Soulsalsa

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Overview

Getting a Christian worldview is all the rage these days. But how about a Christian worldlife? Got one of those?

Leonard Sweet wants to show you the ins and outs of living an old-fashioned faith in these newfangled times. In his engaging wonderful, thought-bytes style, Sweet invites you to....

*Mezuzah your universe
*Do dirt and do the dishes
*Cycle to Church
*Give history a shove
*Cheer rivals from the bench
*Dance the salsa

SoulSalsa unpacks ...

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Overview

Getting a Christian worldview is all the rage these days. But how about a Christian worldlife? Got one of those?

Leonard Sweet wants to show you the ins and outs of living an old-fashioned faith in these newfangled times. In his engaging wonderful, thought-bytes style, Sweet invites you to....

*Mezuzah your universe
*Do dirt and do the dishes
*Cycle to Church
*Give history a shove
*Cheer rivals from the bench
*Dance the salsa

SoulSalsa unpacks it all in ways that can change how you live if you let them. You can be a man or woman who walks the ancient path of a disciple in the world of the future. Because the future is NOW- and now is the time to practice the '17 Lifestyle Requirements for Membership in the Postmodern Body of Christ.' Time to enter the dance of a culture that desperately needs to see your moves.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This provocative exhortation to a more vibrant Christian life fairly sings with relevance. Sweet, a dean and professor at Drew University's school of theology, writes in his customarily accessible style, incorporating references to literature, art, poetry and the theater alongside suggested Web sites that Christians should explore, including Martha Stewart's carefully crafted page and www.siteforrent.com, the official site of the hit musical Rent. Throughout, Sweet posits that Christians should be living joyfully, creatively and counterculturally, participating in a wild dance called the SoulSalsa. The book continues the postmodernist themes Sweet explored in SoulTsunami and Aquachurch, offering suggestions for what postmodern Christian disciples should do. Among the 17 recommendations, Sweet notes that Christians should "practice inconspicuous consumption," multitask, sacralize the everyday, avoid gossip, become lifelong learners, enjoy regular sabbaticals and--in a particularly terrific chapter--die broke, having given everything away. Sweet has a knack for making concepts like "postmodern"--a word that has spooked many an evangelical--sound like wonderful opportunities for New Paradigm Christianity. (Postmodernism, for example, means that "no two people will have the same devotional life.") Sweet uses trendy, computer-based language to convey some spiritual points (prayer is our "uplink" to God; the entire book is a "lifeware design package"), but his enthusiasm is so contagious that even Luddite readers may have to give technology another chance. (May) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780310230144
  • Publisher: Zondervan
  • Publication date: 5/28/2000
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 7.70 (w) x 9.60 (h) x 0.89 (d)

Meet the Author

Leonard Sweet (PhD, University of Rochester) holds the E. Stanley Jones chair at Drew University. Founder and president of SpiritVenture Ministries, he also serves as a distinguished visiting professor at George Fox University, and is the chief writer for preachingplus.com. Sweet is a popular speaker and has written numerous books, including Jesus Drives Me Crazy, SoulTsunami, SoulSalsa, Carpe Manana, and (with Brian McLaren and Jerry Haselmeyer) A Is for Abductive: The Language of the Emerging Church.

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Read an Excerpt

SoulSalsa

17 Surprising Step for Godly Living in the 21st Century
By Leonard Sweet

Zondervan

Copyright © 2000 Zondervan
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-310-23014-4


Chapter One

Mezuzah Your Universe

SOUL ARTISTS SACRAMENTALIZE WHATEVER THEY TOUCH.

The origins of the Christian church lie in Jewish discipleship, which is rich and full of home rituals. On the right side of every Jewish doorpost is nailed a small piece of parchment rolled and inserted into a wood, metal, stone, or ceramic case called a mezuzah. On the front of the parchment are lettered the twenty-two lines of the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21). The Hebrew word Shaddai is inscribed on the back in such a way that it can be seen from the outside.

The mezuzah was a ritual code that said to everyone entering and leaving that home, "As for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord." A postmodern mezuzah is a ritual that helps us grow our own souls by modulating the mundane into the eternal. A mezuzah connects us to our Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier.

"These Things Shall Be a Sign Unto You"

The Christian faith is a sign language.

Postmodern disciples read the signs of the divine and make sign language about the divine. The true language of biblical faith is not phonetic but ideographic. It is not formed with our mouths so much as with our bodies and lives.

Our biggest signs have been handed down to us in the Last Supper and the Last Sacrifice-the meal and the cross. A disciple of Jesus Christ is someone who eats a common meal and who baptismally lifts a rugged cross.

But there are sacraments and there are "sacramentals" (a phrase coined by medieval theologian Peter Lombard). In sacraments, sanctifying grace is conveyed "ex opere operato," by the act itself. Sacramentals are rites that reveal the "signs of the Trinity" (Augustine), which are everywhere in creation when viewed through the eyes of faith. Sacramentals communicate grace. Sacraments convey grace. The challenge of discipleship is to make one's own life a sacramental, a sign of love and grace, a sacred gesture inserted in a world flaunting other gestures.

Faith's signage must sacramentalize our spaces, places, and faces. To mezuzah our universe is to create sacred space and sacred rituals wherever we go. The space from which we speak and live is more than a contrivance. Space shapes who we are. Space carves the soul. In liturgics, there is a saying: "The building always wins." The cathedral or other place where we worship will have an effect on the worship.

Since fundamentally we are spiritual beings, the space in which we live must become ritual space for the soul. Postmodern disciples give sacred signage and shape to their living spaces by the habits and practices they perform there to invite God in. Worship is a way of life, not a wayside on Sunday.

Ritual is not the way, truth, and life, but ritual is a reminder that there is a way, a truth, and a life. Rituals fix you in space and time. Change your rituals and you change your "fixings." Change your "fixings" and you change your realities.

In 1967 the sociologist Peter Berger defined secularization as the loss of "the sacred canopy." In other words, in the modern world we suffered the loss of an overarching religious belief system that provided personal and communal meaning. In historian Christian Smith's recent look at American religion, he says that while we may have lost the sacred canopy, people are now putting up their own "sacred umbrellas."

From a biblical perspective, there are templing "sacred umbrellas" and there are tabernacling "sacred umbrellas": we temple in our homes; we tabernacle in our meeting place. The temple is the most sacred, the most revered residence of God's Spirit. Today God ought to take up residence in the home with one's family, friends, neighbors (including global ones through cyberspace). The tabernacle is the temporary, makeshift place where one puts up altars and conducts worship. This is what the local church needs to be seen as, especially in a highly mobile society where the temple goes with you wherever you go, and the tabernacles change.

In the modern world, the rhythms of the spiritual life were tabernacled but not templed. The festivals, sacraments, liturgies, and pilgrimages took up residence in ecclesiastical ghettos. It is now templing time. The interest in shrines, candles, incense, and mantras is an expression of our need to take these rituals back and make them a part of our templed dailiness. In fact, the world is doing better than the church in wooing outsiders with templing experiences, providing spiritual activities (not necessarily good ones) that can be fitted into everyday life.

Yet the needed templing is different from the manner of Victorian representations and realities. Victorians kept busy through a relentless round of empty, exhausting, genteel rituals. Postmodern templing is more in the manner of most tribal people, whom anthropologists estimate spend 30 percent of their time "working" and the rest of their time "preparing and performing rituals, dances and ceremonies." Why do they do that? Psychologist James Hillman answers, "They do that so their feeling is in right relation with the world they're in."

To mezuzah one's universe is to inhabit an infrastructure of "right feelings" created by social and religious rituals for everyday living. Some spaces will be the spiritual equivalent of Shaker furniture: spare doctrine, perfectly turned rituals, a place for every thought and every thought in its place. Others will be the theological equivalent of highly carved Victorian fantasy furniture: ornate, detailed, unpredictable, highly figural.

To mezuzah one's universe is for the world of grace to intersect with the world of culture in such a way that grace is visible in the whole of life-historically visible as well as religiously viable.

Mezuzah Your Home

"So many houses, so big with so little soul." So begins one of the surprise best-sellers of the 1990s, The Not So Big House (1998).

Forget all those "Look at me-I've made it" houses built in the 1980s and 1990s that are spacious of things but cramped of soul. Postmoderns would rather have smaller homes with customized details that reflect the values and aesthetics of the owners than huge "McMansions" devoid of character and stories. According to architect Eliel Saarinen, the best architects "always design a thing by considering it in its larger context-a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment, an environment in a city plan." All of our possessions need to be storied within their larger context-the ongoing story of redemption and transformation as it is lived out in our life mission and in our on-mission family.

Stories sanctify space. The more you live in place, the more your space becomes silted with artifacts. If those artifacts come without stories or purpose, no matter how beautiful or expensive they may be, you are turning your home into a garbage dump. Every room in your home tells a life-or-death story.

What made Mark McGwire's sixty-first home-run baseball worth $1 million? It's the same $5.00 ball that anyone catches. The story is what makes it so valuable. The story is what makes a space that enchants and keeps the bleakness at bay.

Stories are sacred. Storytelling is the most sacred of professions. Stories are what makes the soul healthy or ill, saved or damned. Prozac is really nothing more than a story drug that empties your mind of bad memories and allows the good life stories to take supremacy. To mezuzah our homes is to build a multistoried edifice full of biblical stories coming to life, family stories from the past still kept alive, family stories for the future being created every day.

Stories are our lives' greatest asset.

Mezuzah Your Artifacts

My wife, Elizabeth, and I operate two "advance centers" (our twist on "retreat centers"), one in the hills of West Virginia, the other on an island in Puget Sound. From a new friend I found on eBay, I recently purchased for the Orcas Island Advance Center in Washington a nine-teenth-century brass fire devil. It was first owned by Captain A. J. Mandy, a devout Christian and master of the ship John R. Manta, the last New Bedford whaler. The devil was attached to the hearth damper. When the damper was closed, the devil was not visible. When the damper was open, the solid brass devil danced in the flames of the fire, giving those gathered around the fireplace occasion to reflect on the consequences of a life at sea lived outside of God's grace and mercy.

I bought more than a damper; I bought a story, I bought meaning. Artifacts like that brass fire devil can be faucets where the divine leaks into the human. Some positive words need to be spoken about the ephemera of everyday life. The world of objects is seen at best as the aesthetics of surface. To engage with the world of surface is to invite ridicule and accusations of materialism. In some circles, the uglier the house, the holier the dweller. Many of our homes are an aesthetic Chernobyl.

Poet Mark Doty conveys something of this in his poem "Concerning Some Recent Criticism of His Work":

Glaze and shimmer,

luster and gleam,

can't he think of anything but all that sheen?

But what's wrong with all that brass and sheen? What's wrong with froth? Surface need not mean superficiality. Besides, there is no shallow end in the pool of theology. There is no edging into God toes first. What appears as surface quickly engulfs you in its bottomless depths. Faith is diving into those surface-depths believing you won't drown.

Every poet strives to achieve the lightness of touch that covers deceptive weight. As a Christian scholar, I enjoy creaming off the froth from a variety of fields as a way of not only leading people to water but also of enticing balkers to drink what's underneath the foam.

When you move into a new house, have a house blessing and invite neighbors in for a housewarming.

When you get a car, bless it for God's use. Then treat it with respect.

When you polish the silver candelabra you inherited from your grandmother, clean the treasure your wife gave you on your honeymoon, or vacuum your mother's oriental rug, offer a prayer of gratitude to God for their influence in your life.

Every time you open a book, invoke the ancient rabbinic admonition that an hour of study is in the eyes of God as an hour of prayer.

Every time I open my New English Bible, I invoke two prayers. First, a prayer of thanks for William Tyndale, the biblical scholar who gave his life so that you and I can do something we take for granted: read the Scriptures in our own language. Second, a prayer offering my life as a Third Testament to be deployed and distributed in any way God sees fit.

Mezuzah Your Calendar

Your calendar is as much your sacred lair as your "sacred umbrellas" of home or church. In fact, your calendar designs more of your living space than any architect ever could.

Consider beginning the day with chimes. They can be in the form of a whisper or a shout, a clear sound or a muffled ring. But begin the day with prayer. Either a "Good morning, God!" or "Good God, it's morning!" will do. But as soon as you wake up, say a sentence prayer.

Adults have more chores to do than children. Whether at work or at home, the largest percentage of what we do every day is chores. Napoleon spent most of his time on the eve of battle immersed in paperwork. We do chores to be given the right to do what we find pleasurable and creative. Get used to chores and find ways to mezuzah them.

I was glad to learn that, over the last fifty years, the number of people who say grace before meals has increased from 43 percent to 63 percent. It's important to say grace for each meal-if not before, then during or after. To eat is to kill. Whether you're a carnivore, a vegetarian, or a vegan, your very act of eating entails the taking of some life, vegetable or animal. You should be grateful for the life that was given to feed your life, and you should be quick to give thanks to the Source of all life, who made the bounty possible in the first place.

Prayer can mezuzah not just mealtimes but every part of our day. "You say grace before meals. All right," wrote G.K. Chesterton.

But I say grace before the play and the opera, And grace before the concert and pantomine, And grace before I open a book, And grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing; And grace before I dip the pen in the ink.*

Observant Muslims pray toward Mecca five times daily; why can't Jesus disciples embed their days with the habit of praise and prayer? Three times a day (morning, noontime, evening) I say this prayer three times:

Come and pray in me, Holy Spirit; Come and pray in me, Holy Spirit; Come and pray in me, Holy Spirit.

Mezuzah Your Relationships

In every relationship God's living presence can be released or restrained. Disciples mezuzah every relationship with personalized touches that roll out the red carpet of the soul.

Mezuzah strangers. Make everyone feel special in some way. Make every person you encounter leave your presence feeling better, not worse. Give each person some oral applause. Instead of ticking off in your mind what you don't like about that person, which is our natural first reaction, practice the spiritual art of not judging. Try going through one day only accepting people, not judging them. Look only for the positives in other people and let their negatives fall through the cracks of your soul.

Mezuzah friends. Practice the spiritual discipline of secrecy. When you do something good for someone, do it secretly. Make a game of it. See how much good you can get away with and still not be found out. Be a "blessing bomber" who targets friends and strangers alike for gospel grenades of hope, love, encouragement. Pay for someone's meal without them ever figuring out who the benefactor was.

Mezuzah meetings. I know someone who lights a candle every time someone sits down at her desk for an appointment. She says nothing. Just lights a candle. And when the visitor leaves, she snuffs out the candle.

Mezuzah creation. The Spirit of God is laboring on our behalf throughout creation, if only we will open ourselves to receive the gifts: the family dog who slurps your face in the morning; the Steller's jays who nag at you for peanuts; the sycamores who cry for water in these greenhouse times; the flowers whose beauty begs to be smelled and inspected.

Postmodern luxury is about how you spend your free time, and with whom you spend it.

Continues...


Excerpted from SoulSalsa by Leonard Sweet Copyright © 2000 by Zondervan. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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