.  It’s a hugely expansive understanding of the world and way of life that touches each dimension of existence. 

But there’s more to the title too.  Life is so full and rich that sometimes a square inch (or its metric equivalent) is all I can actually fully take in.  I love the icon that writer Anne Lamott keeps on her desk to remind her of the writing task – a one-inch frame.  Why? She writes: “It reminds me that all I have to do is to write down as much as I can see through a one-inch picture frame. This is all I have to bite off for the time being.”  I sometimes need to discipline myself and limit my gaze to one square inch, to be present to what’s right in front of me.

And finally, what about that English word squinch.  Like I said, it is part of the English vocabulary.  It is a structure that provides an architectural transition from one shape to another; for example, from a square to a polygon, say an octagon, or to a circular form like a dome.  I think we’re in the midst of all sorts of cultural transitions and we’ll need cultural squinches to help us make the necessary shifts.  Some of what I hope to do here is thinking and writing on spiritual and cultural squinches.

Anyways, enough on the name.  Thanks for checking in and I look forward to hearing from you.

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