A Solo Pianist with a Great Gift and Deep Christian Faith

UnknownI discovered concert pianist Stanton Lanier through my friend Chris Fabry on his afternoon broadcast on the Moody Broadcast Network during the Advent season. I wrote to Stanton Lanier shortly after I began to listen to his music regularly. Recently we met by telephone and spoke about our faith, personal journey and ministries. I hope and pray that our paths will become even more connected in 2014. This man’s albums Unknown-1are all downloaded on my personal iTunes list. I listen almost every day, especially at quiet moments and during some of my reading and writing on the Internet. His rare gift of instrumental music and deep, abiding faith is like none that I have discovered. The fact that Windham Hill Records has embraced published his solo work says a great deal too. More importantly the man behind this music is a faithful, Christ-centerred artist. I believe in helping such faithful artists do their work. Buy some of Stanton Lanier’s albums if you like what you hear. I think you

By |February 21st, 2014|Categories: Friendship, Music, Personal|

A Humble Conversation with a Christian Science Practitioner About Jesus

One of those opportunities that I am afforded because of my mission in ecumenism is rich dialogue with people from many diverse backgrounds. Last fall I spoke to the North American Academy on Ecumenists, which met in Chicago. I delivered a paper about evangelical Protestantism and the new opportunities and models for ecumenism that are evolving in our world. This paper will be published in the Journal of Ecumenical Studies in 2014 so I cannot publish it online here.

profile-image-display.jspaBefore I spoke at the NAAE I was preceded to the podium by a Christian Science practitioner named Shirley Paulson from Evanston, Illinois. Shirley gave a wonderful paper about her own pursuit of the larger church in ecumenism. She shared openly, and quite winsomely, about the work that she does within her own tradition of Christian Science. My reaction, like that of most evangelicals, was to wonder why this work was even being presented, given the story that I had always assumed about Christian Science. But Shirley Paulson did not fit into my box. In fact, she eloquently exploded

How and Why ACT3 Began

The ministry of ACT3 Network was legally incorporated in 1991. Four men joined me in our home in Carol Stream for the purpose of founding a non-profit teaching mission that would seek the renewal of the church through impacting the lives of pastors and leaders. At the time this ministry was incorporated it was called Reformation & Revival.

0But the real beginning of this ministry goes all the way back to 1981. A pastor from England had been in my pulpit and home for several days. He asked me about my influence upon area pastors and how I could use this to impact others. He suggested I begin a ministerial fellowship that would stress the intellectual, spiritual and doctrinal aspects of deep faith. The first such group met in 1981 in the basement of my church in Wheaton, Illinois. We called it the Whitefield Fellowship, naming it after the British evangelist of the eighteenth century. I picked this name because I loved George Whitefield for his heart, his incredible zeal for God and needy people, and his deep

True Friendships (4)

k3CrvJJZkqECIn my Tuesday blog (1/14) I gave a quotation from the monastic writer John Cassian that is taken from his book titled The Conferences. In this extremely practical and moving treatment of deep spirituality Cassian wrote the following about “true friendships” which I share again today:

True friendships . . . have as their foundation [five principles] . . .  The last is something not to be doubted with regard to vice in general–namely, a person must believe each day that he is going to depart from this world.

There is not much to add to this last principle of true friendship. If you truly believe that you are mortal then tell yourself every day (even many times during the day) that soon you will be done with this world as you now know it. If you live this way each moment then you will live a life that is genuinely prepared to meet the true judge and savior of all mankind. You will also count your reputation as of little importance and value what truly matters

By |January 17th, 2014|Categories: Death, Friendship, Love, Personal, Uncategorized|

True Friendship (2)

k3CrvJJZkqECYesterday I shared a lengthy quotation from The Conferences of John Cassian (d. 435). This quotation had to do with Christian friendship. (As I wrote on Monday, the subject of friendship means a great deal to me.) In his second of five points about the foundation of friendship John Cassian writes:

The second foundation is each person’s curtailment of his own inclinations, so as not to consider himself wise and skilled. Neither one insists on having his own way but both prefer to do what his neighbor wishes.

If you are to grow into a deep and lasting friendship, the kind of relationship that mutually encourages you and your friend, then you must learn to curtail your own sense of importance and your personal expectations and agenda for the other person.

Negatively this means that you must allow your friend to disagree with you, even rather profoundly at times, and still remain committed to keeping and nurturing the friendship. In fact, in such a time of disagreement the friendship might become more important to you. You will have to

By |January 15th, 2014|Categories: ACT 3, Friendship, Love, Personal|

True Friendship (1)

CassianJohn Cassian (d. 435), a monk and influential spiritual writer, devoted a great deal of his writing to the meaning and importance of friendship. Cassian wisely wrote:

True friendships . . . have as their first foundation contempt for worldly wealth and a disdain for all the material goods that we possess . . . . The second foundation is each person’s curtailment of his own inclinations, so as not to consider himself wise and skilled. Neither one insists on having his own way but both prefer to do what his neighbor wishes. The third is that each person knows that all things–even those he values as useful and necessary–are to be treated as secondary to the value of love and peace. The fourth is that each person believes from the bottom of his heart that he must never become angry for any cause, whether just or unjust. The fifth is that each one desires to assuage the anger that the other may have toward him–even if for no reason–in the same way as he would his own

Engaging Friends Face-to-Face

friendship-68One of my deepest and most personal core values is friendship. I concur with the philosopher Simone Weil, “Friendship ought to be a gratuitous joy, like the joys recorded by art or life.”

I have learned so much from being in growing friendships over the course of my nearly sixty-five years. My relationships with others are so important to me that I cannot imagine a lonely journey without my true friends sharing my life’s joys.

My friends include a growing number of Millennials (sometimes called the Echo Boomers for the size of this generation, a generation which ranges from birth in the early 1980s to 2004), Generation X (ranging from the early 1960s to the early 1980s), Baby Boomers (my own post-WW II generation, ranging from 1945 to 1964 ) and a few dear (older) friends from what has been called the Silent Generation (1924 until 1945).  Most of my G.I. Generation friends (the generation from 1901-1924, like my parents, are now in the presence of Jesus). These friendships transcend wealth, class, gender, race and ethnicity. They push me to think

By |January 13th, 2014|Categories: ACT 3, Friendship, Love, Personal|

Pray for Sister Madge and the Mission of Christ in South Africa

Sister Madge Karecki is a dear friend to me and many others. Madge knows how to make and enjoy deep friendships like few people that I have met in the last several years. Sadly, at least for her scores of friends here in Chicago, Madge was called to be the president of the only Catholic college in the nation of South Africa. At the end of November she left Chicago for her new appointment. (The photo below was taken at a Midwest Missions Fellowship meeting where I spoke the day before Madge left for South Africa!)

KODAK Digital Still CameraMadge Karecki, OSC, is a Franciscan Sister (Sisters of St. Joseph of the Third Order of St. Francis) who was born in Chicago, Illinois. She has degrees in both spirituality and missiology from St. Bonaventure University in New York and The University of South Africa. She was a missionary in South Africa for 21 years. Before returning to the USA in her response to the continued call to Christian mission, she was an Associate Professor of Missiology and Christian

A Beautiful Testimony to Missional-Ecumenism

During 2013 ACT3 conducted five area-wide Unity Factor Forums. You can learn more about these events on our site. (I hope we can do 5-6 more in 2014 so please consider inviting us to do one in your area.) The last one that we did in 2013 was in Aurora, Illinois. I asked Fr. David Engbarth, a local Catholic priest, to share something of his own journey into missional-ecumenism. He surprised me when he invited a non-Catholic friend to stand with him in order to talk about their deep and growing friendship. There is a popular saying that says “a picture is worth a thousand words.” If this is true then this video says more about what ACT3 is seeking to do than anything I can write. In the light of my post on December 2, about Pope Francis’ letter Evangelii Gaudium, this is a wonderful follow-up that reveals the human reality of love between two brothers from different ecclesial traditions. 

Leaders Who Focus on People, Not Just Ideas

henri_aboutHenri Nouwen (1932-1996) was a Dutch-born Catholic priest and writer who is best known as the author of 39 books about spirituality. Nouwen studied psychology and theology and has had a profoundly human way of making spirituality come alive for many people, including a large number of evangelical Protestants. He taught at Notre Dame, Yale Divinity School and then Harvard Divinity School. Yet he ended his life as a pastor within the L’Arche Community in Ontario, caring frequently for one disabled man. It is this last part of his story that appeals universally to many who discover him through his writings and story.

In 1990 Henri Nouwen was in Paris during January. As was so often the case he was struggling mightily. His writing was not going well and his mind, as he put it, “was in cramps.” He was frustrated and discouraged. (This was often his experience!) He decided to go to Lourdes in the “off-season” to give his “anxious heart a rest.” He stayed only three days but he kept a small journal, which was published