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Becoming a People of Truth
February 8, 2017 | Michael Gulker
Becoming a People of Truth
Having spent three days drinking weak hotel coffee, my friend and I are eager for a strong cup of joe. Finding a coffee shop in the airport, we place our orders. While waiting, my friend inquires of the barista her country of origin. The barista smiles tentatively and responds in her rich African accent, “I’m sorry, what did you ask?” My friend asks again, this time with a smile, and she replies, “Ethiopia.” “How long have you been in the U.S.?” “A year,” she responds. “And has it been a good year?” “Mostly, yes,” she says. “Well, thanks for the coffee … and welcome to America.” A small, seemingly meaningless act of kindness in an unkind and uncaring world can be, rightly understood, a remarkable act of defiance—an embodiment and foretaste of the hope we all long for. I wonder if our barista trusted that small kindness. Or if, in the midst of our political situation and the TV news playing behind her head, these questions only register as threats. The next night, back home in my church small group, one member hesitantly offers a prayer for the immigrants caught in limbo. The room goes quiet. Should someone else pray for national security? Have we broken protocol? No one knows the answer, but we all feel the fragmentation of our divided body, right there in our living room. The left fears the right; the right fears the left. Yet both the left and right agree the world would be better off if their team was more firmly in control. Small acts of kindness and glimpses of hope are harder when so much seems to be at stake. How did we get to this point? And where to do we go from here? Recently, theologian Tom Wright shared a talk focused on speaking truth to power (which sounds so noble, but truthfully I’d settle for being able to speak truth to my small group). Fortunately, his talk also captured how we become a people of the truth and how to discover the lies that speak through us. To do that, we have to expose the idolatry that has set up shop in many of our own living rooms. Let me quote Wright, who says it better than most. At the heart of the biblical story: Creation itself is understood as a kind of Temple, a heaven-and-earth duality, where humans function as the “image-bearers” in the cosmic Temple, part of earth yet reflecting the life and love of heaven. This is how creation was designed to function and flourish: under the stewardship of the image-bearers … Called to responsibility and authority within and over the creation, humans have turned their vocation upside down, giving worship and allegiance to forces and powers within creation itself. The name for this is idolatry. The result is slavery and finally death … We humans have thus, by abrogating our own vocation, handed our power and authority to nondivine and nonhuman forces, which have then run rampant, spoiling human lives, ravaging the beautiful creation, and doing their best to turn God’s world into a hell (and hence into a place from which people might want to escape). Wright, N.T (2016). The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus's Crucifixion. New York, NY: HarperOne. I find that hell has invaded my living room. And I’ve opened the door to it by putting the nation (specifically, one political party of the nation) in the place where Christ belongs. I’m guessing I’m not alone. I’d invite us all during this time of fragmentation, anger, and misunderstanding, to pray for clarity about our idolatry, and see if restoring Christ to the center gives us just enough imagination for one small act of kindness—especially in the middle of our living rooms. This post is excerpted from our February prayer letter. To receive the prayer letter in your inbox, click on the button below. Subscribe! To the monthly prayer letter.
A New Book: Evolution and the Fall
February 1, 2017 | Christopher R. Brewer
A New Book: Evolution and the Fall
Rooted in communities of practice, we here at The Colossian Forum seek to equip leaders to transform messy cultural conflicts into opportunities for spiritual growth and witness. That said, a variety of resources are needed to equip or train these leaders so that they might be enabled to transform messy cultural conflicts into opportunities for spiritual growth and witness. We recognize that behavioral change takes time, often requiring numerous “touches” before a shift is observed. Moving from the common engagement strategy of competition to one of communion requires imagination––a new image, or series of images––what some have called a “traditioned innovation.” TCF sees publishing as one means to build and support a network of leaders practicing The Colossian Way, bringing value in the following ways: To capture (miracle) stories and learnings so they can be disseminated more widely. To provide mental images or pictures of the move from chaos and competition to conversation and communion. To invite leaders into a deeper contemplation of texts important to TCF’s formation and current ministry. To provide deeper, complementary training tools for The Colossian Way. To support the gathering of small groups willing to face into the fear and confusion that stems from cultural conflict, a concrete attempt to re-imagine faithful practice. Evolution and the Fall We have been working on a number of publishing projects over the course of the past year, and one of these has just been released: Evolution and the Fall, edited by William T. Cavanaugh and James K.A. Smith, and published by Eerdmans. Evolution and the Fall represents the culmination of three years of intense work with some of the church’s brightest theologians, biblical scholars, philosophers, historians, and scientists. The interdisciplinary group wrestled with a wide array of theological tensions resulting from evolutionary science and the doctrine of the Fall. As Christian scholars who take seriously the pressures of both science and faith, their shared goal is the shaping of an intellectual imagination that is “carried” in the practices of Christian worship. Practically, this means that their intellectual work is pursued as an act of service to God and to the church, with prayer and worship framing their questions and influencing the range of possible answers. The concerns of fellow believers are engaged and responded to with the “love pursuing truth” that ought to distinguish us as followers of Christ. Evolution and the Fall is available from the publisher at a 30% discount using the code 1071 at checkout (through May 31, 2017). If you prefer ordering by mail, you can send in this form for the discount.
A Humility of Spirit
January 25, 2017 | Jennifer Vander Molen
A Humility of Spirit
Last week I enjoyed being a history fangirl when I attended a lecture from presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin as part of Calvin College’s January Series. She gave some historical perspective on the 2016 election, outlining the evolution of our current primary system and how the party conventions no longer select the candidates. It was fascinating, but what I’ve been chewing on these past few days was her list of presidential leadership attributes. This came out of a conversation she had with the late Tim Russert of NBC. They agreed that journalists and the American people should focus on the leadership attributes of the candidates, not the social battles. Here are the five she discussed, which are also quite applicable to us as religious leaders. Temperament: how your nature impacts your behavior Goodwin pointed out that President Trump’s temperament is pretty clear: winning. But that’s not all the equation. History shows that resiliency is a key part of presidential achievements. Both Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt developed a humility of spirit through their adversity and setbacks, which paved the way for the patience, resiliency, and empathy that were hallmarks of their administrations. Surrounding yourself with key people President Trump recently tweeted a blanket defense of the diverse people in his cabinet. Goodwin said surrounding yourself with people who think differently than you is mirrored by other presidents. (She talks about that in depth in Team of Rivals, about the Lincoln administration). Inspire the best performance from your team Even though you have great people around you, they still need to perform at a high level. Goodwin observed that President Trump has shown himself a hard worker and time will tell if his team yields positive results. Find a way to relax and replenish Self-care is a popular buzzword right now. Goodwin reiterated that presidents also need ways to shake off the anxieties that come with the office. Lincoln went to the theater hundreds of times as president. Teddy Roosevelt was an avid reader and took a two-hour exercise break each day. Franklin Roosevelt hosted a daily cocktail hour where guests had to talk about anything other than the war. Goodwin shared that she hopes President Trump can learn from his predecessors and find a way to relax. “Leadership requires humor and the ability to replenish oneself,” she said. Amen. Communicate with your constituency Newspapers across the county reprinted each of Lincoln's speeches. Teddy Roosevelt had the gift of memorable turns of phrase that stuck with the American public. Every living room with a wireless radio heard Franklin Roosevelt’s voice. President Trump seems to have embraced the new media of Twitter, which may prove to be his legacy (it certainly garners a lot of our attention). Like many of us, I’m struggling with how to move forward in our deeply divided country. I draw hope from a quote that Goodwin shared from former First Lady Abigail Adams, “Great necessities call out great virtues.” As Christians, we are called and commanded to exhibit virtues like patience, kindness, and humility ESPECIALLY in times of great tension, division, and uncertainty. Maybe you’ll join me in reflecting on what a humility of spirit looks like—for ourselves, our churches, and our community of faith.  This originally appeared on The Twelve, a blog of Perspectives Journal.
TCF Welcomes Student Intern Josh Webb
January 18, 2017 | Jennifer Vander Molen
TCF Welcomes Student Intern Josh Webb
Last week, The Colossian Forum welcomed Josh Webb as our new student intern in the Operations and Communications department. Josh is an undergraduate student at Calvin College, where he studies in the religion and music departments. He will be working with us during the spring semester as he completes his degree. Along with his studies and internship, Josh works part-time as the Director of Music Ministries at Leighton United Methodist Church in Caledonia. He and his wife, Kate, married in June of 2015 and currently live in Jenison. Together they enjoy hiking, traveling, and movie marathons! Josh was drawn to The Colossian Forum by a shared passion for seeking grace and discipleship through conflict in the church. He is also looking to gain new work experience before graduating. He will be assisting TCF in several areas including weekly marketing and communications tasks, compiling and editing an e-book, and a market research project. Welcome to the team, Josh!
Finding Our Limits
January 11, 2017 | Michael Gulker
Finding Our Limits
Dear Friends, Many people undertake a practice of reflection during the holidays and in preparation for a new year. In that spirit, I took time to reflect on God’s blessings and provision here at The Colossian Forum over the past year. Perhaps the greatest gift of 2016 is one that came as a surprise: our limits. Not that we’re surprised to have limits, we’re quite aware of them (along with our flaws). No, the surprise was in how the limits themselves became gifts. Of course, limits don’t always feel like gifts, especially in our achievement-crazed culture. Throughout 2016 we kept bumping up against them though: financial limits, time limits, and limits of our abilities. As a creature of our culture, I have to confess these limits often didn’t register as gifts at the time. But as finite creatures of a good God, we can learn to receive limits as gifts meant for our good. For instance, through our limits we learned to depend upon each other as teammates. We had to rely on friends to help us where we couldn’t help ourselves. For example, despite the fact that we didn’t have the financial resources to run the Beyond the Creation Wars conference in October, Andrews University allowed conversation and friendship with our partners Darrel Falk and Todd Wood to continue to unfold. Our friends at Front Range Christian Schools in Littleton, CO are likewise hosting a public conference with Darrel and Todd at the end of this month, again, largely without our help. We also discovered new friends we didn’t know we had because of our limits. Some of these friends helped us take our work in new and exciting directions that we couldn’t have imagined. Others simply took our work and ran with it in new directions without us. We had to let go of control. And in doing so, we found that God is quite capable of running the cosmos even when we’re not at the helm. Go figure . . . We are still facing limits in this new year. The demand for The Colossian Way experience continues to grow and now well exceeds our funding base. How much of that need we are able to meet lies outside our control. Numerous organizations have contacted us desiring to take on and help distribute The Colossian Way. We certainly want to broadly circulate what we’ve learned and are grateful and humbled by these potential partners. Still, we’re not sure if or how those partnerships will happen. But we’re learning to trust that God will continue to provide in unexpected ways. My prayer is that we all grow in our awareness and gratitude for the different ways God’s provision touches our lives and our world. This may even take the form of being thankful for our limits! In this new year, I hope our limits will keep before us the truth that it is God, and not us, who’s doing the work. We truly appreciate all of you who keep supporting The Colossian Forum in your prayers, your volunteering, your gifts, and your limits. This post is excerpted from our January prayer letter. To receive the prayer letter in your inbox, click on the button below. Subscribe! To the monthly prayer letter.
I Trust You
January 4, 2017 | Michael Gulker
I Trust You
A friend shared this video with me recently: Karim Sulayman - I trust you from Meredith Kaufman Younger on Vimeo. I am so moved by how vulnerability is the condition of the possibility of peace. I am also moved by how deeply Christological this vulnerability is. It gives us a vision of what is possible through vulnerability like Christ's own vulnerability, coming to us as a poor child. Yet, without the resurrection, the world can't afford this kind of vulnerability. Because while this beautiful witness evokes the possibility of human goodness, especially when it costs us nothing other than a hug (however beautiful), we need a response to when vulnerability is rejected and crucified. What a blessing. We need such imagination.