February 2014


If we are honest in our practical theology (the belief we live out), we would say change first then grace. The emphasis on what we do, the steps we need to take, be it noble or be it desperate, overshadows the truth of grace. Resisting Grace attempts to flip back this theology to being right side up again: Grace first, change follows. Individuals, families, communities and nations change, not because of the mustarding of moral efforts but because love has been experienced first and so we love.

Richard Rhor is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. We may comes from different places of the kingdom but I have felt a kindred spirit with him. I want to know the mystery, the mysticism of grace in my life and pass it on the my wife, my child , my friends and to the world.

Moralism Instead of Mysticism, Richard Rhor

God always entices us through love.

Most of us were taught that God would love us if and when we change. In fact, God loves you so that you can change. What empowers change, what makes you desirous of change, is the experience of love and acceptance itself. This is the engine of change. If the mystics say that one way, they say it a thousand ways. But because most of our common religion has not been at the mystical level, we’ve been given an inferior message—that God loves you when you change (moralism). It puts it all back on you, which is the opposite of being “saved.” Moralism leads you back to “navel-gazing,” and you can never succeed at that level. You are never holy enough, pure enough, refined enough, or loving enough. Whereas, when you fall into God’s mercy, when you fall into God’s great generosity, you find, seemingly from nowhere, this capacity to change. No one is more surprised than you are. You know it is a total gift.

Adapted from Following the Mystics Through the Narrow Gate
. . . Seeing God in All Things (CD, DVD, MP3)

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Hey Jon,

Thanks so much again for speaking to my students. I was ministered to very powerfully, as well, as your teaching helped challenge deep-seated shame and brokenness in my own life, too.

I’ve included some messages below from students thanking you, as well!

Eve- Thank you so much for being so open and vulnerable with us. Your love of your daughter, family, us, and God was clearly shown to us. Your wisdom from your struggles inspired many of us to take a look at our shame and not sulk in it but rejoice in the lessons it has taught us and the beauty that can come from it. Basically, thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to spend quality time with us over a short weekend. We learned a lot!

Jessi- thank you for being different than any other speaker we’ve had before, and for making us sit in our brokenness so that we could seek out God’s work, and love, and grace in all aspects of our lives. your deep love and creativity was truly inspiring.God bless

Daniel- Thanks for challenging us (me for sure) to engage with our brokenness in a way that makes us aware of it. It was an incredible weekend to be able to bond as a community of broken people. May God bless you and your family…in brightest day, and blackest night. #CORPSforCHRIST

Amber Kim- Thank you Jon for sharing understandings that God showed you with us. God truly used your words as an answer to prayer – for AAIV’s community and for myself personally. Thank you for being creative and choosing to go with not the norm of retreats. I believe our God is a creative God and He definitely used your mind to show us that! One last thing, thank you for sharing with us the incredible godly love you have for your daughter and wife. May you and your family be continually blessed to bless others!

Loua- Thank you Jon for challenging me to continue to grow in my faith. Specifically, reminding me of my brokenness and how God’s persisting grace continues to redeem us over and over again. Your message and the vulnerability you showed us at this retreat made it so much more valuable to me this year. Thanks.

Michael- I must say, Jon, your story definitely got to me. Some of the things that you have gone through are similar to my worries for the future. It was nice to see someone who has been through those issues and seems to be doing pretty well in the end. Your messages definitely challenged me, and I am still working on processing and wrestling with some of the questions and challenges. You were definitely a GREAT speaker, and I hope we meet sometime again. Prayers for you and your family, and I hope life treats you well! God bless!

Cathy- Jon, thank you for opening my eyes to hidden brokeness and sharing lessons, both biblical and personal. Your vulnerable sharing made your teachings all the more genuine and made me reflect on my own character. I confronted some scars, and also found healing. We as his people may constantly battle with shame, but in God there is grace that always redeems. Again, thank you so SO much for all that you have done. I truly hope we have the chance to meet again.

Amanda- Hi Jon, Thank you so much for giving up your time to come and share God’s word with all of us. Truly, through this retreat, I have learned of my brokenness and shame and was truly ashamed of them. I am reminded that God’s grace overshadows what pain I may be going through. I thank God for speaking through you to us to show us that we are broken somehow but because of His love for us, we are redeemed. I am so touched by your genuine faith and love for God, as well as for your daughter. May God continue to bless you and your family just as you were a blessing to all of us.

Aimee Brown Hi Jon It’s always great to dive into God’s word, but I think it’s really great is to see how it’s lived out. Not many people are willing to put themselves out there and be vulnerable in their weaknesses. I’m really thankful for how you were able to demonstrate your openness to God’s will, even through the struggles and brokenness of life, and was encouraged in hearing your perspective of persistent grace. Glad we got to share this weekend with you. Thank you!

As I was running errands I drove down a modest street with just a few isolated shops. There were not any people outside that I noticed at first (it was fifteen degrees out). Then from the corner of my eyes I notice a lady who appeared to be stuck between some piles of snow at the end of a crosswalk. I pulled over and ran to her. She appeared to be a woman in her fifties, but a frail fifty-something, and pretty shaken up. I think she was there for several minutes before I came. The snow turned icy on that small section of the corner and she had fallen. As I helped her up, she found it difficult to get her feet under her and even had difficulty, it appeared, using her knees to boast herself. I was worried that she may had injured herself when she fell. She was thankful for the help. I helped her get to the dry cleaner. She was carrying some clothes to bring there. Once in the store, she appeared no worse for wear.

In the meantime she gave me several hugs of gratitude and was so relieved I was there. She told me she just had Chemotherapy and was weak. She realized she shouldn’t have tried to walk alone to the dry cleaners. I asked how she was getting back home and she told me a friend was picking her up there. I told the owners of the cleaners what had happened and they assured me they will watch over her until her friend came to pick her up.

A few more hugs from her and I left.

I was deeply moved.

Anyone of us can be in a fragile and helpless place.

And at anytime there can be a moment of deep connection.

Even with a stranger.

As I am making myself available to do retreats and conference I wanted to post some thoughts of what I have done or can do. I am hoping for opportunities. If you know of groups and churches that may be interested, please pass this on. I hope too add on video clips of past examples of my speaking. My wife, who is much more savvy at that, will be working on it.

If I did a four day conference where I lead all the sessions (given grace to do it) this is my schedule:

Morning sessions: Grace Overshadows Shame…Always
Hiding and Shame: Jesus and the Man with the Withered Hand
Deconstructing our strengths: Jesus and Peter’s ego
Beauty out of Brokenness: Jesus and Mary M’s despair
Leftover Shame: Jesus and Paul’s thorn in the flesh
(See prior post for details)

Afternoon workshops: How To Lead People Into Grace (leadership track)
1. The Power of Presence
2. Giving illumination, Stirring the Pot and Strengthening the Resolve: First three stages of Grace
3. Walking Through deconstruction, Waiting for Empowerment and Celebrating Freedom
4. Leading Out of Your Own Brokenness

Evening Sessions: Knowing What His Grace is Doing in You Right Now.
1. Stages of Grace and Transformation -the process of grace
2. Examining Resistance – the opposition toward grace
3. Experiencing Brokenness – the need for grace
4. Practicing Spiritual Disciplines – the means of grace

This model can be adapted to suit the context of where I may speak. It can act as a menu for groups to consider for their next outing. There are several other tracks I have done for more specific groups such as marriage and men’s issues but this gives a good idea of what I am passionate about and uses much of the thoughts and ideas of the book.

This is my basic bio:
Education: BA. Moody Bible Institute, MDiv. and MA. Psychology at Trinity International University
Experience: Pastoral work -15 years and Professional Counselor 24 years, Founded and Directed Asian American Christian COunseling Ministry, speaker and Author of Resisting Grace
Contact: aaccm_jon@yahoo.com

my classic headshot:Jon_Warden

I came out of speaking at this weekend’s retreat with this thought: Resisting vulnerability correlates with resisting grace. We need to risk being vulnerable in order to receive grace.
In the retreat talks I had each student do a tactile/kinesthetic exercise that was to help them:
1. self- examine
2. self-express
3. take a vulnerable step
4. allow grace to touch them deeply
I truly believe how much more deeper is this approach then just giving a message with some follow up discussion questions. After each session, the students gathered in small groups to talk, but they didn’t need discussion questions. They just shared their experience of the session to one another.

explaining the exercises
the latex glove- Jesus calling us out of our hiding places
As we looked at the man with the withered hand in Mark 3, we imagined his life and how he may have coped with it by hiding and pretending. Others who met Jesus, like the leper, the demoniac, the paralytic and the woman in bed with a fever- all who are recorded in Mark prior to the 3rd chapter, could not hide and pretend. Their shame was right out in front of all. But the man with the withered hand could hide his hand and pretend.
We talked about Jesus calling us out of hiding and bring our shame into the light in order to receive grace. Each student was given a glove and wrote on it their shame name. Some wrote “loser” “rejected” “broken” “ugly” “weak” “coward”. Then they took off the glove and turned it inside out. They wrote on the other side of the glove ways they hide their shame, like being funny, helpful, obedient, tough.
At the end of the session they each came up front, one by one, and took off their glove. They shared their shame name and ways they hide. With a wet cloth, I or another leader, washed each student’s hand and spoke the word of reminder that the blood of Jesus was shed for the cleansing of their shame. Then I took a marker and wrote a word of grace that I thought fitting to replace the shame name. I wrote words such as “victor” instead of “loser”, “glory” instead of “ugly”, “accepted” instead of “rejected”.
It was a powerful first night by providing a bridge to be vulnerable and to receive grace.

writing strengths on a balloon- The deconstructing of Peter
The second session was the next morning and I talked about how Jesus broke Peter’s props that he uses to avoid dealing with his own frail ego. Peter looked mighty strong and bold, spiritually, socially and even physically, but he relied on his own strength in following Jesus. And Jesus took the air out of that balloon along the way of their time together. It came to the point even where Jesus predicted that all Peter’s bravery and power would fall apart as Peter would deny Jesus three times.
The students took balloon and blew them up. They wrote their strengths and giftedness as they have perceived them to be. Then I had all the students raise their balloons (not tying a knot in it). I picked one student to release his balloon as the rest kept theirs. I asked him how it felt losing his balloon of strengths while everyone else still had theirs. Then everyone released their balloons and wrote reflections on what that would be like if they lost their “props” that keep them going while bearing their shame burden.
Again a deep time of interaction afterwards.

Making cracked clay bowls- Mary M and beauty out of brokenness
Saturday night we looked at the life of Mary Magdalene and how her life before Jesus was one of destitution. We then moved into seeing what a transformation into beauty came because of her encounters with Jesus. I used many stories and illustration of the power of God’s grace to make beauty out of brokenness.
The students took clumps of clay and made bowls. Then they drew shame cracks, ways shame has broken them. At the end they were given small strands of gold clay to fill in those cracks. They went off alone to do this and to talk with God about helping them see the beauty He is doing in them. Then they came together in groups and shared.
Most powerful of the sessions.

Clothspins on my ear- Leftover shame and Paul’s thorn in the flesh
I tried to answer the question “If Christ has come and washed us, why is their leftover shame?” Using several illustrations I proposed 4 reasons:
1. Unfinished work of grace needed to deal with deep hidden brokenness
2. compassion
3. humility
4. power beyond self
To start the session I had each one take a clothespin and write the temptation and struggle that had ever persisted in their life. I then put mine on my ear and asked them to put it on their body somewhere as well. After the message they broke up into triads and gave someone their clothespin. They made a covenant with one another to pray for each other and to support each other this half year in dealing with their “thorn in the flesh”.
This ended the weekend and finished strong.

I am convinced that more tactile/experiencial learning needs to be incorporated in the message giving in our church gatherings.

I am even more convinced that vulnerability is needed in order to receive grace.

Resist Vulnerability=Resist Grace

bridge