Monthly Archives: September 2013

Prayers from St. Augustine

Good prayers to enrich one’s devotional time. Enjoy.

Prayerful Anglican

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The web is frequently searched for prayers by St. Augustine. Typically what is found are prayers from prayer books titled St. Augustine not necessarily prayers by St Augustine himself. I’ve had several hits on my blog from search terms like prayers by St. Augustine. In response, I’ve scourged the net, and complied this list. Enjoy and God Bless +

 

Prayer to the Holy Spirit

Breathe in me O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy.
Draw my heart O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy.
Strengthen me O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy.
Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy. Amen.

Act of Petition

Give me yourself, O my God, give yourself to me. Behold I love you, and if my love…

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A Fuller Community

If Los Angeles is a cosmopolitan vibrant urban center of the West coast then Fuller seminary fully fits its metro area. This was week one in the Fuller journey, orientation time. Throughout this week, I prayed, worshiped, heard amazing speakers tell the Fuller story, wept and met a myriad of amazing people. Fuller is the church on the move. You find a little bit of everything here from the common seminary student to second career business person hoping for a fresh start. It is one of the few places on this country where you are forced to hear somebody speak a foreign language in official events to welcome those who are coming from a far. And believe me, the sound of Korean was sweet to my ears. As one who visited and left a part of my heart in that great nation, seeing so many of them here was a bit like coming home.

I knew the Fuller was the larger seminary in North America, diverse in both tradition and nationality. I just did not know what that looked like. I also did not know how entrepreneurial this community is. As I heard professors, administrator and staff, I noticed a relentless desire to reach the world with the powerful gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ through whatever means possible.

This week my world was expanded. I realized there were a lot of things I didn’t know. New perspectives and paradigms flooded my mind. Above all, my vision of the church was enlarged. The immense God sheds his greatness through the vast tapestry of nation and tongue that is His church. In a time where most look at the church with skepticism, I met those working to improve it. Not just clergy but artists, entrepreneurs, geeks all coming together to rethink what it means to be the church in our century.  

I was also encouraged to see a passion to right the wrongs of this world. From classes on development to even the liturgy at convocation, the heart for the poor was clearly present. Fuller represents the best of evangelicalism being fully grounded in Scripture and God’s church but also being actively engaged with the world around it. The very campus is a metaphor for this as it sits in the middle of Pasadena, no walls around it rejecting the ivory-tower tendencies of academic institutions. Fuller is the church in the city engaging music, film and visual arts from a humble apologetic perspective.

I confess that my first reaction to all this was being overwhelmed and confused. Trying to find a concentration or even decide on a degree became exponentially harder. I know this is a good problem to have but when you are 34 and eager to get on with “doing what you are called for,” that is not an encouraging prospect. Later in the week, I found peace in realizing that the next year will be one of exploring. God’s timing is different from mine so I might as well enjoy the ride. Certainly, it is a privilege to be here.

Those of you who have accompanied us on this journey know how long it took to get here. It was years of waiting, months of planning, weeks of moving and an incredible amount of finances and commitment to get our family here. It was all worth it.

There were very few times I ever felt at home around God’s people on this Earth. First was as a teenager in my dad’s church in Brazil. Second was with our beloved Renovatus church community in Charlotte. Now I am thankful to find a place where a Brazilian-Charismatic-Analytical-with a pastoral heart-missionary zeal- Korea and South America loving-with Anglican tendencies can find a home again.

 

Having Lunch with Eddie

A few posts ago, I told the story of how I met Eddie. After that experience, I have been thinking of ways to take the next step. My time is limited as I am working full-time for a bank. So, given these parameters, I’ve been thinking of ways to live out the gospel in downtown LA in a way that is intentional but not necessarily formal. I now make a point to speak and acknowledge all the homeless people I meet downtown and in other places whenever possible. If I have singles in my wallet, I give them one. Beyond that, I felt compelled to get know some of them more. That is when I thought of inviting them for lunch. A few times, I would go downstairs and look for them at lunch time. If I found one, I would invite them. That is what happened this last Friday. Eddie happened to be in his usual place so I invited him for lunch.

He pointed me to a food-truck nearby and so we went. Once we had our food, I invited him to sit with me in one of the tables nearby. He hesitated a bit, mentioning that “they don’t like me eating at these tables.” I assured him that this time he was my guest and therefore had a right to sit at those tables. We then had a 40 minute conversation between friends. I asked him about his story and listened. He told me that he ended up in the streets after a tragic domestic situation back in the East coast. He had moved to LA because he had a dream of becoming a writer. He had been here for over 6 years but was still struggling to settle in. He had gotten an id, now the next step was to get a house so then he could look for a job. He told me that there were some people like myself that were trying to help him. He had noticed that only Christians ever took an interest on him.

I shared that I had just moved from North Carolina. When I mentioned I was in seminary to possibly go into ministry, he remarked: “that is rare.” I then shared with him about the love of God as the main motivation for me and the others to help him. I shared that God loved him though that seamed hard to believe given his condition. I then thanked him for having lunch with me. To get an opportunity to share the love of God is a real treat since I rarely get a chance to do so in the cold corporate world. Then, I prayed for him. I prayed that he would have hope knowing that only then he could really start his path towards recovery. Even as I prayed, I could feel the strong love of God for him. I rarely cry, yet when the Spirit moves this way, I have no recourse but to let the tears flow.

There we sat in a busy street in downtown LA as friends. In spite of the gulf that separated our personal situations, we both shared a common humanity bound by the power of a loving God. He invited me to join a group of 4 individuals who were already having lunch with him on Tuesday to help him. I can’t wait to go. Ever since I moved here I was looking to have fellowship with other believers downtown but found none. Ironically, when I stopped looking for believers and started noticing the least of these; that is when God linked me with His people. Eddie became my link to other believers downtown.  

When I got back to my cube I found a leather folder with a notepad. I gathered a pencil and pen and went back downstairs. That became my gift to Eddie so that even in such difficult situation he would be reminded of his dream of being a writer. It was a dream that brought me to LA and therefore to Eddie. Could it be that God could also use his dream in order to get him out of the streets? I certainly hope so.  

Why I don’t Believe in Changing the World

I grew up being told I could change the world. As I grew older, I am realizing that is not the point. The more I reflect on this matter the more I know how powerless I am to do such thing. Yes, we do live in a connected world that even ordinary people can make a global impact. I heard the stories of those that through courage, sacrifice and hard work did make an impact in their world. I am inspired by them and I applaud anyone who is fighting to make this world a better place. That is not what I am against.

My challenge really is to the notion that one should seek to “change the world.” I wonder if those that actually did make an impact started out with this aim in mind. I also ponder about what it means to change the world. People can change the world, but also institutions, wars, famine and disaster. Changing the world has to do with power. It implies that we can make people do things we want them to do. This notion is misguided because it puts the onus on me to be the agent and for the world to be the recipient. On a smaller scale, I can try to change my wife, my kids, my friends and those who I come to contact with. The focus is on ME being able to make THEM do something. Even if it is for a worthy cause, the flow of this interaction is wrong-headed because it implies one agent (me) exerting power on another agent (them). While that is not always the case, this can easily lead into coercion, manipulation and deceit.

The History channel recently showed a series on the Bible. In it they show a modern adaptation of Jesus call to disciples. The confused Peter asked Jesus why he should follow him. The hip-looking Jesus stares back at him and confidently says: “So we can change the world.” I doubt that this was actually what he had in mind.

Interestingly, the Bible never talks about anybody attempting to change the world. The closest you get to that is the description of the disciples in Acts that were “turning the world upside down.” Instead we hear an entirely different language. For God so loved the world that He GAVE His son. Jesus in turn, following the Father’s example, GAVE his life. The apostles, following their Master, GAVE their lives to His church and as a martyr to the world. God could have changed the world and he did have the power to do it yet He chose not to.

So as we return to our contemporary notions of changing the world today I find that a better aim is to give. To give one’s life, resources, love and respect. In a world where even friendships can be commercialized, nothing speaks louder than a genuine gift. As we do this we follow the example of our Father, our Lord and the fathers of the church.

And then, who knows, the world may very well be changed.    

The Hidden Treasure of Liturgy

Liturgical worship is fairly unimpressive by modern world’s standards. The reading of set prayers and long portions of Scripture, the procession of the cross, the use of incense and the celebration of the bread and wine of Communion all seem artifacts from a distant time and place. This is not just the opinion of the secular world but a prevalent trend in most Christian churches in the western world. With few exceptions, in most congregations that are growing in size and influence, the amount of liturgical structure in their service is declining. Even the more historical denominations are swapping the lectionary and hymnals for the concert style worship and the three-point practical sermon.

This is not totally unwarranted. Liturgical worship is hard to connect with it at first. It has its set rules and order that may strike intimidating to the beginner. Also, the context and the manner in which they are performed can lead to empty ritual. I believe there is a generation of people that grew up in these services and found them to have little relevance to their daily lives causing some to leave the church altogether. Those that returned were most likely to be drawn to the more pragmatic approach of modern non-denominational churches: a period of musical worship followed by a 40-minute sermon with possibly some announcements or an offering in between. Communion gets relegated to once a month.

I don’t mean to suggest that contemporary services are a mistake. I grew up finding God in them. They continue to attract millions to the presence of God. Yet, the effort to streamline the worship experience has had its cost. As I start participating in more liturgical services, I am discovering what got lost in the process.

You see, liturgy does not meet you where you are but challenge you to come to where He is. It is not designed to attract followers but to reinforce a profound adoration of God. The more I practice liturgy, whether in my devotions through the daily office or through going to liturgical services, the more I am finding the hidden treasure beneath the forms and the rituals. They somehow are re-orienting my soul to encounter God in profound way and slowly but surely is changing me from the inside out.

This is not good news in a world where we demand quick results. Yet, this treasure is only unearthed through patient and repetitive practice. It will not be apparent at first. In fact, one can go through a whole service without “feeling” anything. Yet, for those who persist, there is great reward.

I can only speak as a novice. Yet even thus far, I can already sense the richness and also the promise of liturgy as a tool used by God for spiritual transformation. In this stage of my journey with God, I am finding it to be indispensable. While affirming the gifts for modern worship, I wonder if it may be time to re-visit our assumptions on liturgy. We ignore it at our own loss.

How to End Homelessness (this is what I do for a living) [VIDEO]

Powerful video that makes us re-think on how we should treat the homeless. I was especially moved by the last segment in which one of the program participants share how his life changed once he had an apartment.

Prodigal Paul | the long way home

philly-rowhomes-neBelow, you will find a brief documentary that was done at my wonderful job, Pathways to Housing, to highlight the work that we do. It features many of the clients and coworkers I work with, and I had the chance to be present for a few of the film shoots. It is so beautiful and well-done. I’m so happy to share with you all a part of me that I don’t really talk about much in the rest of my life.

(Also, if you’ve lived in Philadelphia for a few years, you might recognize some folks in this video that you used to see on the street. But now, they have housing.)

I have spent most of my time in the field of social work pretty disengaged intellectually and emotionally. The older, more subtly coercive model of social work marked my previous companies, and the way the work was…

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Discipleship: Making Good Little Pharisees?

More interesting thoughts on grace…

Prodigal Paul | the long way home

Caravaggio-The Calling of Saint Matthew{summary: the way we disciple others in the church is far too often a results-based process, and not a grace-driven one. Here, I explore Jesus’ example in Matthew as a guide for us. And, once again, we see Jesus’ radical application of grace to his Disciples’ lives.}

I’m taking a class on “The Practice of Discipleship”. Some discussions on our online message boards inspired these thoughts. Discipleship, as many people could tell you is all about “following Jesus”. After all, that’s how Jesus himself invited his disciples into it. But as I was thinking about this, I realized something: Pharisees had disciples too.

Now, with “Pharisee Discipleship” the point was to let that Pharisee get all up in your business so that you could become a good, well-behaved Pharisee someday. Christian Discipleship, as we are often told, is not about following Christians per se, but following Christians who are following…

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