Enter the Worship Circle: My Unfinished Story

image

Photography by Joanne Loewen.

Michael and I have had the pleasure of knowing Karla Adolphe, and calling her and her family our friends, for almost two years now. It’s been a privilege to see bits and pieces of her journey as an artist and as an all-around lovely human being over these past two years.

Before meeting Karla, Michael and I knew of her because of her involvement with Enter the Worship Circle. We listened to Enter the Worship Circle’s albums as we drove to work in our pre-YWAM days. And now we know Karla. That’s kind of weird, but awesome. We met her while she was pursuing a solo career, and we’ve loved the music she’s written as a solo artist. We’ve blogged about it. We’ve even had the privilege of hearing some of her songs when they’ve been in the development process.

But now, Karla is setting out on a new journey, best described as an “unfinished story.” She and Ben Pasley (Ben was part of spear-heading Enter the Worship Circle in 1998) are sensing that God is calling them to engage in a new expression of Enter the Worship Circle. They’ve sensed that their work in expressing the heart of the Psalmist, is not finished, and that God is calling them into a redemptive story:

There’s way more to the story, and you can learn more about Enter the Worship Circle and #MyUnfinishedStory by:

We can’t wait for the music…and to see how God writes the story of Enter the Worship Circle in the seasons to come.

We Turned 30!

Last Saturday, we celebrated the 30th anniversary of YWAM Turner Valley, with a big party! Over 160 people joined us in thanking God for this place, and for reminiscing about all He’s done over our history. Here’s to another 30 amazing years!

image

Can you find us in the above picture? We’re both wearing hats and standing next to each other.

 

Meet Our Mountain Venture DTSers!

13775538_212181335845283_8469197986760844097_n

This fabulous group of human beings are the staff and students of this year’s Mountain Venture DTS! We are so excited for these six students to know God and make Him known as they spend the next five months at YWAM Turner Valley, and in the nations. (And we want them to all come back and do SBS with us in 2017. And Titus in 2018.)

Before We Know It

image

Titus Project at YWAM Turner Valley is still six months away, but today we got a delivery that reminds us that those six months will fly by. Before we know it, we’ll be back in the nations, sharing God’s Word and shining His light, taking teams of teachers to the ends of the earth for God’s glory, and the growth of His Kingdom.

Book Review: Celebration of Discipline, by Richard J. Foster

I (Helen) read Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth because our church’s summer series was inspired from its content. As I’ll be preaching on the role of Scripture in one’s walk with Jesus, I thought it would be appropriate to see what author Richard Foster had to say on the topic! I may or may not use this book as a resource for my sermon prep, but for the most part, I found the book inspiring and helpful as I contemplate my own walk with Jesus.

celebration-of-discipline

The book is divided into chapters on the different disciplines, including Meditation, Prayer, Fasting, Study, Simplicity, Solitude, Submission, Service, Confession, Worship, Guidance, and Celebration. The first four are labelled “Inward Disciplines,” the middle four are referred to as “Outward Disciplines,” and the remaining four are called “Corporate Disciplines.” I found this framework helpful as I thought of the application of each discipline. It is quite readable, which surprised me, as I had been warned beforehand that it was “dry.” I didn’t find this to be the case.

I was encouraged by the “Study” chapter, as the author really encourages inductive study. Foster opens his description of this discipline by saying, “The purpose of the Spiritual Disciplines is the total transformation of the person. They aim at replacing old destructive habits of thought with new life-giving habits. Nowhere is this purpose more clearly seen than in the Discipline of study” (p. 62). He goes on to lament that many Christians do not study their Bibles, even while “they may sing with gusto, pray in the Spirit, live as obediently as they know, even receive divine visions and revelations” (p. 62-63). He emphasizes that “Good feelings will not free us. Ecstatic experiences will not free us. Getting ‘high on Jesus’ will not free us. Without a knowledge of the truth, we will not be free” (p. 63). It is spiritual to use our brains to think and to study. I loved that Foster set out to emphasize this and to encourage believers that the intellectual study of Scripture is not lacking in spirituality.

My favorite chapter in this book was the one on the topic of Submission. When I set out to reading this book, and saw that there was a chapter/discipline by this name, I was somewhat leery. Given that this book was written nearly forty years ago, I assumed that this was going to be a chapter on marriage. I was pleasantly surprised to read the following:

Jesus’ example and call to follow the way of the cross in all human relationship form the basis for the teaching of the Epistles on submission. The apostle Paul grounds the imperative to the Church to ‘count others better than yourselves’ in the submission and self-denial of the Lord for our salvation…(Phil. 2:4-7). The apostle Peter, in the middle of his instructions on submission, directly appeals to the example of Jesus as the reason for submission…(1 Pet. 2:21-23)…As a preface to the Ephesian Haustafel [rules for the Christian household – a literary form found in Ephesians 5:21-6:9, Colossians 3:18-4:1, Titus 2:4-10, and 1 Peter 2:18-3:7] we read, ‘Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph. 5:21, italics added). The call for Christians to live the cross-life is rooted in the cross-life of Jesus himself.

The Discipline of submission has been terribly misconstrued and abused from failure to see this wider context. Submission is an ethical theme that runs the gamut of the New Testament. It is a posture obligatory upon all Christians: men as well as women, fathers as well as children, masters as well as slaves. We are commanded to live a life of submission because Jesus lived a life of submission, not because we are in a particular place or station in life. Self-denial is a posture fitting for all those who follow the crucified Lord… (p. 117).

I would love to quote more of Foster’s chapter on submission, but I’m probably beyond the allowable amount as it is! The next time I teach Colossians, or if I ever teach Ephesians, a large portion of this chapter will certainly be required reading for my students! It is the most straightforward treatment of the co-submission called for in the Epistles, that I have ever had the pleasure of reading.

One chapter I found myself disagreeing with, however, was the chapter on Prayer. Some of Foster’s language made me think of open theism. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines open theism as “the thesis that, because God loves us and desires that we freely choose to reciprocate His love, He has made His knowledge of, and plans for, the future conditional upon our actions. Though omniscient, God does not know what we will freely do in the future.” While this may sound appealing on a surface level, it is actually a dangerous idea: that God’s actions are dependent on our prayers, and that God does not know the future. The repercussions of this are enormous and frightening. I don’t know if Foster would define himself as an open theist, but as I conducted a brief google search of “Richard Foster open theism,” I found that others have detected this tone in his writing as well.

Despite the chapter on Prayer, I found the majority of the content encouraging, challenging, and engaging. I would recommend this book, but with a warning about the language used in the description of the Discipline of Prayer.

One Wild Life, by Gungor

Have you ever had a song hit you in the chest? I mean the kind of movement in the music that actually causes your chest to rise and fall. The first time I (Michael) heard the chorus come in on Gungor’s “Hurricane,” that was my response, and sometimes when I listen to that song, it is still my response. My reaction is not even a reaction to the lyrics, but just to that swell of the horns, synth and bass. Then you add the beautiful words: “I see love rising like a hurricane. Rising like a dead man coming up out of the grave. I feel love rising in my chest again. Rising like a burning sun into the day.” After that, I’m arms-raised, emotions-swelling in response to the powerful picture of love the resurrection represents.

I’m not sure if all of my response is what Michael and Lisa Gungor were hoping for when they wrote “Hurricane,” but I think they would be happy to know their music is moving my heart and mind in the way I just described. Every track on the fantastic second album in Gungor’s ambitious One Wild Life trilogy moves me. You may know Gungor for their Beautiful Things album, but in recent years, Gungor has moved away from congregational worship to…well, being just a great band. With that movement away from CCM comes a focus on great creativity in their sound and more challenging messages in their lyrics. With the One While Life trilogy, they move through three major themes: Soul, Spirit and Body. For a deeper explanation of the concept of the album I encourage you to listen to The Liturgists Podcast on the first album, Soul.

One of the tracks that has had a huge impact on Helen and I from Soul was “Vapor,” which acts as a transition from the album Soul to the album Spirit. Soul was such a great album; it was one of my first iTunes purchases in a while. With that said, Spirit is much better. The songs that make the transition from Soul focus on the magic and wonder of the world around us. This moves into the movement of the Spirit in this world and the mystery that comes with those things in our lives that are not as easily explained as we might like. From there the album works toward Body and the idea of how we live out that which flows from the Soul and Spirit. In this transition comes songs like “Let Bad Religion Die,” with its challenging message around misguided actions that can come from a misinterpretation of the things revealed in Soul and Spirit. The transition does not stay in this critical place, however, as my favourite track, “Hurricane,” finds its home in the album here. To me “Hurricane” is the strongest track on the album, and daily I find myself wrestling with the ideas expressed in the song. In a blog post on Gungor’s website, Lisa Gungor writes of how the song was written after the tragic events in Paris last November. The song grew out of a place of seeing all the pain the world had to offer, but through the lense of a picture Lisa and Michael’s daughter drew, which said, “love is stronger than hate.” The world is in a place of tension between all the hate our brokenness can create, and the Love that is bringing resurrection and restoration. If you want to learn more about the album Spirit, The Liturgists have a podcast where Michael and Lisa talk about the album.

Gungor’s music represents the journey they are on in their faith, a journey with which many will identify. That journey is one of deconstruction and more importantly, reconstruction. I do at times find myself at a distance with some of the language they use, but I appreciate and benefit from the honesty in their work. I hope it might be a blessing to you as well.

Book Review: First, Break All the Rules, by Marcus Buckingham & Curt Coffman

I’m not usually one for reading books about management and the business world. While business is a sphere of society that needs missionaries (and many missionaries delve into the world of business specifically so they can minister in the countries to which they feel called), I’ve always thought of business-related books as being geared towards the climb-the-corporate-ladder set. While First, Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham & Curt Coffman would certainly be a valuable read for such a group, I found it had me thinking deeply about the setting in which I work, despite the fact that YWAM Turner Valley is not a traditional “workplace.”

image

First, Break All the Rules was recommended to me by the founder of Titus Project, Amy Stevens. While Michael and I were in Taiwan in late April/early May for a worldwide Titus Project consultation, this book was mentioned as being an excellent resource, specifically with regards to the question of how to retain Titus Project staff. Buckingham & Coffman’s work was built on in-depth interviews by the Gallup organization – interviews of over 80,000 managers in more than 400 companies. The premise of the book is that the greatest managers in the world have little in common, but they are not afraid to veer from conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom encourages managers to try to help people overcome their weaknesses. Great managers do not try to do this, but instead focus on building off of the strengths of their people. Conventional wisdom states that managers should treat all employees as they would like to be treated (the “Golden Rule”). Great managers know that not all their people want to be treated in the same way – they will want to be rewarded, encouraged, and recognized in ways that are particular to them. Conventional wisdom assumes that all people should be promoted as they excel in their current roles. Great managers know that the “next rung on the ladder” may be a poor fit for even their best employees, and strive to make sure their people are in the most appropriate jobs, regardless of where on “the ladder” that job falls.

While not everything in this book directly pertained to me as a Titus Project co-leader and to leadership in my context, I found the most valuable part of First, Break All the Rules to be in the description of the “measuring stick” Gallup used to measure the strength of work environments. According to Gallup, the following questions “measure the core elements needed to attract, focus, and keep the most talented employees” (p. 28):

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
  2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
  3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
  4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?
  5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
  6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
  7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?
  8. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?
  9. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?
  10. Do I have a best friend at work?
  11. In the last six months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?
  12. This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

Later in First, Break All the Rules, the authors compare these questions to summiting a mountain. While it may be tempting to “fly in” to a camp further up the mountain, reducing the time and energy needed to ascend, experienced climbers know better than to skip the necessary work of “base camp” and camps at lower altitudes. If these steps are skipped, altitude sickness is inevitable. In the same way, if managers focus too heavily on the later questions without making sure their people know what is expected of them at work and that they have the necessary materials and equipment to do that work, their people will not last. For some time they may get by on believing in the mission/purpose of their company (question #8), but before long, they will be frustrated that they do not understand their job description, or that they have not received recognition for their work (question #4) (p. 42-49).

As I think about these questions, and as Michael and I think about developing an environment within Titus Project at YWAM Turner Valley that will attract and retain staff, I am challenged to define some of these questions for myself, and ask these questions of our ministry work. I certainly recommend First, Break All the Rules to anyone in ministry or in the business world (or in both!), who aims to create a healthy work environment which retains and honours its people.