Advent Day 9: A Haven and a Rescuer

On December 8, 2013 by Eddie

[Note: For those of you who followed along via this blog last year, we’ve now moved the Advent Project to The Parish blog. You can stay tuned here, we’ll continue to post all the important devotionals, but if you’d like to visit us online at The Parish, we’d love to connect with you there!]

Jonathan Shelton is a great friend and a key member of The Parish. He is the Spiritual Director of Desert Sessions and Founder of Sycamore Abbey. We have dreamed with he and his wife Candi for months about what exactly this church will look like. We value their voices in our lives and the life of this church more than we could put into words.

image-17I think one of the most valuable things about journeying with one another through the Advent Project is the self-examination that takes place; specifically about how we normally stumble into and out of such a monumental celebration of our savior. I hear it in the posts we’ve read so far, and I am experiencing it as I read along and try to lean in and make a real connection with Jesus through these weeks.

My normal Christmas season is made up of a combination of stretching myself too thin, trying to make Christmas feel like a great movie and realizing that it feels more like a mediocre grade school production where everyone’s dressed in bath robes, someone’s holding a plastic baby Jesus, and the aluminum foil covered Christmas star is slowly tipping over on it’s flimsy wire.

As I read through these scriptures today, I’m reminded of how incapable I am of being good enough. That my dependency on Jesus is not seasonal. That the Israelites were bound to a law that required copious amounts of doing in order to obtain righteousness – it was not a given. The grace that Jesus has extended to us is something I take for granted daily.

As I read through the Psalms today, I think of the reverence that is displayed for a God who is a haven and a rescuer and a provider. I can only hope as I take a brief moment and let that land solidly on my heart today, that the same sense of gratitude and awe will be the center of my focus over the coming weeks.

Advent Day 4: High Alert

On December 4, 2013 by Eddie

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[Note: For those of you who followed along via this blog last year, we’ve now moved the Advent Project to The Parish blog. You can stay tuned here, we’ll continue to post all the important devotionals, but if you’d like to visit us online at The Parish, we’d love to connect with you there!]

Beth is a great friend and member of our Launch Team.  She’s been married for over ten years to Mike and out of that marriage has come one seriously fun little girl named Katie. Although Beth is now a stay at home mom, she is also quite the marketing consultant and editor.

Advent is pretty personal for me this year. Rather like a girl 2000 years ago, I’m waiting on a baby. He’s due to arrive just a few days before Christmas, but I can’t help being on high alert already. Waiting. Expecting. Anticipating.

As a result of this preoccupation, many of my family’s Christmas traditions are taking a backseat. We won’t be hosting our annual Christmas Eve breakfast. It remains to be seen whether we’ll make it to Christmas dinner with the extended family. I’ve had to–pardon the pun, but it’s nearly unavoidable–hang up my expectations of having every shred of holiday decor strung and lit and tied with a bow by December 1. We’re hitting the high points this year and letting the rest fall where it may.

With such a non-traditional season shaping up, one of today’s final verses stands out to me:

Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you.” (Matthew 21:31)

Jesus’ coming messed things up for a lot of people. The chief priests and elders to whom He speaks here had always known they would be in heaven long before someone so abased as a prostitute. They read passages like Psalm 14 with righteous anger. The “fool” and the “wicked” would get what was coming to them–salvation would come, and they would be thankful for it when those people got what they deserved.

Imagine the priests, whose job it was to help people be ready to identify the Savior when He came. Constantly on the lookout for the Messiah. Ready at every turn to follow the One who would redeem Israel. They had their plans down to the letter. They knew the Scriptures inside and out. They were ready. And they missed Him.

With their hearts attuned so closely to what they expected, they missed the reality of God’s coming. Their minds were fixed on their own desires, and the Joy of Man’s Desiring came and went right in front of them.

I’m trying very hard this year to let go of my expectations for this Christmas season. Perhaps it’s practice for a more meaningful holiday in years to come–everything that stands still in my house might not have a ribbon tied on it, but with a heart that is still, I’m in a better position to anticipate and see the coming of Christ.

Advent Day 2: The Weary World Rejoices

On December 1, 2013 by Eddie

Advent Day 2

[Note: For those of you who followed along via this blog last year, we’ve now moved the Advent Project to The Parish blog. You can stay tuned here, we’ll continue to post all the important devotionals, but if you’d like to visit us online at The Parish, we’d love to connect with you there!]

Brendan Trinkle is a great friend of ours and will be a regular contributor to our blog. He has been leading worship for our gatherings and is a key member of The Parish Launch Team. He’s married to Lindsay and together they will be hosting a Table Group in Atlanta. 

Eddie spoke to this yesterday, and I find that the same is true in my life: the Christmas season has a tendency to rush by in a flurry of lights and ribbons and reindeer and gingerbread, the nativity mingled in among the decorations. There is much to distract and detach us from the wild mystery that is Christmas – Jesus, God born as a human baby to impoverished parents, laid in a hay box in a small Palestinian town over 2,000 years ago. I hope that together we can pause to think about these strange, miraculous details despite the busyness of the season.

The Collects and Canticle for this week are helpful to me in understanding some common threads in today’s readings. The Collect prayers each invoke the presence of God, His guidance in our lives, and His defense against the evils of the world on our behalf. Zechariah’s song represents an answer to those prayers, celebrating the faithfulness of God to come to His people as He promised. In each of the readings some aspect of that dichotomy is present – the desperate pleas of an afflicted people longing for peace and the faithful God who makes good on His promised deliverance, continually healing our lives.

My favorite line in ‘O Holy Night’ is “a thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.”  Some days I am more in touch with my weariness than others. When the voices of “many are saying to me, ‘there is no help for you in God,’ ” (Ps. 3:2) it takes everything I have to believe “the Lord hears when I call to him,” (Ps. 4:3).  Then there are the days where I find myself thrilled with hope “as to a lamp shining in a dark place” (2 Peter 1:19), and the humble Christ rides into my heart, triumphantly as he did in Jerusalem (Matt 21).

Today, let us become more aware of this dichotomy in our own lives: moments of desperation and anxiety, coupled with the faithfulness of a God who never fails. This back and forth is the expression of the of the gospel story in our lives, as we are daily moving from darkness into light.

Advent Day 1: Amos + The Apocalypse?

On November 30, 2013 by Eddie


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[Note: For those of you who followed along via this blog last year, we’ve now moved the Advent Project to The Parish blog. You can stay tuned here, we’ll continue to post all the important devotionals, but if you’d like to visit us online at The Parish, we’d love to connect with you there!]

One of the things I look forward to the most in the Advent journey is taking some time each day to prepare for Christmas. Every year, I feel like December 25th sneaks up on me. Despite the fact that my wife likes to put up our Christmas tree in October (This year I was sweating pulling it out of the attic. Something not right about that.), I still seem to forget to think about Jesus’ birth until Christmas Eve. And before you know it, it’s over. 365 more days till Christmas…

So this year, I’ve been excited about reading and praying along with all of you, preparing our hearts to have a great Christmas celebration. If you’re with me, then you may be a bit surprised by today’s Daily Office readings. The I Thessalonians reading is something about the “Day of the Lord,” in Luke Jesus seems to be talking about the apocalypse, and Amos? Seriously, Amos? What is this all about?

Well, it’s actually kind of a cool way to begin, because it helps remind us what this season is all about. In fact, Advent is about looking in two very different directions:

Looking Back – Part of Advent is remembering the birth of Christ. Through some of the scriptures we read, we will mentally re-enact what it was like for the Jewish people who waited and desperately longed for the Messiah to come. That’s the purpose of the Amos passage. We look back and remember what it must have been like for this group of people who had been promised that God would bless the entire earth through their family, but who lived in a pretty desperate state of captivity and oppression – a far cry from the glory of the days of David and Solomon. They felt torn between what God had promised, and what their current situation looked like. Something didn’t add up, and they were desperate for something to change their fate.

Looking Forward – The other part of Advent is looking ahead to the day when “The day of the Lord” comes, and Jesus’ kingdom is made complete on the earth. In many ways, we stand in a tension just like the Israelites in Amos’ day. We know that the Kingdom of God is here, that Christ is King and has defeated sin and death once and for all. At the same time, however, we’re constantly bombarded by an earthly reality that looks nothing like God’s kingdom. Who’s really in charge here? When will the day come when God finally puts all of this back to rights? This is the purpose of the I Thessalonians and Luke readings, reminding us that the day is coming when all will be made right. We’re standing in the middle of the “Now and Not Yet,” and Advent helps us remember and feel that reality at a deeper level.

So get ready to enjoy the next four weeks! Not just the trees, carols, and shopping (if you enjoy shopping), but the daily reminder that this season is about so much more than what we see in ads and movies. Journey along with us, reading and praying together, and you’ll find that Advent is about looking back in remembrance, and looking forward in hopeful anticipation. And in the end, we will be longing for December 25th to come for more than just presents, food and family; but for the reminder that just as God came in a manger, He will one day come back and make all things new.

~Eddie

(If you haven’t downloaded the Advent Guide, click here to do so now.)

Introducing the 2013 Advent Project

On November 28, 2013 by Eddie

[Note: For those of you who followed along via this blog last year, we’ve now moved the Advent Project to The Parish blog. You can stay tuned here, we’ll continue to post all the important devotionals, but if you’d like to visit us online at The Parish, we’d love to connect with you there!]

We’re so excited to launch the 2013 Advent Project! As we journey through the next four weeks, we’ll be joining not only with The Parish, but with millions of believers all over the world and throughout history. Our hope is that this project brings a new depth and significance to the Christmas season, and makes December 25th a richer celebration.

Guiding us through the Advent Project this year is a simple document called the Advent Guide. There, we’ve highlighted some Scripture readings and prayers from the Book of Common Prayer to help us focus our hearts and minds this season. In addition, The Parish leadership team will be blogging devotionals throughout the coming weeks. Our hope is that this journey unites our hearts as we reflect on Jesus’ long-awaited birth, and lean forward in the anticipation of his return. Click here to download the Advent Guide.

So download the Advent Guide and stay tuned to The Parish Blog, and get ready for a great Advent season!

Taking A Sabbath

On October 15, 2013 by Eddie

In my last post, I talked about how God has completely turned my world upside down over the last few months. In the course of a few weeks, God confirmed that it was time for us to take a huge leap and leave the security of a full-time job, and suddenly I was looking into a big void and wondering what was next. 

In one of my weakest moments, a very good friend gave me some great advice that has completely changed my life. He told me to hold off on trying to rush into the next thing I found to do and take some time to sit, rest, be still and listen for God. And not just a few days, a few weeks worth of time. In his words, “no matter what time or money you spend, you will never regret it.”

So I reluctantly told Danielle about this idea of taking a Sabbatical, fully expecting her to think I was completely nuts. First, leave my job, then just “rest” for a while? That makes no sense to a strategic planner like my wife. But somehow, she immediately knew it was the right thing to do, and without any convincing she began looking for a place for our sabbatical.

Fast forward a few months, and I’m currently typing this blog post from a house in Florida, where my family has been camped out for the last few weeks. It has been, without a doubt, the most incredible decision we could have possibly made. There’s a lot to share, but here are the biggest things I’ve learned along the way:

  • Health Comes First – when things got busy over the last few years, one of the first things I eliminated in my schedule was any kind of physical exercise. It seems like the least important thing on the calendar. For the last few weeks, I’ve made it a priority to exercise (Crossfit, which I am now hooked on), and I’m amazed at why I ever gave it up. Being a good steward of my body changes so much: it gives more energy to face the day, helps me feel overall like I’m living on purpose instead of simply responding to circumstance, and helps me remember that difficult circumstances are worth fighting through.
  • Power of Discipline – The last thing I did before leaving home was pick up a copy of Richard Foster’s “Celebration of Discipline.” Over the past few weeks, meditation has become a go-to way to start my day, and I can’t wait to bring it home with me. I never knew how powerful and important it could be, until I quieted myself down and began hearing the Lord speak about my day. Luther once said “I have so much business I cannot get on without spending three hours daily in prayer,” and I always thought that was a bit super-spiritual. Now, I understand what he meant. A little bit of discipline goes a LONG way.
  • Emotional Health – After a few weeks of growing physically and spiritually stronger, I began to notice a subtle change. I started enjoying people again. Without noticing it, I had begun to simply “endure” the people around me. Slowly I saw myself talking to strangers, enjoying time with my kids more, and falling in love with my wife again. Emphasizing my physical and spiritual health has given me the emotional margin to really notice and enjoy the people around me.

Funny, isn’t it, that such a revolutionary idea (taking a break) is actually really, really old? God knew what He was doing when he laid out the fourth commandment. Maybe he intended to show us, that if we make rest a priority, all the other commandments become a whole lot easier.

Now obviously, this break isn’t something we can easily repeat. Once we dive back into life, it will probably be years before we can get back to a similar place of extended rest. However, I think it’s totally feasible to experience a taste of Sabbatical every week, if I’m just disciplined in observing a Sabbath. Not only is it feasible, it’s essential if I want to maintain any sense of the peace and joy I’ve found these few weeks.

What about you, do you have a Sabbath ritual? If so, how does it help the rest of your week?

Taking A “Leap” – A New Chapter & Why I’ve Been Web-Silent

On October 14, 2013 by Eddie

You may have noticed that I’ve gone a little silent online. Okay, maybe not a “little” silent…more like completely silent: no blogs, no tweets, no facebook posts, nothing. Indeed, I’ve gone completely missing from the internet, and before I climb back into the online world I thought it was worth an explanation.

This past year and a half has been a really interesting one for my family and I. Last summer, we moved to a new house and released a new record in the same month (not wise). Then in the winter we went through a pretty rough season when my wife miscarried. I also started going back to school, which I love, but it has eaten up pretty much every ounce of free time I once enjoyed. Add to that a three year old and one-and-a-half year old running around, and suddenly I’ve found myself a bit underwater.

More than that, however, over the past year I started gradually noticing a growing internal restlessness and sense that change was coming on the horizon. It was nothing bad or alarming, I was extremely grateful for my current situation, but I began feeling as though God was turning the page to a new season of life. But what was on the next page? That was a mystery to me, and because I couldn’t figure out exactly where God was leading, I stayed put and waited for further notice.

Eventually, God broke his silence and began to speak pretty clearly to Danielle and I. Although we didn’t understand it at the time, we felt as though He was leading us into a new chapter, and specifically leading me to leave my full-time role at North Point. Of course, this was a huge leap for me, since North Point has been such an incredible place to work, learn and grow.  I literally had a dream-job, and the sheer thought of resigning my position seemed a bit like an out-of-body experience in which I kept trying to slap myself in the face and make sure I knew what I was doing!

In the end, though, Danielle and I both knew that God was asking us to take a leap, and leap we did. I spoke with Evan, my INCREDIBLY gracious boss, and officially resigned my position as Music Director at North Point. In return, he responded by helping create the space I needed to think and pray about where our next step would be (seriously, best boss ever). So I prayed, and sought wisdom, and prayed, and eventually thought I had my course planned out. I would try to find another position at North Point in a completely different part of the organization, a chance to learn something brand new and let God continue to stretch my pastoral gifts and abilities. It made total sense, and I was really excited about the change.

…and then, God surprised me. Actually, more like side-swiped me. The simple, safe future I thought I had laid out in front of me got completely turned upside down. All of a sudden, God spoke as clearly as day, and I was off in a new direction. What direction, you might ask? I’ll have to save that for an upcoming post, but I can hardly wait to share the story.

All that to say, as of August 11th I am no longer a North Point staffer, which has been a very bittersweet transition for me. Although I still get the chance to lead worship and be a part of the North Point family, I will definitely miss being a part of the NP staff. I can’t imagine a more talented and incredible group of people to be surrounded by, and I’m so grateful for every moment of my time there.

For everyone who wondered why I’ve gone so quiet, it’s because God has been preparing my family to take a huge leap. Instead of “business as usual,” we’ve tried to disconnect a bit and get as much clarity as possible for the future. And in the end, that clarity has come and I can’t wait to start moving in a new direction. 

So now, I’m beginning to re-emerge from my internet silence, and I can’t wait to share the rest of this incredible story.

Mar 31 – Lent Project – Eddie Kirkland

On March 31, 2013 by Eddie

 

Happy Easter everybody! I’m so thankful that you’ve journeyed along with us throughout the whole season of Lent, it has been awesome praying alongside you for the last two months. I hope today is a huge day of celebration, and I hope the last few weeks have made today even more memorable and impactful.

With today’s post, our Lent Project journey is over, so sadly there won’t be a daily prayer posted tomorrow. However, stay tuned here for upcoming devotional seasons, and if you have any thoughts, comments or suggestions please let me know!

Lastly, a huge thanks to all of the friends that have contributed to making this project so much fun. It’s awesome to be connected to such a great group of people, thanks for taking the time to be a part of this project.

Happy Easter, and I’ll see you soon!

– Eddie

**For more information on why we are celebrating Lent, and how to join in the following prayers, check out the Lent Project homepage. To subscribe to this blog, and receive future daily prayer updates via email, click here.

   

Mar 30 – Lent Project – Elliott Moon

On March 30, 2013 by Eddie

 

Today is day 46 of the Lent project.  I hope you have found this time to be really fruitful and consequential in your journey.  My name is Elliott Moon.  I am the Husband to Cori, and Father to Sophie, Lilli, and Ruby.  I am on staff at Browns Bridge Community Church and drink way to much Coca Cola.

Todays reading deals with Expectancy, and waiting on the Lord.  I pray it challenges us all.

– Elliott

**For more information on why we are celebrating Lent, and how to join in the following prayers, check out the Lent Project homepage. To subscribe to this blog, and receive future daily prayer updates via email, click here.

   

Mar 29 – Lent Project – Eddie Kirkland

On March 29, 2013 by Eddie

It’s hard to believe how quickly the season of Lent has gone by, it seems like just yesterday we were beginning the journey way back on February 13th! Today is Good Friday, which is a huge day in the life of the church. We’re focusing today on the death and burial of Jesus. My hope is that today we would be overwhelmed with a deep sense of the gravity of Christ’s sacrifice.

So wherever you are, however you’re celebrating Good Friday today, I hope this day is a memorable one. Now, let’s join together with thousands of believers around the world who are praying these words in memory of what Christ has done for us.

– Eddie

**For more information on why we are celebrating Lent, and how to join in the following prayers, check out the Lent Project homepage. To subscribe to this blog, and receive future daily prayer updates via email, click here.

   

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