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Grand Rapids, MI

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Embarking Blog

...on the journey towards restoration of all things

Filtering by Category: Scripture

Shadow Mission

Tom Elenbaas

The shadow mission is the allure of centering our lives around something that is unworthy, selfish, or dark—a shadow mission. Ultimately, the shadow mission is derivative of the shadow side of our character or personality.

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Living With It (or not)

Tom Elenbaas

[Exerpt] So, I guess living with it isn't the best way of dealing with it... Last year, rapper Eminem (originally from Detroit) teamed up with Rihanna in a song called "Monster"... The reality is that we cannot "just live it." It's not that simple... in this battle, we are not called to suffer from, or even struggle with, but to fight against.

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Zombies, Doug McClintic, Rocky, Chumbawamba, & Toby Mac

Tom Elenbaas

[Exerpt] What do these five things have in common? Good question. I never said my mind worked normally... The dead rise and walk as a testimony to the truth that Jesus is no quitter. He gets knocked down, and then gets up again. And again. And again. Followers of Jesus are truly dead people walking. 

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From Nature

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[vimeo width="400" height="300"]http://vimeo.com/26400227[/vimeo] I've been reading the book Beautiful Outlaw over the last week by John Eldredge. Maybe you've seen some of my tweets. This book is a fabulous read and ranks up there in my library of books that should be read for basic spirituality. Why? Several reasons, but here's one. The book is about the personality of Jesus and his real, tangible relationship with us. Eldredge does an awesome job of helping us to recover a vision of Jesus is that is stripped of religious coverings. It's deconstructive in the best senses of the word.  In an early chapter called, "Is Jesus Really Playful?" John makes something of a profound door opening for me. It's not something I haven't thought about before, but someone it brought me deeper in my thinking not just theologically, but more personally. I've always known that God's qualities can be seen clearly in and through creation - that the Creator is imaged somehow through the things he creates... that his creations "reveal" him. This is clearly written in Paul's letter to the Romans in chapter 1. I've read that a million times, and I've thought about the heart and mind of the artist, and the fact that we are God's poetry (Ephesians). But this is so simple and profound that I've missed it all my life, and am so sad that I have because the richness and beauty of it is overwhelming. Listen how Eldredge puts it:

I was sitting out back yesterday morning sipping coffee, watching the young chipmunks chase one another at breakneck speeds across the deck. One clever daredevil, hoping to get the advantage, jumped up on the fence rail and continued to chase from above, leaping at the last moment upon his littermate like a Hollywood stuntman. This morning one of them adopted a new strategy. The little rascal found an ambush spot, clinging from the side of the house, where he waited for his playmate to wander by unawares; he then pounced, and the two somersaulted off the deck and into the grass, squealing. Only to dash off and do it again. And again. Now - what does this tell us about the personality of Jesus, who created these little dynamos with striped masks and boundless enthusiasm? - John Eldredge, Beautiful Outlaw, p. 19

Throughout the book, John asks simple questions like these about everything from the actions of polar bears, to the soft and sometimes powerful crashing of the waves. What does the gentle whispering of the Aspen, the thundering power of the storm - what do these say about the personality of Jesus? These "qualities" in the created world are qualities that come from our God.

"For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse." -Romans 1:20

There is something profoundly personal and engaging in our relationship with God - in our understanding of him, in our experience of his personality that comes blazing through in every detail of the world around us. How have I missed this deep truth all of these years? This is the power that I feel and sense of God's presence when I read Wordsworth - and now I understand why. He is responding to the personality of God in and through the world he encounters - not to mention every other great poet who ever lived. This is so much better than the "contorted interpretations based upon religiously bizarre images [that] only serve to push Christ further off into the ethosphere." (Eldredge, Ibid, p. 24) No wonder I find myself communing with God so deeply while standing waste deep in the cool water of a small stream in northern Michigan. No wonder my heart leaps when I hear the call of the Loon or the soft covering of a much-needed rainfall while the world is sleeping in a summer of drought. No wonder so many people in so many cultures for so many millenium have been drawn astray to earth-sun-or moon worship. No wonder they say to "Stop and smell the roses." It's not just to enjoy nature, it's to hear God speaking through his most prevalent and present art form given freely and generously to all people everywhere in all times.


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Power and Art

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There is an interesting passage in the first chapter of Zechariah that goes like this:

Then I looked up, and there before me were four horns. I asked the angel who was speaking to me, “What are these?” He answered me, “These are the horns that scattered Judah, Israel and Jerusalem.” Then the Lord showed me four craftsmen.  I asked, “What are these coming to do?”  He answered, “These are the horns that scattered Judah so that no one could raise their head, but the craftsmen have come to terrify them and throw down these horns of the nations who lifted up their horns against the land of Judah to scatter its people.”

This is one of those passages we might be tempted to read right through without stopping, thinking, and reflecting. I read this awhile back and was deeply struck by something that I think is very important, and it goes back to my post on an aesthetic apologetic. I'm still thinking a lot about the necessary changes in our apologetic that are necessary for Christians in the world we live in today. I was struck again by this recently when reading about The Rise of New Atheists in Salon. I'm still toying with the idea of two books - the first Beyond Apologetics: offering hope beyond reason and An Aesthetic Apologetic: art, faith, and life. This passage reminds me again of thoughts I've been working on in this vein.

In the Scriptures, the word "horn" refers to power. Here Zechariah is shown 4 powers. There are a lot of interpretations around this - the four powers being ancient powers that scattered Israel and exerted powerful influence or even brutality over their lives. These are often thought to be Babylon, Persia, Greek, and Roman powers. (cf. also Daniel 2 and Nebachadnezzar's dream - probably envisioning these same powers).

However, what interests me here is not so much the end-times interpretation, but the interesting idea that it is the craftsmen who overcome or throw down the horns. In other words, it is the artists, the creatives, the dreamers who overthrow those who use pure power and force. In a world in which (still) the will to power seems to reign (read Syria), it is the creative power of goodness and beauty that ultimately overthrows even brute force. Think for a moment of the terrible beauty of the cross. This most tragic of moments is a creative staging of humility and disgrace that is turned into the most powerful overthrow of evil we can imagine. It is God using - not the horn of power - but the creative power of his unimaginable humility that ultimately overthrows the powers of darkness. It is the power of goodness in the beauty of restoration that comes through death and resurrection that overthrows the horns of power in this world.

I wonder what would happen if we truly believed that we could meet the horns of power with the strength of beauty and truth. Would we see the true power of the craftsman (read "creator" or "artist") overcome the false power of the abuser, the violent dictator, the hegemonic bully?


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