len on April 21st, 2014

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth with His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection with His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In the predictions of prophets,
In the preaching of apostles,
In the faith of confessors,
In the innocence of holy virgins,
In the deeds of righteous men.

I arise today, through
God’s strength to pilot me,
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptation of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
afar and near.

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.

len on April 15th, 2014

I was listening to an interview on CBC Radio, a discussion on innovation. Conservative investment is based on what we know might work: this develops many improvements but few radical innovations. It’s the innovations that move us ahead by huge leaps. The Howard Hughes foundation invests in much riskier projects, and as a result has fewer successes. But when a project succeeds, it is spectacular and revolutionary. Moreover, these projects spin off a culture where creative types thrive and risk is valued. New innovators are born in these places. Are you an innovator? We are restless types, always questioning the status quo.

Eugene Lowry writes,

“The intrinsic power of the rut called ‘common sense’ explains (in a reverse fashion) the experience of serendipity. The reason that flashes of insight come when one is not looking is that our cognitive ruts lose their tenacious hold upon us when our mind is occupied with other things or begins to drift as we go to sleep. Hence, the unthinkable thought (generally inverted from common sense) has a chance to break through. Such uncommon sense comes as an intuitive, “aha!”

“Unfortunately, the more we know about a subject, the more apt we are to stay locked into our assumptions, and hence to become blind to alternative perspectives. So believes William Gordon, who is convinced that experts in all fields are particularly vulnerable to the counter-productive power of “common sense.” In his book, Synetics, he explains his method for developing creative solutions in the business world. Because the ‘experts’ seem trapped by mental blinders, Gordon’s method uses small groups of persons unfamiliar with the technology or discipline in which the problem has occurred. Being ‘innocent’ of experience perspective, these novices are often able to provide solutions the experts cannot discern because of their expert common sense.” (The Homiletical Plot, 53-54)

But there are other reasons we don’t see more innovations, and not only blindness born of familiarity or risk aversion. Walter Brueggemann writes,

“Our problem today: the space for imagination to expand and take shape is inversely proportional to the speed at which we live. Driven hard and fast, we lack the time to allow alternate worlds and possibilities to form, careening past small turnings and exits, bound to follow the obvious straight paths of the present arrangement. Yet if we stop and wait, and close our eyes to the “buy now, take me now” images, we will begin to remember, new worlds will form and new exits will become apparent. Before change.. comes waiting..” (Brueggemann, Hopeful Imagination, 56-57)

See also “developing change leaders

len on April 13th, 2014

“We have known that dialogue and communication are important tools for improvement. Werner takes it to a whole new realm by asserting that all transformation is linguistic.” Peter Block

I’m thinking about Roxburgh’s argument that “language worlds” both enable us – and limit us – from moving into the future kingdom. Peter Block in his book “Community – The Structure of Belonging” argues in a similar direction for different reasons.

As Stan Hauerwas points out in his memoir, books are friends with whom we join in a learning conversation. The best books thread the loose ends together for us and offer a new, more complete picture of something that is close to the heart of our calling. When I began to read in Peter Block, I knew he would become a critical partner in learning.

Block strongly integrates a spiritual perspective in the search for community and belonging. There were two strong threads for me in Part One, and I am going to share one today in preparation for sharing another later in the week. Block is bringing a particular piece of the story into clearer focus for me. Here is the introduction to Part One.

“The social fabric of community is formed from an expanding shared sense of belonging. it is shaped by the idea that only when we are connected and care for the well-being of the whole that a civil and democratic society is created…

“What makes community building so complex is that it occurs in an infinite number of small steps, sometimes in quiet moments that we notice out of the corner of our eye. it calls for us to treat as important many things that we thought were incidental. An after-thought becomes the point; a comment made in passing defines who we are more than all that came before. If the artists is one who captures the nuance of experience, then this is whom each of us must become. The need to see through the eyes of the artist reflects the intimate nature of community, even if it is occurring among large groups of people.

“The key to creating or transforming community, then, is to see the power in the small but important elements of being with others. The shift we seek needs to be embodied in each invitation we make, each relationship we encounter, and each meeting we attend. For at the most operational and practical level, after all the thinking about policy, strategy, mission, and milestones, it gets down to this: How are we going to be when we gather together?

“What this means is that theory devolves into everyday questions out of which community is lived: Whom do I choose to invite into the room? What is the conversation that I shall become and engage in with those people? And when there are more than two of us together at the same time, how do we create a communal structure that moves the action forward?” (p9-10)

* * *
“We have known that dialogue and communication are important tools for improvement. Werner takes it to a whole new realm by asserting that all transformation is linguistic.

“He believes that a shift in speaking and listening is the essence of transformation. If we have any desire to create an alternative future, it is only going to happen through a shift in our language. If we want a change in culture, for example, the work is to change the conversation — or, more precisely, to have a conversation that we have not had before, one that has the power to create something new in the world. This insight forces us to question the value of our stories, the positions we take, our love of the past, and our way of being in the world.” p14-15

len on April 12th, 2014

filmBecause it works at so many levels, film can have insidious power or extravagant grace. It offers a wonderful opportunity to bring experience, analysis, emotion, and action together.
–Gordon Matties

Some of my friends watch an amazing amount of film. And why not? Film, and story, has immense power to shape our imaginations, and by that means to open us more deeply to God and to life. Jesus used parables: but if he were preaching today, he would likely be using film.

Eugene Peterson writes of the importance of Scripture as God’s story in “Eat This Book” he writes that,

“Spiritual theology, using Scripture as a text, does not present us with a moral code and tell us, ‘live up to this’; nor does it set out a system of doctrine and say, ‘Think like this and you will live well.’ The biblical way is to tell a story and in the telling invite: ‘Live INTO this — this is what it looks like to be human in this God-made and God-ruled world; this is what is involved in becoming and maturing as a human being.’”

“When we submit ourselves to what we read in Scripture, we find that we are not being led to see God in our stories, but our stories in God’s. God is the larger context and plot in which our stories find themselves.” (Eat This Book, 43-44)

I’ve shared quite a bit of reflection from stories being told in film over the eleven years or so of this blog. Maybe the most dramatic moment for me was after viewing Avatar, when I was also teaching from the book of Ephesians, and a line in Alan Roxburgh cued me to the reality that Paul was framing his teaching around three powerful themes: mystery, memory, and mission. God’s story is the paradigm that becomes the foundation for so many of our most moving stories. And the small frame always loses power until it is grounded in the frame of the “big story.”

Why reflect critically, and using theological lenses, on movies made by secular artists? Because secular artists and producers are on a quest, hitting at universal themes of meaning, transcendence and more, and that quest is reflected in their films. The great questions are religious questions: what is truth? why is there so much beauty in this broken world? Why is the world so broken? What does it mean to be human? Is there a God, and how would I know? Great film asks these questions, and offers a variety of answers, located in reel-life.

A few years ago I collected some great sources for further reflection on film. First, pages that collect articles, and then some individual articles.

Refresh Journal of Contemplative Spirituality:
Reel Light: Film and Spirituality, 2006
Culture Vulture at Wycliffe College
Pop Culture Theology
God is Not Elsewhere
Faith and Film list at CMU
Reel Spirituality: Resources and Study Guides

And some individual articles reflecting on the power of film and it’s usefulness for theological reflection:

On Movies as Spiritual Discipline
Frugal Film-Making: Parables and an Insatiable Moon

My own articles –

Avatar: Mystery, Memory and Mission
Films of 2009

And no, I haven’t seen “Noah” yet!

len on April 11th, 2014

the journeyDevelopmental Stages offer us insight into the experience of liminality: the in-between phases of spiritual life that generate tremendous growth.

* * * * * *

Sometimes the best map will not guide you
You can’t see what’s round the bend,
Sometimes the road leads through dark places
Sometimes the darkness is your friend.

Speaking in 2007, Sharon Parks describes the experience of “shipwreck” in the lives of young adults, those times when young adults experience something unexpected or disappointing. She writes, “These experiences often became the context in which big questions emerged in powerful ways.” She explains that technology has made life transitions harder than they used to be. Digital devices and social networking, “… can contribute to heightened productivity and a greater connection to the global community; yet [to an] increasing sense of loneliness and isolation that leads to many mental and physical health risks.”

More – PDF

This article will appear in The Journal of Missional Practice this spring.

len on April 10th, 2014

Cobus blogs at My Contemplations,

“I was visiting Annemie Bosch, the wife of David Bosch, yesterday to attempt to get some answers to questions I have. It was a deeply spiritual experience, in that it brought to life the theology with which I’ve been struggling for the past few weeks. Although I’ve been gripped by the writings of David Bosch for at least a year now, the conversation with her in a way deepened a personal commitment, a spiritual commitment, to that which I have been thinking about intellectually.

“One story really stood out: While she and David Bosch attending a colloquiem by Karl Barth, Barth said that “if I was on guard in the war, and my best friend was part of the enemy, and came walking over the bridge, I would shoot him”, to which a young man responded out loud: “No you would not”. Bosch whispered into the ear of Annemie “that man is a Mennonite”… that man was John Howard Yoder.”


Elsewhere on his blog, Bosch and Zizek on “the larger problem of violence.”

Still at Cobus, a great post that embodies something of the shift from an arrogant colonialism to a humble post-colonial way:

“From ‘let us bless the poor’ to ‘blessed are the poor’”

Elsewhere. QUEST church in Seattle does a series on “Faith and Race

len on April 9th, 2014

I’ve never spoken from this passage with reference to mission – but wouldn’t it be a good one?

Two weeks ago I spoke on the bread of life – John 6 – and I made the connections to the exodus. But it didn’t hit me till later that I missed such a great missional application. Jesus feeds us – gives us living bread. And he is better than Moses, and the bread he gives is his own life in us – for the world.

But I missed that the problem Israel had was that they were hoarders. And even in the manna event many of them tried to hoard it, and it turned putrid.

Are we giving away what God gives to us? We have real food to give.

len on April 8th, 2014

cover“With all the attention paid to issues of church and mission in recent years, surprisingly little has been written to reframe the biblical themes of creation and human identity in light of the missio Dei. Hjalmarson addresses this lacunae by pursuing an ambitious missiological agenda, arguing that even though God’s mission draws his people into an often surprising journey or pilgrimage, the particularities and textures of the places along the way shape our formation and participation in the gospel of the Kingdom of God. This book provides an important contribution to a vital conversation.”

Scott Hagley, PhD., Director of Education, FORGE Canada

“In a society in which families are spread out across the continent, and suburban shopping malls from Vancouver to Halifax to Phoenix all seek to sell us the same goods from the same chain stores, Len Hjalmarson invites us to think deeply about “place”: about being located and rooted. Len draws an extraordinary range of sources into conversation, which in turn provides the reader with a marvelous array of writers and poets to explore. His closing chapter, “Re-placing the World through the Arts,” does not so much end as invite us into the terrain of imagination and possibility.”

Jamie Howison, Priest and pastor, St. Benedict’s Table.
Author, God’s Mind in That Music

No Home Like Place is a walk through dense woods, theologically and poetically, guiding the reader into contemplation and reflection. And it’s a thin place, offering a spacious venue for astonishment and encounter. To find someone rebuilding place after the great postmodern deconstruction is beautiful. This book offers itself as a worthy companion for miles to come.

Brad Jersak, PhD. Author: Her Gates Will Never Be Shut. Westminster Theological College

There are many of us in places far and wide, practitioners seeking to live God’s call to the neighbourhood. We are committed to the most local expressions of discipleship because we have a gut sense that place matters to God and to the nature of Christian mission. What Len provides in this book a wonderful resource to those of us committed to the neighbourhood, a cogent, carefully researched and sensitively written theology of place that will sustain and strengthen our commitments.

Simon Carey Holt, Author: God Next Door: Spirituality and Mission in the Neighbourhood

No Home Like Place will appear with The Urban Loft Publishers later this month.


len on April 7th, 2014


Lord let me see, see more and more:
See the beauty of a person, not the colour of the skin,
See the faces of the homeless with no-one to take them in,
See discouragement because she’ll never win,
See the face of our Lord in the pain.
Lord let me see.

Lord let me hear, hear more and more:
Hear the sounds of great rejoicing, hear a person barely sigh,
Hear the ring of truth, and hollowness of those who live a lie,
Hear the wail of starving people who will die,
Hear the voice of our Lord in the cry.
Lord let me hear.

Lord let me care, care more and more:
Care for those who feel the loneliness, for those who have no say,
Care for friends who have no job and find it hard to face the day,
Care for those with whom we sing and work and pray;
And in care, Jesus Christ will be found.
Lord let me care.

Lord let me learn, learn more and more:
Learn that what I know is just a speck of what there is to know,
Learn from listening to my neighbour when I’d rather speak and go,
Learn that as we live in faith and trust we grow;
Learn to see, hear and care, with our Lord.
Lord let me learn.

Lord let me love, love more and more:
Love the loveless and the fragile, help them be what they can be,
Love the way that I would like them to be looking after me,
For to know you is to love them and be free;
And in love Jesus Christ will be found.
Lord let me love.

© 1981 Ross Langmead

Ross was professor of Missiology at Whitley College, on the campus of the University of Melbourne.

len on April 3rd, 2014

Walter Clapp in A Peculiar People, writes that the decline of print may be a boon to the church.

“In a way unavailable to oral communication, writing makes words endure. Without writing, words are “only” sound… Spoken words live in that they are occurrences borne on breath. Spoken words are events.. they cannot be pinned down. There is nowhere to look for them after they have happened.

So it is that oral communication is inherently dynamic. As Walter Ong puts it, “Written words are residue. Oral transition has no such residue or deposit. When an often-told story is not being told, all that exists of it is the potential in certain human beings to tell it.” This being the nature of spoken words, it is no accident that the Hebrew dabar means both “word” and “event.” For oral communication to exists, people must gather in one way or another; they must speak and listen.

The written word, on the other hand, can be abstracted or decontextualized. Words put on paper, made visual and “permanent,” can be carried away from the business meeting.. Ong comments, “Writing fosters abstractions that disengage knowledge from the arna where humans beings struggle with one another. It separates knower from the known.”

Moreover, written communication tends toward individualization and privatization. “Oral communication unites people into groups. Writing and reading are solitary activities..” And Jacques Ellul comments that a written word is “a word placed in space, a word by which no one any longer commits himself: a word that no longer involves dialogue.”

A Peculiar People, 133-135. See also “doing theology in exile.”