Tag Archives: Spirituality

Quick Review: Feelings and Faith

I recently read Feelings and Faith: Cultivating Godly Emotions in the Christian Life by Brian S. Borgman. There’s so many that ride the extremes of emotion – either being driven completely by emotion or rejecting emotion out of hand. Feelings and Faith is a theology of emotions for people who want to understand emotions through the grand story of creation, fall, and redemption.

A good amount of the book is focused on unpacking from Scripture what it has to say about emotions and what that means for the character of God and what it means to be human. Borgman challenges various false perspectives about feelings that plague Christians and non-believers alike. He anchors his theology of emotions with a solid foundation that is easy to understand and follow even though it still is challenging.

He continues to tackle Biblical perspectives on various emotions such as anger, fear, and depression among others. He does a good job in this section helping the reader understand the intersection of the physical person and spirituality. In the world today much is treated as exclusively physical – but there are helpful discussions about spirituality, Scripture, and sin as they impact feelings and emotions.

He dives into various areas such as worship, preaching, Christian community, and reading Scripture among others to explore the importance of holistic experience as part of God’s design of revealing Himself.

This is a very solid book. I have read so much on some of these areas that I did not find much of the book revolutionary. But if I had read this in college or in my twenties I would have really benefitted from it. But I continue to be struck by one of the main points of the book – that our emotional life is subject to the Lordship of Christ just like any other area. This isn’t a popular notion as emotions still tend to get filtered by what’s culturally appropriate, but there are emotions God wants us to experience and emotions that He wants us to have control over.  That’s a radical idea to many.

So if you find yourself blown around in the wind too often or detached from any source of meaning and connection, I’d suggest reading Faith and Feelings.


Quick Review: Daring Greatly

I finished Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly today and it was really great.  I’m not sure I need to give too much of an intro due to her enormous popularity through her TED talks and involvement in the Global Leadership Summit a few times in recent years.  So I’ve seen her content and enjoyed it, but I  hadn’t read one of her books and been able to be exposed to some of her research in more depth.

Brown is a shame researcher among other things and this book is really unpacking what dynamics are at work within us to either catalyze boldness and greatness in life or hinder and limit us.  The key as she communicates it is the idea of shame resilience – the ability to live vulnerability and bounce back with risk and courage in a world that often seeks to limit and judge.  So vulnerability and shame are at the core of this book as well as some of her other works as well.

From a theory standpoint, it fascinates me how the research reinforces what I believe the Bible teaches about identity, the fall, and redemption. She unpacks the crippling and paralyzing darkness of how shame works in peoples lives and communities. But she also illustrates how a person’s sense of what she calls “worthiness” or wholeheartedness is what makes the difference in people’s lives. That sense of worthiness that comes through love, grace, and emotional connection is what provides the security and grounding to risk and live with courage amidst vulnerability in this threatening world.  The research confirms clearly the Biblical narrative and its theology of identity.

Practically – there is excellent content that includes great content for parenting and for leadership.  As parents in the heart of parenting young kids, it’s super helpful reinforcement of what will help shape wholehearted kids and how to negotiate vulnerability as a family.  The same with leadership, but the content and application to family and parenting felt most valuable to me right now.

This is a significant book and the general arena is pretty key today. People do not understand the power of shame in these ways – in the west or east. In Asia, these are huge themes and topics that need addressing and leadership in the family and the church among other places.  But it’s the same in the west.

This is a great read for parents, leaders, spouses, and friends. It takes us to the heart of what’s going on in the deepest parts of us in our daily struggles and gives hope for a path forward if we feel stuck.  So I highly recommend the book or any of the talks you can find on youtube or the TED website. It’s worth it!


Quick Review: The Call

           The Call by Os Guinness is meant to be to be read and digested over a period of time – like a daily devotional or reflection. It’s actually so deep and catalyzes such depth of thought and introspection that it can’t really be consumed another way.  I loved going through this book as I was challenged spiritually and intellectually.

           One of my takeaways was how the pervasiveness in which all meaning and activity in life is meant to be an experience of the Caller and an expression of worship.  Calling is not just about finding my unique purpose in the world, but it is about connecting to a comprehensive vision for how I have been created to worship the Caller in a particular context and time. Calling then is not fundamentally about me at all – it’s about the Caller.  Of specific relevance was the chapter about “The Audience of One.”  We’re called to live our lives to please God alone. I resonate deeply with Guinness’ comment that, “The trouble comes, of course, when we truly live before an Audience of one, but the audience is not God but us” (Guinness, 2003, kindle loc 2069).

One insight I reflected on more deeply that connects with the above reflections relates to how I view different aspects of work. While in general, I do not believe I tend to divorce the sacred and secular in practice, I was convicted in my attitude and motivation in different parts of my duties and responsibilities that sometimes are not as significant or praiseworthy – those things that simply take hard work and effort and that do not garner much attention or praise. Guinness uses the language of “drudgery,” which resonates with some aspects of my life and ministry experience – from things like commuting in traffic to other things like paperwork and meetings. Guinness writes, “Drudgery done for ourselves or for other human audiences will always be drudgery. But drudgery done for God is lifted and changed” (Guinness, 2003, kindle loc 3209). As I am connected to my Caller, all of my work has meaning. If the Caller would be pleased, why should I express contempt at some forms of my work?

Another insight that I reflected deeply upon was the sin of sloth. It is easy to not think about this sin because of how busy and active I am, but Guinness corrects this perspective and clarifies that sloth does not just involve physical laziness, but indifference to the Caller and the world into which the Caller has sent us. He writes, “Sloth is inner despair at the worthwhileness of the worthwhile that finally slumps into an attitude of “Who cares?” (Guinness, 2003, kindle loc 2445). I was reminded again that I do not want to have a faith that is “privately engaging but socially irrelevant” (Guinness, 2003, kindle loc 2809). I am resolved to guard against indifference in my life, relationships, and ministry so that my expression of my calling is an expression of worship to the Caller.

Another significant chapter related to the themes of reputation and image. Guinness asks if we have had our “white funeral” (Guinness, 2003, kindle loc 3646). The challenge is that we must die to ourselves in many ways, one of which involves dying to our image and reputation. There are not too many things I resist more than looking like a fool, yet if that is my highest value I reject Christ.  This was one of many challenging chapters that examine different areas of character.

This is a fantastic resource for personal development and character growth.  It is important for refining a sense of overall calling in life, but it’s relevant for discipleship in general.  I highly recommend this – this would be a great thing to go through over time with a small group or team.


Pre-School Theology: The Hand of Blessing

This entry is part 11 of 14 in the series Pre-School Theology


A while back we were coming out of church and our four year old daughter started an interesting conversation about her Sunday School experience this way,

“One of the teachers was leaving or something and we all prayed for her and they made us hold our hand up pointed towards her for a really long time and it hurt my arm because it was so long!”

But it turns out all our kids were together during this experience and they had a lot to say about it.  My son (7) added as only a true Star Wars fan could,

“It’s true. It was really long.  Why do they have us hold up our arms?  It looked like everyone was trying to use the force on her.”

Our oldest agreed with that assessment wholeheartedly and added that it also looked like the pose that the Iron Man statues from the Avengers are in at the mall (see above).

This was an entertaining conversation about “the hand of blessing.”  The Scriptures contain the idea of the laying on of hands as a means of blessing.  But logistics sometimes prevent that and instead of getting up close and personal, we just raise a stretched out hand in that direction of the blessing.  It’s a practical, yet engaged means of having the whole community participate in the conveying of a certain blessing upon someone or a group of people.

I don’t mind it. But funny how my kids interpret what’s going on when they aren’t used to seeing those types of things.

They have adopted it now though.  When I’m icing my knees after basketball, it’s not uncommon for my son to randomly extend his hand towards me while trying to keep a straight face.  I asked him the first time what he was doing.  He said, “I’m doing that hand prayer thing!”  And there’s been a couple moments at dinner where I humorously get the “hand of blessing” from all 3 of my kids if it’s clear I’m really stressed.  I’m glad my kids have a sense of humor 🙂

And now I can’t look at Iron Man the same anymore either.


The Fork in the Road

When was the last time you had a huge decision you needed to make where you felt like a lot was at stake either way?

That’s kind of where our family has been the last many months – trying to discern God’s will for us in this next season of our lives, leadership, and ministry. Do we continue to live, serve, and work in a different part of the world or do we return home to much that is familiar?

Last month my oldest daughter, in a moment of honest inquiry, asked me, “Dad – how do you know what the right decision is?”  She elaborated by asking, “What if we stay and I end up wishing we went home?  And what if we go home and I wished we had stayed?”


I loved the moment as a parent to connect with my daughter over what feels like a massive fork in the road with a lot at stake.  There was some anxiety, but really it was an honest wrestling over potential grieving and of the fear of making the wrong decision – of enduring feared consequences and facing loss.

But the reality is our daughter mirrored the question both my wife and I have been wrestling with for some time – how do we know? And what happens if end up wishing we had made a different decision?

We have plenty of perspective and training as it relates to making decisions or discovering God’s will, but when there’s a lot at stake there’s still the lingering pressure to “get it right.”

But the reality is we’ll never know the alternative universe in which we live a life as if we made a different decision.  Part of walking by faith is not just trusting in God for the best decision moving forward, but it’s trusting in God’s sovereignty and goodness in every step of the journey after the decision. There’s a freedom in that despite the gravity of the decision making and in this decision process of ours it’s that freedom and confidence we want our kids to experience and know.

We don’t yet know definitively what the Lord has for us, but as a family it’s been a formational journey together developing trust and confidence in a good and sovereign God.

Baby Jesus Valentine

This entry is part 9 of 14 in the series Pre-School Theology

Valentine’s Day apparently is a big deal here in the Philippines – in general it seems to be even bigger than the actual holidays of Easter and Christmas.  So as a family we had some fun celebrating and talking about the origins of Valentine’s Day and what it means and all that.

During our conversation, the kids steered the conversation somehow to kissing – that kissing is what married people and couples do on Valentine’s Day.

Kaelyn, our recently turned four year old surprised me with a strong stance on the issue.  She declared very passionately,

“The only person I am ever going to kiss in my life is baby Jesus!”

Sounds good to me!



Why and How I Celebrated the 4th: Reflections on an Imperfect Union

The fourth of July is fun.  Since becoming a parent it’s become a fun holiday because there’s parades and fireworks and it’s fun family time. This year I found it interesting to consistently be seeing things from two extreme perspectives.

One, being those that equate America as being a Christian nation and argue that everything would be great if we just went back to our roots, spiritual and traditional.  The other extreme is the increasing percentage of folks, who in reaction to the Christian Americanism fanaticism end up choosing to meditate and dwell on all the ways this nation has failed to live up to his professed standards for all people and the ways in which we have an integrity problem.

I’m not here to tell people what they should do.  Do I throw up in my mouth a little when I see “The American Patriot’s Bible” or “God’s Promises for the American Patriot” on sale at the Christian bookstore?  YES.  But I don’t go so far as to say that this country’s legacy is only that of hypocrisy, oppression, and marginalization.  Though there’s been plenty of those things to go around along with untold pain and suffering through the generations.  I just felt like expressing why I celebrated and why I feel good about how and why I celebrated. In every story there is a beginning.

Origin stories or myths are important.  Within them, significant values are embedded that shape what is to come.  The history of a nation is no different.  The origins of our country were unique, fascinating, and incredible and that generation’s investment, blood, and labor set the stage for a new world power of sorts.   I LOVE American Revolutionary War history.  When I’ve been in places like Independence Hall in Philadelphia or at various monuments in D.C. or other places that are landmarks or places of great historical significance, things slow down for me in a weird way and I start to connect with the larger story and it feels quite spiritual to me.

As a history major I’ve always found meaningful connections with places where great and significant events have taken place. But I’ve also studied the ethics of war and just wars and one could also find plenty of arguments to make as to the self-serving and elitist motivations for rebelling against Britain.  It’s not black or white as we consider the morality.  It gets even more gray when we consider the dynamics with the Native American populations and the slavery issues.  In short – it wasn’t a completely pure and holy endeavor.

But one thing I believe to be true is that despite the imperfections and moral limitations of some of these men involved, as they were bound to the some of the norms of their time, they did something that I have great respect for.

They served.

In retrospect, it’s clear that they didn’t serve everyone nor did they serve all in equal fashion.  Our country paid the price for that and continues to until this day in many ways.  Yet they created a new reality for a new time and new generation.  They used the means and wisdom at their disposal to create a better world (for most at that time), one that allowed for personal freedoms. Over time, origins which are seldom perfect, become opportunities for myth making by majority cultures that want to anchor society in the memories and values that have shaped its story (though often to the neglect of the stories of the marginalized).  The fourth of July for me is not about wholeheartedly immersing myself in myth, especially that one that argues that we were founded as a Christian nation.  But I most definitely will celebrate the historic events that led to the founding of this country that has been blessed in its range of freedoms and liberties and prosperity.

Reading the accounts of all that went into the forming of this nation is nothing less than inspiring.  It’s incredible.  And I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall in many of the proceedings. I believe God was at work in ways I may not understand. But the fourth of July should also be a time of grieving – a time of entering into the ways in which our celebrated values and hopes and dreams have gone and are going unfulfilled for millions of people.  It’s at the heart of hypocrisy to celebrate our country as being great and full of virtue, yet refuse to consider the ways in which that’s just not fully true. The founders of our country sought out to “make a more perfect union.” I think the fourth of July is a great opportunity to celebrate the ways in which they did just that.  Because in many ways they very much did that along with many who followed in their footsteps.  But today we should not celebrate “a perfect union” as if we are stuck in a refrain of “We’re #1! We’re #1!” as if we’re at a team sporting event at the Olympics.  We should celebrate and consider the example which that generation provided us about what is required  to create “a more perfect union.”

Our awesomeness as a country is not something that was set in stone or written in the sky once and for all.  It was connected to the spirit that existed to invest in a new reality that witnessed greater freedom and opportunities for all (well – most anyway).  We should follow this example and be attentive to, act on, and pray for those things which need an infusion of those very values that we say makes our country great.  In short, we should rededicate ourselves to what does contribute to a more perfect union in recognition that there is great need of love, mercy, and justice.

The fourth of July should be an integrative experience of sorts – celebrating the good, grieving the shortcomings, and reconnecting to a new vision of hope in which God can use faithful men to create a new and alternative reality for so many that are not free in so many different ways.  It kind of mirrors many of our own stories too.  We all have different origin stories, but we’ve had moments of triumph and moments of failure.  We call them fools who only celebrate their own goodness because we see the whole picture.  Yet to fall into despair at our failures is to lose hope with the promise with which our stories begin. I feel like this country in some ways on fourth of July.

This year I found myself wishing for my country for that same thing that I pray for myself and others.  I rest in God’s goodness and provision for me with great thankfulness for what He’s done, yet I am sobered by my own failings and ways I don’t measure up to what I claim and intend to be.  Yet what energizes the soul more than a vision of a new reality in which new possibilities and real hope is cultivated and fostered?  This is what I wish more would connect with on July 4th both for themselves and for their country – that God specializes in new realities that honor Him and that lift people up out of slavery and darkness.  Yet those realities aren’t usually brought about when we are looking to the past to reclaim our identity or hope with a sense of entitlement or superiority.

This may or may not resonate with you – but the fourth of July for me has become a time to consider how we can continue to re-write our story as a country moving forward, and maybe how we can be a part of re-writing many stories that need an alternative plot and ending.  That our country has a legacy of heroism and valor in attempts to make a more perfect union is something to be celebrated, but not to be worshiped.

Worship is what happens when we take seriously the opportunities we have to steward what we’ve been given for a both a still more perfect union and for the sake of a love and concern for our fellow mankind. So I celebrated my country as a Christian – and I’m glad I did.  And you know what?  I’m excited to do it again next year 🙂    In the meantime, there are stories being written and I have opportunities to be a part of them. *Originally Posted July 4th, 2011

New Review – Relationships: A Mess Worth Making

I just finished reading Timothy Lane and Paul David Tripp’s Relationships: A Mess Worth Making.  I got this for free on Amazon last year and thought I’d read it to see if I wanted to use it in a class I’m teaching on interpersonal relationships.  I took a look at several books and this one won out for my purposes so I’ll be using this as a resource and as a text in the near future.

There’s a couple things I was looking for.  First, I wanted a resource that covered the fundamental areas involved in relationships.  I wanted content on forgiveness, communicating value, identity, serving, conflict, anxiety, and a host of other things.  This book addressed most every area I wanted and did so really well.

Secondly, I wanted something that would elevate an average person’s theology and ability to understand how all of those things listed above only make since in a larger theological framework and foundation with Christ and the Scriptures at the center. Not only does this book provide a “Biblical basis” for their writing (which is important but not sufficient to me), they also inform and elevate people’s theology in the process of discussing these things from Scripture.  Someone will walk away from reading the book not just with the biblically “right” perspectives, but more importantly they will walk away more theologically sound so they can understand how their everyday tiny actions in community connect to a larger theology that is bringing glory to God through everything.  This is important – to help people become theological thinkers in the context of everyday relationships. The book does an excellent job here.

Third, I also look at books with a view towards how it would apply cross culturally.  Not only do I have experience in ethnic minority contexts in the U.S., but I’m not teaching in an international contexts amidst students from over 20 countries all over Asia.  It’s important that texts be able to have the same impact in different contexts.  The book does not address cross-cultural relationships specifically – but there is great content on general diversity and difference.  However, while there is no explicit cross-cultural content I think the content is written in a way where the typical cultural barriers that show up when books get used in different contexts are not really an issue.  The content is taught in a way that I believe would allow everyone to really be impacted similarly, leaving room for each person to contextualize the truths and content to their situation.

It still has a North American flavor, but it’s not full of stumbling blocks and barriers to other perspectives.  I think they could have included some additional content on shame, cross-cultural communication, and culture in general.  However. I think most readers from other contexts can easily contextualize to their situations which is better than most books in this genre typically allow for.

I highly recommend this as a foundational resource for development in relationships.  If you run training programs in a ministry or church – this is what I would propose as a book to help create a healthy and theological foundations for your people.



Quotes From Kids in Transition

Here’s another installment of direct quotes from my kids as they are in the heart of their transition as our family moves to Manila….

“If I cry really hard for 10 days do we still have to go to the Philippines?”
-Colin (5)

“If I would have known this Philippines thing would be as hard as it is I would have thrown a tantrum way back at the beginning.”
-Morgan (8)

“Just so you know, if the Olympics happens while we’re in the Philippines, I’m still rooting for the USA!”

“I miss my house. Go Back.”
-Kaelyn (2 1/2)

“Is this whole Philippines thing just a bad dream or is it real?”

“I feel like I could cry right now and it would fill the streets.”

“Dad, it’s YOUR fault we have to go to the Philippines!”

“Jesus, thank you for the food. Please don’t make us go to the Philippines. Amen.”   — Colin

As you can see, there’s a fair amount of grieving and emotion involved here and navigating that as a family is just as involved as moving out of our house and into storage or lining up flights or all the details.  We’ll be resilient and bounce back, but transitions are big for big people and little people alike.

One thought my wife and I have had is that it’s pretty hard to follow Jesus as parents and not lead your children into painful territory or at time’s even harms way.   As parents you want to protect your kids, yet we’re very mindful know that we have made decisions in response to the Lord that are causing stretching and tearing in our kids as well as in ourselves.  We knew it was coming. They didn’t ask for it.

The instinct to keep your kids from all pain maybe has derailed the faith journeys of many parents more than many might want to admit – and we get it. It can really be hard.  But we know that stretching and tearing will be part of God’s plan to sow into their lives, lay a foundation for their future spiritual journeys, and develop who they are.  That’s the journey we’re excited to see and what God will do in all of us.

That’s the journey of faith and it beats the pants off of trying to control life for your kids or yourselves.

But for now – it kind of just hurts.

Here’s them in action as Morgan interviews the other two for her blog morganinmanila.com :

Morgan in Manila 7/7/13: Morgan Interviews Her Siblings from Brian Virtue on Vimeo.

And here’s where Colin interviews Morgan where he gets to display his Regis skills….

Morgan in Manila 7/7/13 from Brian Virtue on Vimeo.