A Local Church Pastor Comments

“Through personal storytelling, biblical preaching, and literally getting us out of the church and into a mosque, Andy walked alongside our church with the question, “Compelled by God’s love, what does it mean to love our Muslim neighbor?” Wise, gentle, and prophetic, Andy doesn’t just talk about peacemaking–he lives it.”

Rev. Ted Burrows
Modesto Covenant Church, California

Peacemaking is Divine Work

“Peacemaking is a divine work. For peace means reconciliation, and God is the author of peace and of reconciliation. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the particular blessing which attaches to peacemakers is that “they shall be called children of God.” For they are seeking to do what their Father has done, loving people with his love.” John R. W. Stott

Join Me in the Journey of Peace. Know Peace. Make Peace. Please consider generously supporting my work in peacemaking as a regular monthly commitment in 2017. While my work has expanded, I’m presently underfunded. I’ve stepped back into working with the Covenant Church in North America with Serve Globally. This will include, along with my on-going ministry in North America new ministry in North Africa and the Middle East. Thanks for joining me in this important journey, Andy Larsen. Here’s more information on what I do. 

 

Confessions of an Evangelical–Book Preview #1

Today, I’m struggling with my history and identity as an Evangelical. Many within our broader community are ready to jettison the title “evangelical” while others think we should align more with a conservative political movement that just helped win a national election. Honestly, this fact sends shivers down my spine but I want to be more thoughtful in my reactions and look more deeply into our scripture for illumination and guidance.

Wall in Bethlehem

What does it mean today to be a person of faith, and a leader in a community that’s turned its back too often on a hurting world, looking inward, skyward, or toward the White House? Can we be a sweet aroma like the apostle Paul described the early church or are we more like a skunk to be avoided?

I find myself often wincing when I hear characterizations of my faith tribe outside the four walls of the church. But honestly, some of the comments match what I know as an insider, a leader in this church. Not always. But often enough. As I observe our practices and listen to our remedies on what ails our society it seems like we are missing the mark, or at least scratching where only we itch, certainly not where those who could care less feel the need to scratch. Or our solution is to get “our guy” in the White House or Supreme Court banking on the idea that they will enact legislation that favors our values and positions.

This approach to how we live in society is not always the case. Bradley Wright, the author of the book entitled, “Christians are hate filled hypocrites and other lies you’ve been told to believe,” is really helping correct some stereotypes. Case in point–I’m walking with other people of my faith tradition this Saturday to help get clean water to communities around the world. But I’m not sure many people see this kind of initiative, or others where Christians are caring for the world, the poor and disadvantaged. I do think the bad press quite frankly is sometimes well deserved. The church in general, and perhaps evangelicals in particular have ignored significant parts of the Gospel in our leap from Jesus’ birth to his death and resurrection as Glen Stassen notes.

I write this book in the form of a confessional, as confessions of an evangelical leader. I’ve seen too often that what we do in church seems to address strictly our personal needs and has little appetite for how that makes us better neighbors and world citizens. I’ve discovered the last several years especially how this became manifest in my own reluctance to consider justice, and the systemic parts of structural peacemaking as part of my Christian discipleship. I wanted to be justified, sanctified, cleaned up and ready for singing on the clouds when I die, but what about this world now? My Christian faith was mostly about personal, inward looking piety but buckled under the challenges in the street and public square. I’m exaggerating a bit here. The vision of sitting on the clouds in heaven is a caricature but the point should not be missed. I grew up with a very weak curriculum on how to live here, now, in the messy world, making decisions about how I could make this world a better place. My dad always said we should leave a campsite better than how we found it but that was on the hiking trail, not on the other side of the tracks back home, or in the poor barrios on the other side of the globe. Much of my spiritual journey as well as my professional ministry mimicked what Evangelicals are chiefly concerned about–getting people into heaven with little concern for bringing heaven to earth.

More to come. Comments that are constructive are always welcome.

 

 

Praying Green Lake

A great place to pray, think, settle my heart, listen, connect with God. “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.” Psalm 62:5.
 
From Thomas Merton:
 “Those who love their own noise are impatient of everything else. They constantly defile the silence of the forests and the mountains and the sea. They bore through silent nature in every direction with their machines, for fear that the calm world might accuse them of their own emptiness. The urgency of their swift movement seems to ignore the tranquility of nature by pretending to have a purpose. The loud plane seems for a moment to deny the reality of the clouds and of the sky, by its direction, its noise, and its pretended strength. The silence of the sky remains when the plane has gone. The tranquility of the clouds will remain when the plane has fallen apart. It is the silence of the world that is real. Our noise, our business, our purposes, and all our fatuous statements about our purposes, our business, and our noise: these are the illusion. God is present, and His thought is alive and awake in the fullness and depth and breadth of all the silences of the world.”

10 Tips to Soulful Photography. Tip #2: The Wow Factor

You can do this (well sorta) with your cell phone.

Tip #2: Find Something that Takes Your Breath Away!

When was the last time you said under your breath (or exclaimed out loud), “WOW?”

Last summer I went up to Mt. Rainier to hike under the stars. I was hoping to experiment doing some night photography, using some new techniques I had learned but not yet perfected. I remember getting set up with my tripod and beginning to compose a few shots and explore some different angles. I didn’t really know if the Milky Way would align with the mountain, creating the marvelous optical illusion of exploding out of the peak of our famous volcano. It was quiet, incredibly beautiful as we watched the orange to dark blue color spectrum emerge, provided by the sun setting in the west. We drank in the views of the rolling foothills below us that carried the streams and rivers fed by glacial melt from Mt. Rainier through lush forests.

Just near sunset I heard some noisy people coming up the trail to our spot. I was a little annoyed actually. Soon, two other photographers came bounding up to the spot where we were setting up near the fire lookout on Mt. Fremont. These guys were hootin and hollering, exclaiming the conditions were about the best they’d seen for a while. They were salivating. Their joy and excitement could not be contained. My annoyance began to dissipate as they started offering me advise, explaining where the Milky Way would appear and different camera settings. They were captured by the awesome wonder that was beginning to unfold before our eyes in the night sky as the sun sank deeper and deeper into the Pacific Ocean to the West. These guys were like kids.

When was the last time you felt wonder burst upon your emotions? Here’s tip #2. You need to Cultivate the Wow Factor. Look for it. It’s everywhere if we take time to look. Furthermore, you need to practice this. Like a healthy habit. What do you take in through the eye gate to keep you seeing the world like a little child? We all have had those moments when we stopped in our tracks. Go back in your mind to one of those moments. For many people (and landscape photographers seem to know this because of the types of photos we take) it’s a sunset, the pounding ocean waves, a majestic mountain enshrouded with snow. Maybe it’s a favorite iconic scene from a favorite National Park. But the sense of being awestruck can also come from a beautiful flower where you see the perfect symmetry of a blossoming flower bud. Or a droplet on a petal. I’m offering you an invitation to cultivate the habit of being profoundly moved by something.

I want to dismiss from your thinking that you need a high-end DSLR camera to capture the Wow. Sure, a better camera helps with some of the challenging issues of low light, or other limitations you have with a cell phone. But one of the rules of good photography in general is the best camera for capturing good photos is the one you have with you. Very few people walk around without their cell phone in their pocket these days. And these little guys are closing the gap between high end expensive cameras and that little piece of electronics you carry in your pocket. The point here is to open your eyes. Look at the world like a little child. Seek to recover your sense of wonder and awe. Btw, here’s a short gallery of photos I took just today on a walk around Green Lake with my cell phone. Look for the WOW factor close by.

The Skinny on this Photo: A tripod is necessary for this kind of shot. Strap on the camera. Open the ISO to around 4000. Open your f-stop to as wide as you can and take a few shots to see your results. Shutter speed should rest around 20-30 seconds. If you go longer you’ll start to get blurred stars. Which is another effect you can go for of course, making star trails. Experiment with the white balance function, moving to Kelvin 4800 to 5200′. I like to get something interesting in the foreground for star photography so the fire lookout is classic in my opinion and Mt. Rainier is just hard to improve upon. Look closely at the lower flank of the mountain. See two small lights? Those were climbers beginning their ascent up the big hill before midnight! Talk about AWESOME!

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