search this site
SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Get the eNews

* indicates required
Email Format
communicate
This form does not yet contain any fields.
    find ben simpson on facebook
    twitter updates
    resources

    Wednesday
    May312017

    Book Review: Tish Harrison Warren's Liturgy of the Ordinary

    All too often I hear stories from Christians who experience life apart from the mystery and delight that flows from trusting in the promises of God’s ongoing, everyday presence and companionship. Daylight breaks and routines unfold until the moment the sun hides again beyond the horizon. Another day is put in the books. The calendar turns, and the years pass. After a while, life comes to be described as “just one damned thing after another.”

    Sadly, I have shared these assumptions about life, and God’s workings and ways within it, failing to perceive the unending possibilities immediately before me for love, grace, and the overwhelming tide of the holy.

    That is why it is so refreshing when I encounter a book like Tish Harrison Warren’s Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life. Warren, a priest in the Anglican Church in North America, has allowed the practice of Christian worship to reshape her imagination and adjust her eyesight, renewing her vision in the everyday. Through engaging storytelling, clear prose, and acute theological reflection, she invites us to see our days not as mundane and meaningless, but as the arena of the eternal and the sacred. We join God upon his playground, as well as in his workshop, and we are his friends and co-laborers. Our play and our work is not profane, but is the very place where our redemption is actualized.

    The structure of her book is very simple. Warren walks us through a single day, from waking until sleeping. She writes, “How I spend an ordinary day in Christ is how I will spend my Christian life.” She considers her everyday chores and routines, things like making the bed and brushing her teeth, and how these actions remind us of how our lives are shaped, and how we are mortal, embodied creatures. She considers our need for confession, faces the reality of friction in our closest relationships, and contemplates the gift that is a good meal. She takes up the bane that email can be, and often is, and reframes it as but one aspect of vocational holiness. She reflects on time, community, pleasure, and sabbath and explores their meaning for us as human beings. There are no empty calories in this book. Every sentence is a hearty morsel, amounting to a wholesome meal.

    The book also includes a bonus: questions for discussion to accompany each chapter, as well as suggested practices to help the reader become more aware of God’s presence.

    I rarely dish out such high praise, even for books that I like. But I found this book so surprisingly fresh, and so creative, that I cannot help but gush. Consider your days, and, like Warren, allow the practice of worship to reshape how it is that you see. Discover that God’s holiness is abundant and present in every task that we undertake as his servants and friends. God does not remake us into the image of his Son apart from the kitchen, the cubicle, or the park. He meets us where we are. He works in our midst. He speaks in a thousand tongues, and with no sound at all.

    Attune your senses, and open your heart. God is present and active, unfolding his mystery in this moment, and the next. Warren can help us pay heed to the Spirit, to respond to the holy, and to walk with the Son. Take up and read. This is a great book.

    Monday
    Feb272017

    A New Resource for the Lenten Season

    Back in December I signed on with First Methodist Church of Mansfield, Texas to develop a series of Lenten devotional readings that would progress through the Gospel of Luke. Lent begins this Wednesday, March 1. My writings will be featured at First Mansfield's Daily First 15. If you would like to receive the readings in your email inbox you can visit their website and sign up by clicking "subscribe" in the upper right hand corner.

    It has been a pleasure to work with the team at First Mansfield, particularly with Pastor David Alexander. Pastor David has a passion for the local church, for teaching the Scriptures, and for evangelism. It has been good to speak and correspond with him about how best to serve his congregation. Our mutual aim has been for the people of God to be equipped with the knowledge necessary to live faithfully to Jesus.

    Pastor David invited me to join his team in January to film a couple of videos for Mansfield's Lenten sermon series and to speak a little about the devotional series and a small group resource that we developed in tandem. Here is the first video:

    Ben Talks about Super Series from First Methodist Mansfield on Vimeo.

    After working with Mansfield in the fall, Pastor David and his team discovered that people wanted to know who I was, and in an effort to help make a connection, we filmed a second video where I shared a little about my family and vocation:

    Meet Ben from First Methodist Mansfield on Vimeo.

    Many thanks to Pastor David and his team for granting me the opportunity to serve Christ alongside them as a partner in ministry.

    If you have enjoyed reading my stuff and are looking for a resource to help you grow during the Lenten season, I encourage you to visit First Mansfield and sign up for the Daily First 15.

    Through Luke, I hope you meet Jesus, know him a bit better, and follow him in daily life.

    Sunday
    Feb262017

    Living Skillfully

    The King James Version of the Bible still has its uses. In Proverbs 4:7 we read, "Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding."

    Eugene Peterson writes, "Wisdom is the art of living skillfully in whatever actual conditions we find ourselves."

    To get wisdom we must first concede that we do not have it. The teachable heart is a prepared field for the seeds of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. This is horrendous English, but: with whatever getting you got, get wisdom. Once you have it, live a life of skill. Be an exceedingly sagacious engineer, brewmaster, or civil servant. Play the piano with all your might. Raise up students who will surpass you.

    Do not long for others to look upon you and say, "That person is wise." Rather, hope for this awe-filled whisper: "They are a blessing."

    Thursday
    Feb232017

    Picking Henbit

    It is late February in Central Texas and spring has arrived. A mild winter and warmer weather have sped along new growth, not only of green grass and budding bushes, but of weeds. Yard work begins.

    Over the past few weeks I have peered out my back window and observed my yard being overtaken by clover, chickweed, and henbit. I ignored these weeds as long as I could. These invasive weeds lack strong roots, but tend to emerge and overtake the St. Augustine grass I would like to see flourish. The weeds spread their leaves over the top of the lawn, blocking the sunlight my grass needs to thrive. Without an intervention the underlying grasses will wither and die.

    During the past two days I have been at work, pulling up the weeds. Cultivating a garden and tending the soul are close cousins. As I have yanked, gathered, and disposed of these unwelcome invaders, I have reflected upon the spiritual life.

    As in the emergence of an invasive weed, it is often true that we do not always cultivate those things that crowd out the good growth we desire in our own lives. They just take root and begin to grow. We passively let them emerge and unfold. We pause, reflect, and observe the beginnings of something that we know is a problem and could later become an epidemic, yet we delay action. We wait. Or we become consumed by our commitments and the cares of life, even while knowing that the best time to yank a weed is before it goes to seed. 

    Good growth takes tending. It takes attention. And it requires routine. In the spiritual life, we gather with the saints. We cultivate friendships that offer wisdom, accountability, encouragement, and challenge. We spend time reading the Bible, and we abide by the law of love in our quest to be found faithful to the Word. We pray, daily, and listen to the Lord. We worship God. These habits draw our attention to the voice of the God who speaks, who draws our attention to that clover over yonder, or that henbit right there, which, left alone and untended, may eventually occlude the Light that is Christ. 

    Tend your yard, yes, and may it flourish. Better yet, tend your life.

    Friday
    Feb172017

    Baylor Sanctuary Movement Appeals to a Higher Law

    The following was written in response to an opinion column in last Saturday's Waco Tribune-Herald. I argue that a healthy society maintains room for dissent, disagreement, and ongoing political discourse concerning what constitutes a good law and can do so while upholding the Rule of Law. I also contend Christians have a moral obligation to act upon principle and under conscience when certain laws are determined to be unjust.

    Discerning How Best to Abide by the Bible
     

    In France during the 1940s, the citizens of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon risked their lives to harbor Jews who were sought by Nazi patrols and collaborators of the Vichy regime. The citizens of Le Chambon were Protestant Huguenots, led by Pastor André Trocmé and his deputy pastor Edouard Theis. The people of Le Chambon obtained forged identification and ration cards and helped the Jews cross the border to neutral Switzerland. By choosing to resist an unjust law they saved as many as one thousand lives.

    They did not head to the voting booth. Rather, they acted according to conscience and principled beliefs. Their decision was rooted in Christian conviction. Knowing the law of the land, they chose noncompliance and instead appealed to the will of God. They were also willing to accept the consequences if discovered by the state. Rev. Trocmé spoke publicly against the Nazis and was arrested. Daniel Trocmé, Rev. Trocmé’s cousin, was murdered at Maidanek concentration camp. 

    In a February 11, 2017 column, “Baylor Sanctuary Movement Ignores Rule of Law,” Jay Young argues Baylor University should reject a sanctuary campus petition. He asserts, “An individual must do what the law says and must not do what it says not to do.” I disagree. 

    His argument hinges on a particular understanding of the Rule of Law. Mr. Young represents the Rule of Law as a principle stating “that governance of a community is dictated by mandates from the state.” Mr. Young argues that this principle necessitates that the citizenry obey the law. But the Rule of Law does not require this, and instead is a political philosophy wherein a society is subject to law rather than the dictates and whims of a ruler. It does not necessitate obedience. A free democratic order should maintain space for protest and civil disobedience while holding those who protest accountable to existing laws. Human beings propose and adopt the laws; therefore, not every law will be good.

    In no way does the sanctuary campus petition deny the Rule of Law. Instead, the petition calls for noncompliance and direct political action challenging the legitimacy of legislation such as House Bill 12 or any federal law that could effect refugees, migrants, or international visitors. The petition does not “pick and choose” which passages of the Bible to abide by, but instead expresses an overall hermeneutic that seeks justice for the vulnerable. The petition asks the University to consider all implications of these laws for refugees, migrants, and international visitors who are part of the University community. It also asks that Baylor University respond publicly and with boldness. 

    Those signing the petition express concern, believing recent federal and state legislative actions to be unjust. The First Amendment of the United States Constitution supports the petitioners’ right to assert their view and to draw upon their religious beliefs as a basis for their convictions.

    The sanctuary campus petition is not calling for arbitrary action on behalf of Baylor University and its leadership. Rather, the petition calls for principled action firmly set upon the twin pillars of reasoned conviction and deep faith. To suggest otherwise is uncharitable.

    The United States is a nation of laws. Our laws grant certain rights, including the right to free speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of religious expression. I thank God for those rights. But I do not believe all our laws have always reflected perfect justice. I give thanks for those of Christian conviction who have resisted those laws, been held accountable, and pushed us toward legislative change. The life and witness of Martin Luther King, Jr. comes to mind.

    I strongly urge President David Garland and the rest of the Baylor administration to regard the petition as a courageous and thoughtful display of Christian witness and to consider this appeal carefully in determining the best course for the University moving forward. 

    In the event the University deems any law unjust it is my hope the leaders would abide foremost by a higher law and do everything in their power to resist and reform the laws of this nation so that we might become a more perfect union. As Peter and the other apostles put it succinctly in Acts 5:29, “We must obey God rather than human beings!”