Simplicity and Art

Following a recent sermon featuring exhortations to embrace the spiritual discipline of simplicity a friend at Hope Chapel raised an interesting question, which I will put in my own words, “If we are supposed to live so frugally, saving all we can, what will become of artists trying to sell their works?”

 Another way to pose the question is ask, “Can a committed Christian buy works of art?”  Shouldn’t all the money I save from my exercise of simplicity be given to support God’s work in the earth?

 Following the logic of ‘Earn all you can, Save all you can, Give all you can’ to absurdity will yield this result.  What John Wesley was laying out in his sermo, was a way to think about the resources and the strength God gives to each one of us…that we should develop a Spirit-inspired vision for to use of our wealth.

 I believe one of the most important aspects of moving away from a rote obedience to the tithe as a form of Christian discipleship is that God wants us to partner with Him (and vice-versa) in ever-deepening relationship.  He wants us to ask him what to do with our lives and our resources…constantly, consistently.  This will keep us praying and listening.

 So my first reply to this seeming conundrum is to challenge people with the resources for purchasing art or expensive cars or any display of wealth is to pray.  Go to Jesus, say, “All I am, all I have is yours.  What do you want me to do with it?”  He will guide you.

 The second bit of advice I give to people with wealth who ask me what they should do in giving stuff away is this:  follow your heart.  I believe when we walk in harmony with God He gives us understanding into our own hearts.  I also believe he is pleased to put desires into our hearts, to break our hearts with the things that break His.  When we observe this work in our lives, then we are beginning to receive direction from His Spirit.  In taking time to learn what breaks our own heart…and also breaks His, then we can begin to spend our resources in ways that relieve that burden and please God.

 We can also understand those things that thrill God’s heart and begin to support initiatives that honor God and bring Him glory.  Artists and their work reflect the creative nature of God and reveal something of His character in the excellence and beauty of their work.  Their works should be purchased for that reason alone.

 The math is simple here.  In order to create more beauty an artist must be supported either through the sale of her art or in outright gifts of support.

 There are many other reasons for purchasing art or even expensive cars.  This blog is not designed for such in-depth discussion.  But suffice it to say that the spiritual discipline of simplicity should not be wielded as a club against the God-honoring work of supporting artists by purchasing their work.  Each believer should consider it his highest duty to ask God how He wants to use the resources placed at our disposal…and then simply obey.  God will direct.

We can be both frugal and patrons of the arts.  These things are not incompatible.

–geno

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I Hope You Had Fun During The Austin Marathon

In what has become an annual event at Hope Chapel, about half our adult population and a significant number of our teens and children cheered several hundred Austin Marathon runners as they whizzed through our neighborhood.

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Led by Suzi Raines and Jennifer Boltz, this yearly effort has become a highlight for many of us at Hope Chapel.  We hold our Sunday worship service on Saturday night and then turn out as many as possible on Sunday morning to hand out water and Gatorade, cheer on runners, and just have fun together.

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Because we are an official charity and water stop along the route, Hope Chapel also has the privilege of setting up a ‘booth’ at the Parmer Expo Center where each of the 10,000 or so runners must obtain their official ‘bib’ which displays their participant number and other gear.  While there we told runners who stopped by that we would pray for them, is that was something they preferred.  34 said, “Yes!” to that offer.

We also offered to cheer runners by name.  107 gave us their bib number and we were able to help energize each participant by shouting their names and encouraging them in this personal way.  Several were so delighted they stepped out of the race to give us hugs.

Marathon

I enjoyed the entire weekend.  It started while I was helping Jennifer staff Hope Chapel’s booth at the Expo where we handed out packets of EmergenC with Hope’s business card stapled to it while talking to runners about cheering them on or praying for them.

I took a break during a slow spell and walked around the expo gathering swag and talking up other exhibitors.  At the GEICO tent I won a cool t-shirt and a runner’s massage in perpetuity and got a photo with their mascot.

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On Sunday morning I participated in the shortest of all runs–the 5K (3.2 miles), where I clocked a smooth 39.02 minutes (just under 13 minutes per mile).  I was pleased.  I was trying to break 15 minutes per mile which is only a fast walk.  Here is what your intrepid runner looked like just after crossing the finish line.

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Whether you participated in the event in some form, or just enjoyed a Sunday off, you should know that Hope Chapel has built and continues to enjoy a great reputation in the city for being a group of people who love others, finding ways to substantively serve others.

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I look forward to serving Christ by serving others in our city with you all during the Marathon next year.

–geno

Here’s a video shot by Suzi Raines for your viewing pleasure:

 

 

 

 

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Common (Financial) Sense

In his book Money, Possessions and Eternity, (Tyndall House publishers, rev. ed. 2011) Randy Alcorn listed 10 ‘Practical Guidelines to Control Spending’.  I thought it might be wise reproduce that common-sense list here.  They include:

  1. Realize that nothing is a good deal if you can’t afford it
  1. Recognize that God isn’t behind every good deal
  1. Understand the difference between spending money and saving money (no ‘savings’ on purchasing $80 sweater for $30—saving is setting aside money for future use)
  1. Look at the long-term cost, not just the short-term expense
  1. Pray before you spend (God may want to supply this need / want for free or at a greatly reduced cost—TIME cover with C.S. Lewis)
  1. Examine every purchase in light of its ministry potential (could money be better used to preach gospel or help poor)
  1. Understand and resist the manipulative nature of advertising
  1. Learn to walk away from things you want but don’t need
  1. Realize that little things add up
  1. Set up a budget and live by it
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Responses to ‘Why No Ash Wednesday Services at Hope’

Kevin Daniel 2-3-16:

I will agree this is an unsatisfying response ;-) , but unsatisfying because it leaves unsaid what I feel is a minor point only… but worth saying nonetheless.

For seven years we have had others come to “our home” and lead us in a form of worship which many of us have enjoyed.

They have now invited us to “their home” in which the celebrate and enjoy this sacrament for the first time.

Geno mentioned we could go to a local church nearby. Why not continue the relationship thus far fostered and, as a community, make a show of “housewarming” Christ Church Anglican by attending their service specifically?

Did you know that after Brentwood Church of Christ sold Hope Chapel its building it later came back and enjoyed pick nicks in the park with Hope Chapel?

Yet, honestly, not sure I am one to speak either: I myself may not attend CCA’s Ash Wednesday service due to other factors.

Just my thoughts.

Tommy McIntosh 2-3-16:

Excellent, excellent response Pastor.

Steve Hawthorne 2-3-16:

I support this decision. I had long anticipated that we would come to this. We have been a huge influence for united prayer and worship in our city, country and the world. And we must aspire to a great vision of all peoples worshiping as one people before God in Christ. But following particular liturgical traditions, especially those with little or no biblical grounding, is not something we need to do because it is an ancient practice or that the practice is trending well.

Your note was wisely written. Let’s keep pursuing greater glory for God!

LaVerne Johnston 2-3-16:

I like your suggestion in the last paragraph and have already thought of friends who go to St. George and St. Francis.    Perhaps we’ll join them.

Leigh Adams 2-3-16:

If I’m not mistaken, Hope Chapel had Ash Wednesday services prior to CC’s partnership in them. But they were led under David Taylor and attended well by our Catholic friends who have since left. Donna Haskins invited me to my first. It was very powerful.

My first Ash Wednesday service was early on in my Hope days prior to Cliff even being back in Austin. Just thought I’d bring this up. It was always my understanding that we partnered with them b/c it was something we had both been doing previously. I do think they lead us into a Maundy Thursday service. I don’t have a strong opinion on the matter, though it does sadden me that we won’t be doing it anymore. It’s been an amazing piece of crossing the denominational lines… something Hope’s history is so rich in. We are getting more “normal” and probably focused so to speak. And maybe that’s God’s doing.

However, I will add that I’m saddened to see our efforts going toward something like the marathon rather than an Ash Wednesday service. The marathon is not my favorite thing… as a church-wide effort. It’s my issue, Nothing sinful on anyone’s part.

I try to rarely speak up about grievances. I know your job is not an easy one. I do respect that you and the staff do not feel comfortable leading in something you are not prepared for (your words :)

Blessings Geno as you hear from all the cats.

Yes, I just texted DT and he began our Ash Wednesday services in 2001. Just thought this was relevant to the discussion. Doesn’t change the outcome though, I realize.

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Why No Ash Wednesday Services at Hope?

(Editor’s Note: I sent this letter out by HopeMail earlier today, but wanted to also post it here in case anyone wanted to see its contents again.  –geno)

Dearly Beloved,

I have been asked on a number of occasions why Hope Chapel will not be holding Ash Wednesday services this year. The answer is a simple one, but may not be satisfying.

Put simply, our leadership, beginning with me, is not prepared theologically or liturgically to lead Ash Wednesday services (or Maundy Thursday services). Our long-standing Lenten practice has been to emphasize only Good Friday and do it in a now-typical Hope Chapel style, which is very different from the way liturgical communions celebrate these special worship services.

A little background may be helpful to understand my reasoning. Hope Chapel is theologically a descendent of the 16th-century movement called the Protestant Reformation begun by Martin Luther’s protest against papal overreach which he famously detailed in 95 theses he nailed to the village church door in Wittenberg in 1517. As this reform movement gained popularity across Europe it developed into a number of different streams. Hope Chapel is most closely descended from the Anabaptist movement (see the Wiki link below for more information).

Among diverse matters of church polity and forms of worship, reform leaders began to question to what degree the church calendar should be followed. As you can imagine, many different answers emerged. One stream determined that there were only five ‘feasts’ that evangelical congregations should follow: Christmas, Ascension, Good Friday, Easter and Pentecost (see Wiki link below for more information). Hope Chapel has historically followed four of the five through most of her history (all except Ascension Day).

An argument can be made that Hope Chapel can observe any day she deems appropriate to observe. And we have done so, as we have seen fit. So when our dear friends at Christ Church Anglican asked to use our building until they could acquire their own, my response was, “Yes, of course. And let us celebrate the liturgical celebrations of Ash Wednesday and Maundy Thursday with you in your traditional manner. And you can join us on Good Friday in our traditional manner.” We followed this course for seven years. I found it refreshing.

Now Christ Church has purchased her own building and will be joyfully celebrating the Lenten season in all the glory of their tradition. Cliff has issued an invitation to anyone from Hope Chapel that wishes to do so to join them for their Ash Wednesday services and Maundy Thursday service.

Because Ash Wednesday and Maundy Thursday are a theological and liturgical stretch for our leadership I do not think we should continue them without the leadership and support structures of Christ Church Anglican.

Additionally, I think it might be a good practice for those who wish to observe these Lenten practices to find a church nearby and join their congregants for Ash Wednesday and Maundy Thursday celebrations. This has the potential to promote goodwill across church boundary lines and open us up to the ways our brothers and sisters worship Jesus in different traditions.

–geno

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anabaptists

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evangelical_feast

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Serving Others Helps Lift Us Out of Depression

(Editor’s Note:  Diane Wall sent this in as a reply to Adrienne’s blog post entitled “Where I Have Found Help for Depression”.  I thought it was so well done that I elevated it to the status of its own blog post here.  –geno)

I have struggled with two episodes of major depression and Adrienne’s insights are awesome!

One or two things I’d like to share is that serving others in even the simplest ways always helped me feel better. I remember telling the children’s church ministry leader at our old church (during the worst of my depression), “IF you can GUARANTEE me that you won’t ask me to be a teacher and I can just be a teacher’s helper, I will be glad to serve on a regular basis.” She agreed to this, and serving became a “lifeline” for me.

So much that helps in depression is the exact opposite of what we feel–some examples: going to work every day regardless of how bad we feel, not missing church; smiling at our children when it feels fake.

Also, the crucible of depression resulted in so much growth. God truly used it as a place of transformation–I just couldn’t see it at the time. It’s definitely a journey.

I too am thankful that our church is teaching about depression. When we are going through depression, we can feel so misunderstood by others who’ve not experienced it.

–Diane Wall

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Where I Have Found Help for Depression

(Editor’s Note: I recently received a very helpful, very substantive note from Adrienne Kiesel, following my interview of Dan Davis on the subject of anxiety and depression. If you or anyone you know suffers from these debilitating mood states, you will benefit greatly from Adrienne’s insights. BTW, I left the compliment in on purpose.  :)  –geno)

Hi Geno,

I want to first say thank you…thank you for talking about this topic, anxiety and depression.  I’ve found that most of my life the people around me, including the church, has had an attitude of “get over it” or “just be happy.”  I know you already know this, but I just wanted to add to the conversation and say, I really appreciate it, and it feels authentic and genuine.  I’m really glad to be hearing about it from our leaders as well.  We all know it happens, but we forget.  So, thank you.

Also, I would love to say that I wish there would have been more resources mentioned from the front other than prayer and medication.  I know psychologists and counselors were mentioned, and you were mostly going off of Dan’s life experience, which is powerful, but I really want the people of our church to understand how many more options there are out there.  Maybe they already do know of these options?

I’ve been working on my personal life for many years now, and have found so much healing and freedom in the last 6 or 7 years, and more recently too.  I don’t know if there is a way to still get this information out, or if it even needs to get out, but I wanted to at least write you a little.  And like I said, I know you probably know or have experience, or know of someone who has experienced these things, but I still feel compelled to share.

I also want to add that I was on medication previously, and sometimes it seemed to help, and sometimes it really didn’t help.  I basically believe that there’s always something going on at a deeper level for people if they are feeling depressed and that it just takes time for all of that “information” to come out.  It wasn’t until I was older and in a safer place in life that the main issues causing my depression could come up and out and then I could start to deal with them through traditional counseling and the services I mentioned below.

So here is my list of things that have significantly improved my depression…

  1. A trusted friend:  I know this is always talked about, but it really is true.  Someone that can listen, be trusted, and has good intentions for my life.  This is priceless.
  1. Theophostic Prayer:  Since this is actually offered at Hope Chapel, by trusted people like John Bibee and Kareen Kido, I would love for others to know about them.  The Lord has set me free in ways I never could have imagined in my times with Kareen.  Really, unbelievable healing Geno.
  1. Al-anon and AA:  People should not walk into these rooms, they should run.  The 12 steps are very powerful and spiritual.  I believe almost anyone could benefit from the 12 steps.
  1. Vitamins/Supplements:  I found out about functional medicine about 2 years ago.  I’ve struggled with depression since I was a child and since seeing a doctor who specializes in functional medicine I found out that I was dangerously low on certain amino acids that were required for healthy brain functioning and mood.  Since adding in supplements, changing my diet, adding in certain vitamins and essential amino acids, I feel like a different person.  There have been periods where it felt almost painful to get out of my bed and felt so depressed I didn’t even want to.  Vitamins, diet change, and supplements really do help.
  1. Physical Exercise:  This feels almost pointless when you are depressed, but man can it help.
  1. Healing from the Lord: I think that the Lord has really intervened through many of these methods and in people in my life.  I guess I am adding this to say, I think it can happen, but I was also glad to hear Dan say that healing takes time; that feels like the reality.
  1. Life Coach: I can say from personal experience that a life coach has really helped.  It’s not like traditional therapy where you are there to just verbally process your pain.  I would highly recommend Sarah Sherwood, a previous Hopeite and Nicole McCharen has recently been certified and I would recommend her so much as well.
  1. Somatic Experiencing:  This works at helping to find where trauma or pain is basically being “stored” in the body.  It’s hard for me to understand but I’ve found healing from it as well.

I have not done this work perfectly, and still struggle with depression off and on.  But it’s about progress, not perfection.

I think that’s all I want to say about it for now.  I was trying not to write too much about each one, but just to say, “here are some other ways.”

Thanks for listening Geno.  You’re doing a good job as our pastor, really.

–Adrienne Kiesel

Posted in Community Life, Divine Healing | 2 Comments

Resources for Dealing with Depression

Dearly Beloved,

This past Sunday I interviewed Dan Davis on the topic of Depression.  He told a very moving story about his own encounter with this difficult mental state and how he continues to deal with it.  You can listen to a recording of that interview here.

Additionally, there are three other resources I found helpful along with a crafted prayer authored mainly by John Bibee and used by Hope Chapel’s Men of Faith.

Over five million people have viewed a 20-minute TED Talk by writer Andrew Solomon on his experience with depression.  It is one of the most helpful items I viewed during my research on the subject.  Thanks to Rick Reynolds who sent it to me.  You can view it here.

Additionally, Rick Reynolds, told me about a talk by Austin Pastor Will Davis and his wife Susie, given from their living room where he was sequestered 18 months ago because of a bout with depression.  It is a very courageous and heartfelt talk.  You can find it here.

Finally, I quoted from an article on how drug use to treat anxiety and depression in the U.S. has skyrocketed in the last 10 years.  I found it helpful because the author tells of her own journey, as well as spouting statistics.  You can read the March, 2012 New York Magazine article here.

–geno

Crafted Prayer for Deliverance from Depression:

Lord, you said that we always ought to pray and not lose heart. (Luke 18:1) So we pray for those who struggle with depression. We ask for freedom from the overwhelming feelings of despair and discouragement. Where the enemy seeks to devour them (1 Pet. 5:8) and destroy hope, we proclaim that you prepare a table before them in the presence of their enemies. (Ps 23:5) We declare that they will feast on your goodness and mercy and joy. (Ps 23:6)

Holy Spirit, help and comfort all those who so desperately need you. (Jn. 14:6) Help them know that they will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. (Ps 27:13) Your truth will set them free from every lie of the enemy. (Jn 8:32)

We declare that you, Lord Jesus, have come to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound up with darkness. You give them beauty, not ashes. You give them the oil of joy, not mourning. You cover them with garments of praise, not heaviness. You rebuild and restore the places of desolation so we are like well-watered gardens. (Is 61:1-4, Jer. 31:12) We especially ask that you restore and rebuild families – that you will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers. (Malachi 4:6)

Now, may the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing and that we will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen. (Rom. 15:13)

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Aubrey’s Prayer

(Editor’s Note: Aubrey Johnson offered this prayer as part of the sermon delivered this past Sunday, January 17, 2016.  I thought it was so beautiful as to demand to be published.  –geno)

Father God,

I pray that the message today would be even now sinking itself deep into our hearts and minds and will continue to engage us long after we have left this building.

I ask, Holy Spirit, come do a work on our hearts and build us up in faith and hope. These words always remind me of 1 Cor 13 “So now faith, hope, and love abide, but the greatest of these is love”. Faith and hope cannot increase apart from love. So, let the foundation of this building up be in love—an unwavering understanding of Your “never stopping, never giving up, always and forever love” for us. With this love as our base, let our faith—a steady trust in You, O God and Your promises, without which it is impossible to please You—flourish and grow. And let this faith become the stepping stones for the good works that You have called each of us to, in Christ Jesus.

In the same way, build up a well-grounded hope in us—which is also founded on Your great promises—so that it becomes an anchor in our lives, sure and steadfast, as the worries and pains of each day break upon us.

Jesus, you showed us true and pure faith and hope. So I ask, God, that you would conform us to the image of your Son, and help us to surrender to this work! Thank you again for your great love for us!

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A Nation Divided

(Note: I wrote this blog entry on July 18, 2013, but withheld its publication until now.  It seemed eerily appropriate for this time.  –geno)

American culture has been dichotomous for some time. Dr. Timothy Keller, founding pastor of a very vital, very fruitful congregation, Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City, recently wrote in his book Center Church (2009), “One reason much of the evangelical church in the United States has not yet experienced the same precipitous decline as the Protestant churches of Europe and Canada is that, unlike these places, the U.S. still includes sizable remnants of Christendom. We have places where the informal public culture (though not the formal public institutions) still stigmatizes non-Christian beliefs and behavior.”

It is this cultural, Christian stigmatizing against which our non-Christian friends (and foes) are reacting in anger these days in the abortion debates and the clash over what will become the publicly accepted nature/definition of marriage. Their view is that the Christian way (‘the informal public culture’) should not rule in the public square because it is oppressive, misogynistic, arrogant and unscientific. Therefore this view should be pushed out of the public square, even the public discussion.

Keller goes on to quote former New York Magazine columnist and critic Michael Wolff: “(There is a) fundamental schism in American cultural, political, and economic life. There’s the quicker-growing, economically vibrant…morally relativist, urban-oriented, culturally adventuresome, sexually polymorphous, and ethnically diverse nation…And there’s the small-town, nuclear-family, religiously oriented, white-centric other America, (with)…its diminishing cultural and economic force…two countries.” (“The Party Line”, New York: Feb. 26, 2001) [chapter 20 of Center Church: Doing Balanced Gospel Centered Ministry in Your City. Zondervan: 2012]

Please note that this quote is 14 years old. My view is that it is an accurate description and the gap is only widening. While the divide may be particularly evident in New York City, I think we are experiencing that cultural schism here in Austin as our city explodes in population growth from urban areas and local church numbers do not reflect this increasing growth.

I also think this is deeply true of Hope Chapel where many of us may hope for some version of the small-town, nuclear-family-America, but are actually experiencing something else in the quickly-morphing culture of Austin.

I think we cannot stew in our disappointment with the direction of our culture. Instead, we need to engage the culture as it is, including its swift move away from elements we believe the Bible teaches and which we hold dear.

What’s a believer to do? At least three things.

First, I think we must begin be seeing people as individuals and not as categories (i.e. ‘homosexual’; ‘abortion rights activist’; ‘same-sex marriage partner’; etc.) I get this from Jesus sitting down at a well in Samaria and talking to a woman he knew to be sleeping with a man not her husband. There are at least three categories there to which his disciples reacted, but which did not stop Jesus from loving her and offering her living water (‘woman’; ‘Samaritan’; ‘sinner’).

A second thing we must do is learn to do is quit expecting non-Christians to act and think like Christians. That common culture is gone. We should take some time with each person to find out what he/she actually believes and discern his/her worldview. Seeking points of agreement as we listen is important. We should look to offer our view only after understanding theirs.

Jesus did not hold the Samaritan woman’s view of religious truth, but they both agreed that her current relationship was inappropriate. Where can you find agreement with your non-Christian friends?

Finally, we must bear witness to the truth and allow another to reject that truth…without taking offense. While the Samaritan woman did not reject Jesus or the truth, the rich, young ruled did. Jesus loved him, even as he walked away. While we should be winsome, intelligent and knowledgeable about our faith, we must trust that God will actually do the drawing and the saving, not us. The rejection is truly not personal.

There are other lessons to be drawn from the manner in which Jesus interacted with people outside the faith, but those are for future posts. For now, it is enough to embrace the ‘news’ that our nation is deeply divided and we are called to engage those who disagree with us.

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