When you feel like you’re just a slinky on a treadmill.

Some of my earliest memories are the fun we had playing with slinkies on the wooden stairs at grandma’s house.

Do you feel like you’re kinda like this slinky?:

That slinky is taking it easy. Let’s call it a Friday Slinky.

Now these slinkies are more like what we’ve been doing all week:

How will you rest and renew this weekend? (And not just “relax,” which is essentially just not working.) How will you rest — pause, reflect, replenish — and renew — transform your mind, become energized, get ready for whatever comes next?

When you must create something.

Christians are called to be “salt and light” in our culture, which is to say we must create culture, not just critique it. We have special resources to renew, restore, and create godly culture embodying the life of Jesus. He told us not just to believe the things He said; He taught us to also do whatever we saw Him doing. Since He is the one Creator, we get to borrow His creativity as co-creators.

Many today are “culture warriors,” which is to say they want to go to war against any and all anti-Christian sentiments. They battle against evil worldviews with the force of their far superior “Christian worldview.” I think a biblical worldview is important (and am convinced you cannot attain one without meditating on the Scriptures constantly), but what I find lacking among these “culture warriors” is an awareness of the true enemy. Paul said we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but rather an hidden, wicked enemy, that (Ephesians 2:1-3).

Are other people the real enemy, whatever their category or label? Are these our enemies: liberals (or conservatives), those for (or against) gun control, politicians, public schools, taxes? Our enemies become our prime targets in an election year like 2012. (Maybe you’ve seen the expensive propaganda mailers in your mailbox already.)

Let me ask you: is this really making things better? Can someone be salt and light, known for the message of Jesus, if they’re whole platform in life is what they are AGAINST?

How about we fight the real enemies that war against our souls: pride and greed.

How about we rail against those?

Pride and greed are daily on display in our foolishness, where we resist following God’s ways and choose to run our own lives. When we try to be the hero of our tiny stories, and be sure to “get ours,” we become everything we ardently criticize. Yet we remain blind to our real problem, thinking it is “out there.”

 14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 18 So you too should be glad and rejoice with me. —Philippians 2:14-18

When we resist the urge to grumble and complain, we give ourselves opportunities to cultivate a culture of grace and peace, right where we live. As we follow Christ (who never complained or played the ‘victim’ card), we become like Him, borrowing powerful light from the Light of the World. As His light shines, we become co-creators of new, attractive opportunities for righteousness, peace, justice, mercy, and grace to live.

One day the whole world will be just as He designed it to be. Until them, we’re invited to live like we are as He designed us to be — loving God and loving people. We’ll be imitating Jesus who created the world, and then stepped into our fallen mess to re-create it again in His image.

Go create something good.

In the meantime, if you have a hard time knowing what to create in the darkness, trying some of these:

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Top photo credit: “Go on creating” by fotologic

[in]complete: Ways & Means so we don’t end up as slaves of a de-souled culture.

Continuing from yesterday and the day before

The prevailing ways and means curricula in which we are all immersed in North America are designed to help us get ahead in whatever field of work we find ourselves: sales and marketing, politics, business, church, school an university, construction, manufacturing, faming, laboratory, hospital, home, playground, sports. The courses first instruct us in skills and principles that we are told are foundational and then motivate us to use these skills so that we can get what we want out of this shrunken, dessicated “world, flesh, and devil” field. And of course it works wonderfully as long as we are working in that particular field, the field in which getting things done is the “end.”

When it comes to persons, these ways of the world are terribly destructive. They are highly effective in getting ahead in a God-indifferent world, but not in the community of Jesus, not in the kingdom of God. When we uncritically accept these curricula as our primary orientation in how to get on in the world, we naively embrace the very temptations of the devil that Jesus so definitively vetoed and rebuked.

Warnings are frequently and prominently posted by our sages and prophets to let us know that these purely pragmatic ways and means of the world weaken and enervate the community of the baptized. The whole North American ways and means culture, from assumptions to tactics, is counter to the rich and textured narrative laid out for us in our Scriptures regarding walking in the way of righteousness, running in the way of the commandments, following Jesus. In matters of ways and means, the world gives scant attention to what it means to live, to really live, to live eternal life in ordinary time: God is not worshiped, Jesus is not followed, the Spirit is not given a voice. …

Jacques Maritain, one of our more prescient and incisive prophetic voices from the twentieth century, continues to call on all of us who have taken up membership in the Christian community to be vigilant and active in what he called “the Purification of Means.” He saw this as urgent work, about which we should not procrastinate if we are to follow Jesus in the freedom where he leads us, and we are not to end up as slaves of a de-souled culture.

—Eugene Peterson, The Jesus Way: a conversation on the ways that Jesus is the way, 2-4.

[in]complete: Ways & Means in everything.

Continuing from yesterday

In this matter of ways, the how of following Jesus and taking up with the world cannot be depersonalized by reduction into a how-to formula. We are involved in a highly personal, interrelational, dynamic way of life consisting of many elements — emotions and ideas, weather and work, friends and enemies, seductions and illusions, legislation and elections — that are constantly being rearranged, always in flux, and always in relation to our very personal and holy God and our very personal (but not so holy!) brothers and sisters.

Ways and means permeate everything that we are in worship and community. But none of the ways and means can be compartmentalized into functions or isolated as concepts apart from this comprehensive biblical Trinitarian world in which we follow Jesus. They permeate everything we are and do. If any of the means we use to follow Jesus are extraneous to who we are in Jesus — detached “things” or role “models” — they detract from the end of following Jesus. Do our ways derive from “the world, the flesh, and devil” of which we have been well warned for such a long time? Or do they serve life in the kingdom of God and the following of Jesus in which we have been given, historically and liturgically, a long apprenticeship?

—Eugene Peterson, The Jesus Way: a conversation on the ways that Jesus is the way, 2.

(More tomorrow…)

[in]complete: Ways & Means.

“This is a conversation on the spirituality of the ways we go about following Jesus, the Way. The ways Jesus goes about loving and saving the world are personal: nothing disembodied, nothing abstract, nothing impersonal. Incarnate, flesh and blood, relational, particular, local.

The ways employed in our North American culture are conspicuously impersonal: programs, organizations, techniques, general guidelines, information detached from place. In matters of ways and means, the vocabulary of numbers is preferred over names, ideologies crowd out ideas, the gray fog of abstraction absorbs the sharp particularities of the recognizable face and the familiar street.

My concern is provoked by the observations that so many who understand themselves to be followers of Jesus, without hesitation, and apparently without thinking, embrace the ways and means of the culture as they go about their daily living “in Jesus’ name.” But the ways that dominate our culture have been developed either in ignorance or in defiance of the ways that Jesus uses to lead us as we walk the streets and alleys, hike the trails, and drive the roads in this God-created, God-saved, God-blessed, God-ruled world in which we find ourselves. They seem to suppose that “getting on in the world” means getting on in the world on the world’s terms, and that the ways of jesus are useful only in a compartmentalized area of life labeled “religious.”

This is wrong thinking, and wrong living. Jesus is an alternative to the dominant ways of the world, not a supplement to them. We cannot use impersonal means to do or say a personal thing — and the gospel is personal or it is nothing.

—Eugene Peterson, The Jesus Way: a conversation on the ways that Jesus is the way, 1-2.