25) Blessed are the Self-Peacemakers | Dr. Arthur Boers (Part 2)

'Got a hobby? Feel weird about it? Well, it needn't be a guilty pleasure anymore. After giving us an update about his latest discoveries from giving up social media for Lent (namely, learning that he's not missing it and that he suspects that Twitter and Facebook are really an outlet for venting our mutual angst), Mark explores how hobbies, which often get a bad rap, may be the actual practices that help usher in Kingdom shalom. If our images of "heaven" consist of rest and meaningful rhythms of life, then good theology mandates that we be creating that reality now - not waiting for it to happen to us.

Then Mark sits down for Part 2 of his talk with Dr. Arthur Boers, Chair of Leadership at Tyndale Seminary and author of several books, most recently The Way Is Made By Walking and Living Into Focus. This week in Part 2, Arthur talks about his experiences on the ancient Camino do Santiago and how his further reflections from that experience resulted in his becoming a voice against busyness and for more sustainable living through focal practices. He calls us to be aware of how technology causes us to displace values that are most important to us, and to return those values to where we want them to be.

Look for Arthur's next book soon: Servants and Fools - A Biblical Theology of Leadership.


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Notable Quotes from Dr. Arthur Boers

"I was not planning to write a book about the Camino. I took journal notes and then when I went home afterwards I couldn't stop thinking about the Camino. That's what happened. And it was still early in the summer; I had a lot of time on my hands because I was an academic by then, and so I kept rereading my journal. And then... it was such -  it's not quite a traumatic experience because it was a great experience - but it was such an intense experience that I was trying to figure out how to process it. And I just started writing and writing and writing of what it meant to me."

"In some respects, the Camino showed me or deepened things I already know about myself."

" I ended up in the emergency room; I had a bagel-sized blood blister on one of my feet... and then I got tendinitis at the end. And both ailments... one of the big reasons for both of them was that I was walking too fast and too far. And that's just typical of me. I try to do too much. And I thought, 'Wow that's so interesting. Here I am on this exalted privilege of going on a once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage - very spiritual - and I've fallen into the same darn old traps that I fall into in my daily life!' So I thought that was pretty amazing."

"For me, one of the other big learnings was most of the people who walk [the Camino] are not Christians. They are not self-professed Christians. And I'm not the sort of person who goes around asking people, 'Are you a Christian?' But a lot of them wanted to talk about it."

"There were two learnings that struck me about those sort of experiences. And one was: I had never really listened to people before who call themselves spiritual but not religious. I'm a church guy. I grew up in church and I went to Christian school and I went to a lot of seminaries and I've taught in seminaries, so my whole world is church world. So I've never really paid attention to people who are spiritual but not religious. And I really admired the people that I saw. And I was really moved by the questions that they had about the quality of life and balance or off-balance in life. And a lot of those are my questions. So I was really struck by that, and so ever since I've tried to take more seriously people who say they are spiritual but not religious."

"The pilgrimage raised a lot of questions about how we structure our lives around devices and gadgets and how those devices and gadgets often supplant or replace the good things in life. What was good on the Camino? Well, it was beautiful scenery, being outside, going for walks, having long leisurely meaningful conversations with people, good festive meals that have no hurry and no devices. That's what was good. And on the one hand we don't experience all those things that much in this culture. And on the other hand, why the heck not? These are all doable!"

"We can all get outside, we can all challenge our body, we can all make space in our life for hospitality and conversation and good meals, but we don't. On the whole we don't. All those things are on decline in our culture."

"[He asked], 'How many of you here on the bus think that television is bad for your children?' And almost everyone on the bus raised their hands. They all agreed television is bad for your children. And he said, 'Okay, how many of you because of that have gotten rid of your televisions?' Nobody raised their hands. And he said, 'That's the difference between the Amish and other Christians.'"

"The Amish are not legalistic about it. They're not saying other Christians are evil or bad or stupid for having TVs. They just say, 'You know what? TVs and telephones and cars displace the things that are really valuable for us. We don't want to have a phone in the house!' Because if you have a phone in the house and it rings during the meal or you're entertaining guests, it's going to interrupt that hospitality. And besides that, the Amish don't have church buildings; they worship in people's houses. So they don't want the phone ringing while they're worshiping. They don't want to have a television because it's going to displace quality family time and quality visiting time. And they don't want to have cars because they want the community to be small enough that you can all see each other either by foot or by horse. They want their families to live close together. So sometimes popular culture mocks the Amish, but the Amish are quite sophisticated in their discerning about how they use technology. The Amish are not against technology; nobody is against technology. But they are saying, 'Some forms of technology don't fit the kind of life that we want to have and want to promote, so we forgo them.'"

"I think the main problem about television for example - and it's true of a lot of the other devices - it's not so much the content; it's how much time it takes. It displaces so many other things in life - when we could be doing things together as family or friends with neighbors whatever. We spend a lot of time."

"Sometimes when I talk I say, 'TV or not TV... is not the question.' So it's not making rules about television or phones or cars. But it's how we foster discussion around what kind of stewards we are with these opportunities. So let's have a discussion about where we locate the TV if we have one. It often gets in the prime place in the nicest room in the house."

"I've been weaned off television now, but the first step was to get it out of the living room and put it in the basement in an ugly room. And that meant it was harder to go watch TV. It wasn't as comfortable. I had to go to the ugly room, And when I did that, my wife would usually say to me, 'Are you really going to go watch TV again?' And so all these things raised barriers against watching TV, so I didn't watch it as much. And when we moved away from that house, we just didn't bring the TV along. So I'm really interested in how we encourage each other to have these kinds of questions."

"A lot of these devices are designed with an agenda. They are like junk food for the mind or the soul. They're very addictive, they are very persuasive, they are very enticing, and lots of times we don't ask questions about them."

"I was quite concerned and convinced early on [in my pastorate] that this busyness is an issue - it's a spiritual issue, and it's a pastoral issue. And I realized on the Camino that it's also a missional issue. That's what people are concerned about - not just in church."

"The most distressing thing about the way that we live in this culture and this time is that our lives displace focal priorities, focal places, focal practices."

"Life is an apprenticeship in learning how to let go. Eventually there is the big letting go - for some of us it's sooner rather than later. I'm in my late 50s now, so I only probably have a few more years of work and I don't know how long I'm going to live. But I'm already seeing that a lot of life doesn't work out the way you thought it was can work out and there are a lot of things you don't have control over and that should be all right."

"One of my profs - one of my mentors - he just died; he was about 83. And he said that aging is the hardest phase of spiritual growth there is, because it's just one long process of learning how to let go."

"I think the spiritual life is about letting go. There's an author named Gerald Mayne who talks about the difference between willfulness and willingness. And the willfulness is when we want to have our projects done our way and we want to be in control of them. But the willingness is a yielding to God. And realizing that there are bigger realities than us and there are bigger truths than our own little truths."

"The statistics are discouraging about how isolated people feel and how lonely people feel and the diminishment of close friends - those statistics are all over in spite of the technology which supposedly connects us and make communities. But it connects us in ways that are very temporary and very issue-oriented and very much within our own control. So if we are unhappy we can cut off from somebody."

"I think two qualities of good community that are important are support and accountability. And we all get the support thing – we like to go to a group that supports us and cheers us on and exhorts us. But we also have to have communities at the same time where people press us and ask us questions and encourage us to be discerning and call us to account to the values that we profess. And a lot of our churches are good at support, but we're not so good at accountability anymore."


Next Week's Episode 26

Guest: Part 1 of Tyler Wigg-Stevenson - activist, minister, author