Kintsukuroi – beauty from broken

Kintsukuroi-photoI learned something new today! Our church staff was invited to breakfast at the assisted living and retirement community in town. We were the honored guests as it is Pastor Appreciation Month. We enjoyed a tasty breakfast and were able to see some of our church family who are part of that retirement community.

The speaker for the morning shared about the Japanese practice of Kintsukuroi. I had never heard of it before, but loved the idea behind it. Rather than simply throw out a broken piece of pottery, the Japanese use gold or silver to repair it and find even greater beauty in the piece.

Our speaker made the connection that God is in that same business. We are all broken and flawed, yet God is able to bring beauty out of that brokenness. Sometimes the beauty is greater because of the brokenness. Instead of simply discarding a broken life, God is about restoration and allowing our cracks to reflect His glory.

What’s On My Mind

Normally when I put a post on the blog, it deals with a singular subject.  Maybe a review of a book, an interesting video, something to do with #Hoosiernation or the like.  Today is a hodge-podge or random assortment of a couple of thoughts.  Basically, what’s been on my mind.

A huge part of what’s been consuming thoughts and conversations is my mother-in-law.  Last week my wife, along with her brother and father, had to make the difficult decision to put Cheryl’s mom in a care facility.  She has been struggling with the effects of Alzheimer’s/dementia.  It was a challenge for them to know the best way to care for her and address her issues of confusion about where she was and who she thought was with her.  A spot opened up in a very nice facility, but that lead to a whole host of emotions after they moved her in.  I don’t think any of us were ready for the flurry of loss and sadness that accompanied the decision and subsequent move.  There is a period of no contact for the family members as Cheryl’s mom adjusts to her new living space.  Needless to say it has been tough on them, but many friends have offered their love, care and support.  It has been one of those situations where I wish I had great wisdom and words of comfort to share and yet find myself lacking.

Over the weekend, my aunt (my mother’s sister-in-law) passed away unexpectedly.  We didn’t get together often with mom’s side of the family and, to be honest, I can’t be sure how many years it has been since I’ve seen them.  But, as my mom said on the phone, “It’s family,” so with her passing comes sadness.  On-line obituaries and guest books give an insight into the lives of people.  I feel for my family members who lost a wife, mother, grandma and friend.

In the midst of all that, I have been reminded that some day – maybe not today or tomorrow, but some day – we will be totally healed and restored.  Jesus will make all things new.  Sickness will be gone.  Death will be finally defeated.  Confusion will be banished.  Sadness will be no more.  I need that to be continually on my mind in the midst of life’s bumps and bruises.  It’s easy to become focused on the current struggle.  As we continue to press on, I need to know and cling to the truth that He will make all things new.

Out of a Far Country review

Out Of A Far Country is the compelling story of Christopher and Angela Yuan’s journey to healing and restoration, both in their relationship with God and with each other.  The book provided both the son and mother’s perspective as each chapter alternated narrative between Christopher and Angela.  It gave the reader insight into the emotions experienced by the two.

The book gives a transparent look into Christopher’s struggle with homosexuality, drugs, the party scene and ultimate search for love and acceptance.  It reveals the heart of a mother who longs for the perfect family and sees that dream shattered as her two sons move away from the ideals she longs for them to embrace.

One of the most challenging aspects of the books was Angela’s acceptance of Christ and then total dependence on Him to work in the life of her son.  She shares how she had to release Christopher to God and allow her son’s time in prison to be the tool God would use to bring her to son into relationship with Him.  She continually prayed that God would use whatever He needed to bring Chris to Jesus, even as the cost of his degree, career and freedom.  Rather than trying to exert her control as a mother, she trusted God to work.

Christopher’s ultimate surrender to God affected every aspect of his life and shows how the pursuit of God impacts everything about us.  Near the end of the book, Christopher shares his discovery:  “God’s faithfulness is proved not by the elimination of hardships but by carrying us through them.  Change is not the absence of struggles; change is the freedom to choose holiness in the midst of our struggles (pg. 188).”

Out Of A Far Country would be a good read for any Christ follower, but also for anyone who is experiencing the breakdown of relationships or someone desiring into the struggle of same-sex attraction.  The real struggles show how God is able to bring healing and restoration, while working through even the most difficult circumstances.

For more information on this book and read an excerpt, click here.

(I received this book from WaterBrook Multnomah in exchange for my review)

The Next Christians

As I began reading “The Next Christians,” I hadn’t had the benefit of reading Gabe Lyon’s previous book “UnChristian.”  The previous book outlined the decline of Christianity in America.  “The Next Christians” offers a much brighter outlook on the future of the church and gives a title not to just this book, but to an emerging movement of Christians.

One of the great pictures Lyons paints in his book is that the next Christians are focused on restoration.  Their goal is not just to get people “saved” by focusing on our sin and our need for redemption (which we truly need!).   But, as Lyons puts it, they focus on the whole story, beginning with the goodness of God’s creation and the ultimate restoration that will take place at Christ’s second coming.  His contention is that the church has at times only focused on our sin problem and how to get to heaven and avoid hell.  The next Christians are telling the entire story and striving to be agents of restoration in our world today.

To describe the next Christians, Lyons identifies what they are not.  While it is dangerous to use labels or stereotypes to describe a group of people, Lyons does a good job of characterizing many in the church.  He uses two broad groups – Separatists & Cultural – to describe a large segment of today’s church goers.  Separatists do their to not associate with today’s culture while Cultural Christians take on many aspects of the culture.  Cultural Christians take what society says is “cool” and puts a Christian spin on it.

Lyons does a good job illustrating these two definitions, but does it to show how the next Christians strive not to blend into culture, not separate from it, but rather engage in it and to begin bringing about restoration.

He then uses these phrases to flesh out what the next Christians look like:  provoked, not offended; creators, not critics; called, not employed; grounded, not distracted; in community, not alone; countercultural, not relevant.  He also uses real-life stories of people who show what it looks like to live as an agent of restoration.

What Lyons describes in this book is a shift of focus on what the church should be about.  Lyons tells stories of Christians who move to the inner city, who meet in community, who take jobs in the “secular” workplace, all for the purpose of being the church in today’s culture and bring about restoration.  He identifies some of the challenges of being a next Christian and how it also a call to some fundamental practices of Christ-followers – listening to God through His Word, spending time in prayer and meeting in community for both encouragement and accountability.

The Next Christians is not a call to abandon the church of today or leave your current fellowship to start a whole new gathering.  More than that, it is a challenge to see how we can be agents of restoration in our particular segment of society, to see how you and I can use our God-given gifts and abilities in the places where God puts us.

You can read an excerpt here.

(I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah in exchange for my review and thoughts on this book.)