Monday, December 31, 2007

THIS HAS BEEN REVISED AS A END OF THE YEAR SUMMARY OF SORTS........POWER IS AN ENEMY TO FREEDOM

These quotes are taken from the essay I posted yesterday.

"Freedom can be obtained only when we strive for it; no power can give freedom to people. Challenging power is the only way to make freedom a reality. Freedom exists if the negation of political power is strong enough and the people refuse to be taken in by the idea that freedom will surely come tomorrow, if only...No, there is no tomorrow. Freedom exists today or not at all. When we shake the edifice we produce a crack, a gap in the structure, in which a human being can briefly find his freedom, which is always threatened. In order to bring this bit of play into the system, however, we must bring to it radical, total refusal. Any concession to power enables the totality of power to rush in to the small space we have opened." Jacques Ellul

"It is truly a fight...against a power that can be changed only by means which are the opposite of it's own. Jesus overcame the powers---of the state, the authorities, the rulers, the law, etc.---not by being more powerful than they but by surrendering himself even unto death." Jacques Ellul

I've had a word in my mind for a couple years now that I feel was dropped there by the spirit. MALFORMED. Just about everything (if not everything) we are told and sold by the world that surrounds us works against living free. So, it is to these things I feel the Spirit is teaching me to live malformed. You know what.....it feels so right. When I began to consider what this really meant a couple years ago it was very frightening and I couldn't help but think I had lost my mind. For awhile I couldn't help but think: What if I am wrong? It was scary because it touched such very serious things. One being security. As with many things I began to see, it would spread out like a spider web. Security touched every area of my life. Every area.

As I continued to walk out in this new way of looking at things it began to open up into something I could put my hands on, figuratively speaking. The simplicity of it all began to come into focus. Not the ease of walking it out...but as I began to see the tangled mess for what it is, being able to live differently started looking possible. I'm finding out that it is.

Security ended up being about power. My personal attempts to control things in my daily life and then all the other areas and people I looked to, to provide layer upon layer of more security. From me personally on up to the nation I live in and then on out to God. It was when God began to expose the absolute impotence of the things I was putting my trust in, that I began to understand the world's whopper lie about power. It's really not power at all. Jesus stripped the cloak off of that lie in everything he did and in the end left them exposed for all to see. The powers still stand exposed if we have the courage to really look at it for what it is.

Ellul in the quotes above uses the words "strive" and "challenge" when speaking of our responsibility when it comes to walking in freedom. I might describe it differently than he does but I get his point. The powers control us as long as we let them and there is no reason to submit to them. It comes down to; What do we believe? Or better said; Who do we believe?

When I posted the quotes from Ellul I wasn't thinking about this being the last day of the year, but as I began to think about that and a way of closing out this year here on my blog....Faithfully Dangerous....these thoughts started to emerge. To summarize what has been going on in my world, I can't think of a better way of bringing an end to blogging in 2007 than to share these thoughts with you. This is what has been going on in my life and this is what all the talk about God's love for us has been pointing towards for me. It's been about exposing the powers...the lie that keeps us from walking out from under their control so we can take up our freedom and follow Jesus.

There is one power, Jesus and the cross, and it looked like weakness. And it always chooses to die instead of resorting to other forms of power. Fear leads us to believe the false powers of the world and place our trust in them. PERFECT LOVE CASTS OUT THAT FEAR. We are all loved perfectly and Father with his perfect love is speaking to us all these words. Do not be afraid.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

LIBERATED FROM......AND FREED UNTO

"We merely point out that absence of alternatives to "law and order, or anarchy" is precisely the enslavement of humanity to the "knowledge of good and evil" describe in the Bible. We are concerned in this essay to demonstrate that the Biblical narrative insists on a "third' way beyond law, beyond morality, beyond chaos."

This is taken from an essay that I have linked here. Matthew Patillo writes this using many of the writings of Rene Girard and Jacques Ellul to make his case. It is well worth the time. It's not that long.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

BAIT AND SWITCH.....FAKE OUT


Have we not been told that individualism is one of the foundational elements of Western Democracies?........And yet the system we are told we must function within sucks our uniqueness out of us and forces us to conform. Play by the accepted script. Is this allowing us to be individuals.....or making us something other? All without us even being aware of it.


Our so called individualism is so often linked with the idea of our independence. But if individualism is a farce, is the independence we are told we possess a farce also? And for us who desire to be free.....to live free as God has created us to live, is independence something we should desire any way?


I thought it was the grabbing of independence and the rejection of the life of dependence on God that began this mess in the first place?


Humanity seems to be confused. Blind guides seems to apply here. And religion just seems to cover up the confusion with more smoke and mirrors.

Friday, December 28, 2007

LEARNING TO DEAL WITH CONFLICT

In an email conversation with my friend Sue this morning John Lennon came up because we had been talking about The Beatles. We had also been talking about Over The Rhine and I mentioned that their song Spark was inspired by memories of John, but more profoundly by the gentle healer from Galilee.

You will see me post this from the song on this blog often and I bring it up often in conversations because it has been so helpful to me to think about. "It's not the spark that caused the fire, it was the air you breathed that fanned the flame."

The fire was already burning when you and I came into this world. We did not start it. But the way we live in this world does have an effect on that fire. Is the way we are living with others fanning the flames or assisting in helping put them out? This has so transformed my thinking when it comes to personal relationships, face to face interactions with my spouse, my children, my friends and with strangers. It has also helped (re)shape my view of the world when it comes to political, economic, and religious systems and the effects they have on people here at home and abroad. I began to see so clearly that I had been fanning the flames.

Love is the only thing that will turn this around and fear keeps us in the game of perpetuating the destruction created by the fire. When God's love frees us from fear and we give up the self-preservation mode that has governed our lives we then become people who can help put out fires.

Don't miss this wonderful interview.

***
The Stuff of Staying Together***

Spark
Over The Rhine

It's not the spark that caused the fire
It was the air you breathed that fanned the flame
What you think you'll solve with violence
Will only spread like a disease
Until it all comes 'round again
Was John the only dreamer?

Sleep with one ear close to the ground
And wake up screaming
When we lay our cold weapons down
We'll wake up dreaming

Obsessions with self-preservation
Faded when I threw my fear away
It's not a thing you can imagine
You either lose your fear

Or spend your life with one foot in the grave
Is God the last romantic?

Sleep with one ear close to the ground
And wake up screaming
When we lay our cold weapons down
We'll wake up dreaming

Only love can turn this around
I wake up dreaming
Everything we've lost can be found
We'll wake up dreaming

Thursday, December 27, 2007

THE PAINFUL PROCESS OF TRANSFORMATION


I was sitting around tonight after talking to a friend and a song came to mind and after listening to it another came to mind. The first song has tremendously deep special meaning to me. The live version of Etcetera Whatever from OTR's Live From Nowhere vol.1 is IMHO one of the best musical performances ever. But this song Nobody Number One came to mind as I was thinking about how painful and difficult a process it is when God is at work, moving us from the prisons we have constructed, into the freedom he longs for us to live in. To come home in a sense. This song played a part in digging up many things in my heart, soul and mind during one such period in my life a couple years ago. Actually, I was in the midst of it two years ago to this very time.

I cried many tears and released many groanings with this song playing. And then after a time the reason for the tears began to change and the groanings turned into an easier breathing than I had ever known. I began to breathe for the very first time.

The pain, the tears, the groanings are all worth it. The former way of attempting to numb the pain or to keep the pain away is a part of the prison we need freed from. We must face it and embrace it and walk through it. Freedom is on the other side.


Nobody Number One
Over The Rhine

I’m afraid I’ve lost the piece of me
I need the most you see
This puzzle is really just about the need
To be somebody
I’m afraid I’m not all that you see
All along the coast of me
I’m camouflaged, a desert mirage
A nobody

But you came so close and I assumed
You were looking
For the piece of yourself that’s lost
It is the hiding place inside everybody
And though we love to numb the pain
We come to learn that it’s in vain
Pain is our mother
She makes us recognize each other

C’mon now child don’t cry
C’mon now child don’t cry
Let’s give it one more try
C’mon now child don’t cry

Sometimes I feel so all alone
Here in this city I call my home
They say, Hey, you’re one of us
Funny, I should feel so anonymous
But I’m drawn to you
And that still small voice is talking too
And that’s the voice that so seldom can get through

You can’t put no bandaid on this cancer
Like a twenty-dollar bill
For a topless dancer
You need questions
Forget about the answers
Do you really wanna die this way

That’s the trouble with you and me
We always hit the bottom ‘fore we get set free
I’m so far down
I’m beginning to breathe

C’mon now child don’t cry
C’mon now child don’t cry
Let’s give it one more try
C’mon now child don’t cry
Cuz we’re just too young to die

DO WE REALLY WANT TO SEE THINGS AS THEY REALLY ARE?

In a conversation this morning, myself and a friend began talking about a situation her niece finds herself in. She is about to deliver a baby and there are reasons to believe that there might be some serious problems with the child. This led us into a discussion about living in a way where we accept things as they are and the fact that they are out of our control, or a life of denial, fears, unrealistic expectations and wild imaginations....and still not being in control but working hard acting as if we can or should be.

This to me is another one of those paradoxes. Something that is actually opposite from how we have been shaped to think and then attempt to live.

Accepting things for what they are is a doorway into deeper freedom. When in contrast, attempting to convince ourselves we are in control and that worrying and living in fear of things will somehow make those things work out the way we desire. It's really absurd and yet most people live out of the second scenario.

What is it that keeps people from seeing this reality? Or even wanting to see it and live in it? Most people's eyes roll back white and glaze over if you mention something like this to them. They don't even want to consider it. It reminds me of Cypher in the movie The Matrix. He actually chose to be plugged back into the lie even though he knew it wasn't real. He didn't care. I think that also speaks of the necessity of continually picking up our freedom once we have found it in an area of our life. If we don't, being awake becomes burdensome and we will gravitate back to the lies and illusions in an attempt to find some comfort. The lies and illusions are so powerful because we have been so shaped to trust in the things seen, instead of the things not seen.

Accepting things for what they are is a part of freedom. Realizing we can't control the things we fear, but in reality they are controlling us, seems to be another important step. And when our paradigms begin to shift and our orientation begins to come back into line with the way God designed it all, we will see that not only is fear absurd, there really isn't anything to fear. Accepting things for what they are has a way of opening this up for us.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

FREEDOM vs LIES

I had no plans on posting anything today, Christmas Day, because there wasn't anything really stirring inside me to share...but as I was reading I ran across something that changed that. I've lost count of the times now that I have read The Shack but today I began to work my way through it again. Every time I read it something else jumps out at me. This morning it was something that has so become a part of a new perspective and awareness I'm learning to live in...an everyday adventure in learning to not allow the external world and all it's distractions to pull me from the presence of God and the full life to be found there.

To think of all the lies that used to govern my life and keep me from accepting things for being what they are (both the things of God and the things of this world) leaves me stunned. It's not difficult anymore to understand why I had been so frustrated and worn out. A gratefulness and a deep sense of peace and joy has displaced that exhausting way of attempting to live. That old way of living turns out to be one of the biggest lies. Attempting to live independently (all the while having convinced myself I was relying on God) and then always scrambling to keep it all together.

This new paradigm has begun to change everything. One of the changes is learning that the world and it's system runs the opposite direction when compared to the life hidden with Christ in God. It knows not the way of freedom. Yet it promises us freedom and most live their lives having been duped by this false expression. There are signs all around pointing to something else that is real....people often feel it and sense it...but to break through the lies and illusions takes much courage and the only courage that is helpful in this endeavor is trust. Trust in Father, Son, and Spirit. These thoughts arose this morning as I read this in The Shack.

"There is something joyful about storms that interrupt routine. Snow or freezing rain suddenly release you from expectations, performance, demands, and the tyranny of appointments and schedules. And unlike illness, it is largely corporate rather than individual experience. One can almost hear a unified sigh rise from the near by city and surrounding countryside where Nature has intervened to give respite to the weary humans slogging it out within her purview. All those affected this way are united by a mutual excuse, and the heart is suddenly and unexpectedly a little giddy. There will be no apologies needed for not showing up to some commitment or other. Everyone understands and shares in this singular justification, and the sudden alleviation of the pressure to produce makes the heart merry."

Freedom is possible for those who have eyes to see and the courage to accept things for what they are. Illusions are illusions. Lies are lies. Freedom is freedom. The world and the way it functions is set against this freedom. But we don't have to let it control us.

Monday, December 24, 2007

SOMETHING FUN

During the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas I receive many nice gifts and Christmas tips from clients. Extra over their regular generosity. It's really stunning.

So this morning while running through the Starbucks drive up I had reached into my pocket and pulled out one of the gift cards. As I was handing it to the gentleman waiting on me he informed me that mine was already taken care of. I said "What?" He then told me the gentleman that was in the car in front of me had paid for mine while paying for his.

Kinda cool. I drove home with a big smile on my face. Not because of the free venti latte but because of the act of random kindness in giving. Someone else will be surprised and get a free coffee when they make a trip to Starbucks because it will be fun passing the gift along to someone else.

What a life it can be when we are free from the thinking that keeps us trapped in the mindset of ME ME ME or at least ME FIRST and we begin to prefer the other first. It seems like we would all end up feeling preferred and valuable. And we are and as we begin to "know" that, as we rest in the arms of our loving gracious father, we will be able to help others see that they are preferred and valuable also.

Have a wonderful holiday everyone.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

AWAKE AND ALIVE

It's Alright
Ellery........................you can listen to the song by going to their site and clicking on music and then clicking on the media player.

Remember how we chased it like shadows
Life was the ocean; we wanted to swim
Looking back now, it’s just how the path goes
They tell you it’s over; you never begin

We don’t give ourselves time - the way that we used to
To watch it all happen, unfolding in sighs
You’d think we were blind, the things we can see through
The things we look past when emboldened inside

CHORUS:
But it’s alright now, it’s alright
The ghosts of our glories are gray-bearded guides
The sound of our sorrows has stirred us inside
(But) I think maybe I’ve never felt more alive

I asked you just once if you thought we could be found
You never did tell me; but I think I know now
Whatever ship comes, by dark sea or gray cloud
As long as the well’s deep, we make it somehow

CHORUS

I don’t know how to make peace or find it
We’re most of us stories we’re scared to explain
But what if there’s sound, somewhere caught behind this
A song we can sing while we’re lying awake

CHORUS

I just finished reading tonight The Ethics Of Freedom by Jacques Ellul. I took my time with this book, because I sensed from the beginning when I started it, that this was a deeply important journey for me to walk along side this brother for a time. Jacques learned some wonderful things concerning freedom and how this world works against the freedom Jesus has opened up for us. Since I began this book, one of his longest, I have also fit in reading 5 or 6 other books of his. I'm sure they will be books I revisit from time to time.

I posted the song lyrics because it came to mind as I was finishing the last pages of the book. The first line of the song speaks to me of the illusions I chased most of my life. The song speaks of external voices that constantly feed us lies about what life is about. These lies grow and become a way of thinking...a way of thinking that keeps us from accepting things for what they really are. The illusions become so familiar and deep, we continue on completely unaware that we aren't even living. The thought of slowing down and living in the moment so as to watch it all unfold, feels so unnatural and unwise, most rarely even give it a second thought.

If we live anywhere other than right here, right now, we are living in the land of borrowed trouble. In that place, to protect ourselves and those we love, we are left working hard to figure out and control things that cannot be figured out and controlled. But in turn, that way of living emboldens us to such a degree we are left attempting to live by absolutes and we miss the One who is True and Absolute. But in missing Him the trouble we find ourselves in create many sorrows. When enough crap gets stored up, these sorrows have a way of exposing all the crap. There is a wonderful unfolding that is going on even in this painful process. Too often blaming others preoccupies us here and we can miss what we are in need of seeing. Until we come to understand that the others really have nothing to do with what is going on in us, we usually remain stuck. It's really just a way of diverting the attention somewhere else.

Unless we are set free and learn to abide in him, the well will remain empty. But when freedom comes and the well is continually being filled, external circumstances just aren't a big issue anymore. Whether dark seas or grey clouds we begin to learn that we can make it. Peace and Joy become realities. We begin to see that there is a song to sing and always has been, we had just been afraid to face things and accept them for what they are. Telling our stories has a way of pushing out the darkness. We need safe places to tell our stories. It has been the keeping of secrets, the fear of facing our pain and the facing of the fears them self that has actually made breaking free just one more thing to fear.

God's grace turns our painful stories into songs worth singing...worth living. Do we dare believe it and risk trusting him? Time will tell. Father is very patient and is pursuing us with his love. Learning to stay put in the moment, in his presence, is where his voice is calling us to remain. Freedom awaits us all there.

Why is it that men and women say they passionately desire freedom but in the end reject the grace, the gateway into that freedom and instead gravitate to a way which in the end just leaves them exhausted and empty? I suppose that answer will be different for everyone. But for those that give up the game....after awhile will find themselves saying that they have never felt more alive. It's a promise Father has made to us.

NEW TERRITORY

This is a first. I was out and about just awhile ago (getting Ice cream for myself and my 12 yr old and making a trip through Starbucks) and realized something. It is 3 days before Christmas and I have not had one moment of stress and frustration over the Christmas craze that always descends on people. The heavier traffic on the roads and elsewhere just hasn't been able to get at me. In actuality I haven't even been aware of it. Living in the moment has a way of disarming the stress that I had always lived in due to always having been in a hurry. I find myself in no hurry anymore.


When we realise the moment is all we have and is all that exists, rushing to the next moment (future) just has no place anymore. If you find yourself doing that it might be an indication that you are not living in the moment. And also, please take this post as a friendly reminder and only that, because there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.


We journey on fellow travelers.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

WATCHING PEOPLE COME UNDONE

To find your life you must lose it. No one said it would be easy and it is certainly not. To watch people begin to hang on more tightly and fight really doesn't surprise me anymore. Transition is hard and very costly. The sooner people see that the things that they are fighting to hang onto are the very things that are enslaving them the sooner the process will be completed. This is about life....real life...easy yoke and light burden kinda stuff.

I was reminded of this video again today. I know someone walking around at this time with their pants down around their ankles and fighting for what they want, unaware of the reality that when our hands, hearts, and minds are full of crap, there is no room left in our hands, hearts and minds for that which really is important and that which we are really deep down inside longing for. I sense the dam is about to break?

THIS IS ALL I NEED

Saturday, December 15, 2007

USING GOD'S NAME

"Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction." Blaise Pascal

"Sinners and saints, priests and kings
Are we just using God for our own gain
What’s in a name
Open your eyes" Karin Bergquist

It's interesting how often I find myself not believing in the god that is so often spoken of in the world today. The way he is presented and spoke of makes Him look, sound, and act very closely to that which we see in alienated humanity. Sometimes even worse. What I thought I knew and what I had lived much of my life believing about the person Jesus referred to as father has been taken a part. It feels really good today.

We are more loved than we can even begin to fathom. Why do so many live with such fear of the one that chose to step into the mess we have made through our freedom of choice, to speak such wonderful words like "Don't be afraid?" If God is love and that love is unconditional, patient, and kind, why have we made him out to be a highly unpredictable character who more closely resembles earthly fathers...and mothers?

The character Jesus describes as the father in the parable of the prodigal son just doesn't seem to me to fit into the image so often presented by the world's religions. Jesus used several other familiar images to paint other pictures for us that seem to be as different also.

If Love is patient, and love is kind. If it does not envy or boast, and it is not proud. If it is not rude, self-seeking, easily angered, and if it keeps no record of wrongs. And if Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth and it always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres, why do we make God something other than this?

I know we humans struggle with loving this way, but for goodness gracious let us stop speaking of and thinking of our father in ways that presents him to the world as someone he is not.

HE LOVES US and if he did so even in our state of alienation before Jesus' death and resurrection that changed everything....how much more so is his grace and love poured out and extended to us all? I know better of my father than how I hear him so often spoken about today and I am learning to live in that love and I am finding there is no room for fear in this place. Prefect love casts out all fear.

Thank you father.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

SHE'S GOING TO COLLEGE


That's Amie on the left and her friend Caitlin






Well my daughter just received today her letter of acceptance into the dance program at Webster University. She had anxiously awaited word from them after auditioning almost 2 weeks ago. She has worked very hard to get here and I couldn't be more proud of her. She has now been dancing for 13 years and to think of that little girl at 4 years old going to her first dance class is just hard to believe. Dance has been a very stabilizing activity in her life and to think that I will have the opportunity to continue to watch her grow on in this beautiful expression of art brings such joy to me. Not to mention that she chose to stay in town so she would be close to her family. More surprise yet to come.........maybe MADCO?

Now to figure out how to pay for this$$$$$$$$$

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

JACQUES ELLUL QUOTES


"In the modern world, the most dangerous form of determinism is the technological phenomenon. It is not a question of getting rid of it, but, by an act of freedom, of transcending it. How is this to be done? I do not yet know. That is why this book is an appeal to the individual's sense of responsibility. The first step in the quest, the first act of freedom, is to become aware of the necessity. The very fact that man can see, measure, and analyze the determinisms that press on him mean that he can face them and, by so doing, act as a free man. If man were to say: "These are not necessities; I am free because of technique, or despite technique," this would prove that he is totally determined. However, by grasping the real nature of the technological phenomenon, and the extent to which it is robbing him of freedom, he confronts the blind mechanisms as a conscious being. At the beginning of this foreword I stated that this book has a purpose. That purpose is to arouse the reader to an awareness of technological necessity and what it means. It is a call to the sleeper to awake."

"What we are witnessing at the moment is a rearrangement of the world in an intermediate stage; the change is not in the use of a natural force but in the application of technique to all spheres of life."

"Human life as a whole is not inundated by technique. It has room for activities that are not rationally or systematically ordered. But the collision between spontaneous activities and technique is catastrophic for the spontaneous activities."

"In sum, thought and reflection have been rendered thoroughly pointless by the circumstances in which modern men and women live and act."

Friday, December 07, 2007

BABY SLOW DOWN

My friend Sue posted something on her blog today that brought a song to mind. A very special song for me. I know, you all are saying, Is there a song that isn't special to you? Well, out of the ones I listen to.....not really.

The story is way to personal for me to share here openly but hopefully this video and blog post will speak something of value to you.

I was in the midst of a place of deep fear the very day this video was released. I had been awaiting it's release having heard the news that U2 was preparing to release a video for their song Original of the Species. This song is beautiful and the message, from the first time I heard it, spoke something so deep and challenging to me. It spoke to me personally about slowing down and finding my way home to my father and the place where my heart is (to find him and in turn to find the authentic me). And it also spoke to me about my oldest daughter and her adolescent girl friends and the pull this world has on them to grow up too fast. The timing felt supernatural and it was.

I clicked play to view this video, and in that place of pain and fear I found myself, the Spirit of God began to flow over me and drown me in emotion. It was the beginning of a change in living with this awareness of the ever present presence of God. I've been overwhelmed ever since. Through all of that and much more I have became a much better father and friend to all these adolescent girls that hang out here at my house. My three daughters and all their friends. They need stable examples and they need us to be their friends, to love them and encourage them to slow down and live aware as they walk through the morass that is this suffering confused world.

I have some beautiful young ladies in my life that I am so enjoying getting to be a part of their lives as they grow up. Father has richly blessed me.

ORIGINAL OF THE SPECIES

GRACE ONCE AGAIN

Here is another interview with Paul Young talking about the One who makes freedom possible and he goes deeper into describing some of the encounter Mack had at the shack with Papa, Jesus and Sarayu. This is really good. IT IS INTERVIEW #2

Here is a video to go along with the story told in The Shack. This is about grace.

GRACE

Thursday, December 06, 2007

FACING OUR FEARS

I was talking to a client tonight and at one point I asked her if the challenges she has faced since this time last year had changed her? She answered with tears in her eyes but very confidently, "Yes, most definitely. And I mean for the better. All of this turns out to be a blessing." It was this time last year that she came into the salon shortly after she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Today she is doing well and cancer free. The other thing she has faced is the sudden loss of her mom just a couple months ago. She said to me that she had faced two of her greatest fears and had come through them and today she's just not as afraid anymore.

I can relate to her. When I came face to face with the reality that one of my children might not survive the battle they found themselves in the middle of, it tends to get your attention. WE ARE NOT IN CONTROL. What a relief that was when I began to understand that one. The majority of people just can't fathom how coming to understand that we are not in control can be a relief or a good thing. But it is. A sense of control is one of the strongest illusions we conjure up while attempting to live independently. In our fear, we do everything to convince ourselves that we can keep bad things from happening to ourselves and those we love. That game will leave us exhausted, frustrated, and angry.

From The Shack:

"THE DARKNESS HIDES THE TRUE SIZE OF FEARS AND LIES AND REGRETS....THE TRUTH IS THEY ARE MORE SHADOW THAN REALITY, SO THEY SEEM BIGGER IN THE DARK. WHEN THE LIGHT SHINES INTO THE PLACES THEY LIVE, YOU START TO SEE THEM FOR WHAT THEY ARE."

"But why do we keep all that crap inside?" Mack asked.

"Because you believe it is safer there. And, sometimes, when you're a kid trying to survive, it really is safer there. Then you grow up on the outside, but on the inside you're still that kid in the dark cave surrounded by monsters, and out of habit you keep adding to your collection. We collect things we value, you know?"

Mack then asks how that can change for someone trapped in the dark like he is.

Jesus continues....

"Most often pretty slowly. Remember you can't do it alone. Some folks try with all kinds of coping mechanisms and mental games. But the monsters are still there, just waiting for a chance to come out."

"So what do I do now?"

Jesus goes on to tell him to continue on....learning to live loved.

Being open to take a good look at the reality of our situation is a good place to start. My client came to face to face with the reality that she was not in control of her health or the health of those she loves, and those fears were revealed to be mostly shadow. They don't hold her down like they used to.

I came to understand the same things about myself and the ones I love and fear began to lose it's grip on me also. That really was what seems to be the beginning point for me. My knew found understanding didn't mean that hurtful scary things weren't going to happen, it just helped push me to the one from whom my security comes. He has been through it all and suffered greatly and overcame. Being home again has continued to loosen the grip of many things on my heart. The words "Do not be afraid" don't frustrate me anymore, they feel like living water and they ring so true. We have nothing to fear.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

VIDEO INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR OF THE SHACK


I wanted to link to this video interview where Paul talks about how it all began and the crazy amazing ride it has become. Part 2 and 3 of the interview has some great conversation around the pain of life, Jesus, living in the moment and the illusion of control.


Monday, December 03, 2007

BEWARE OF THE "SLIPPERY SLOPE"....HUH?


How many times is this favorite religious saying marched out when someone begins to question what they have been taught or the status quo? It is a powerful control mechanism when added to the other favorite fear mechanism of....eternity in hell.


Well, guess what? Many of the accepted answers of systematic approaches to theology and following Jesus just don't work for me anymore and actually never did. And this "Slippery Slop" saying just kept me in the land of smiling denial and silly hoop jumping and acrobatics to make it all fit. And the other funny thing is, it still never fit even on my best days.


Someone warned me the other day of the slippery slop I was on....and they did it with great concern. Oooooh!!!!!!! One of the cool things for me was that I wasn't phased by it at all. No sweating, no internal turmoil, no doubts and discombobulations...none of that type stuff. See, the way I see it and am experiencing it these days is, God is bigger than my questions and his love and grace is more powerful than my ability, in my limited vision, to maybe get it wrong at times. Oh......but how God has expanded in my life and my trust in him has grown while living on this slippery slope.


I'll take the slippery slope when compared to the smiling denial/hoop jumping/acrobatics/to make it all fit, of my past. Many of those that hold to and use the slippery slope analogy do have one thing right....Jesus is not safe...that is, he's not safe when it comes to the neatly packaged understanding of ourselves, our lives, and our systematic approaches to his/our Father. He'll take all that apart if we have the courage to be real about it all. But in him we can find security.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

THE SHACK.....IS IT REAL?

To answer the question in the title, all I can say is it played a big part in the change that happened in me.

As I sat in the quiet this morning before the house came alive with my wife and daughters running about, I was thinking about the things that are important to me. This past two years have so drastically changed what I care about. Today it's like driving in a car and watching out through the rear view mirror as things that had been a part of who I had always been become smaller and smaller. Some things are now just memories and I can't even see them anymore.

Some things when I think back on them, beliefs mostly, just make me shake my head in stunning disbelief. They have been revealed as having been prisons and the accompanying emotions and reactions that traveled with them were chains that I had dragged around all my life. These prisons and these chains go unnoticed while we are held captive by them and the smothering, crushing effects caused by them leave us fighting to stay alive. So we are led to believe. It's strange isn't it, how upside down things are in that place? We spend our days thinking we are fighting to stay alive when actually there is no life there to begin with.

There actually is no life there and there never has been. But the pain we feel is real and the frustration is so suffocating at times we wonder how we will get to the next moment. So we are left fighting because that is all we know to do and we feel that if we don't, we will be swallowed by that pain. So we are left doing what we can do. We attempt to control everything in the environment we find ourselves.

There is a moment in The Shack when Mack has a nightmare. He catches a glimpse of Missy in the darkness and she turns and runs away screaming, and the harder Mack tries to pull himself out of the mud so he can go help her, he continues to be sucked in deeper. If prisoners that are bound by chains attempt to fight to free themselves from those chains they cause more damage to themselves. But the natural impulse is still to fight. I know this all to well. I was a fighter. But one day the exhaustion had worn me down and I gave up the fight. I would have never made that choice had Jesus' presence not become real enough to me to cause me to trust him enough to save me from something I could not save myself from. I am so amazed looking back on it all and being able to see how he had been there with me through it all. I just hadn't ever trusted him.

I don't know what happened first, whether his love engulfed me before I gave up the fight, or if as I gave up the fight his love began to become real to me? All I know today is his love is real and it changes everything. It is his tangible presence and his overwhelming love that continues to cause the things in my rear view mirror to grow smaller and smaller. One of the big changes is seeing how relationships are all that really matter. But until the most vital one, the one with God, is in the process of being restored, we unfortuantely are left hurting those we are in relationship with. "Things" just don't matter to me like they used to. Beliefs and principles, and thinking I "know" the answers, and fighting for my rights just aren't as important to me as people are. I want to learn to live in a way that helps people find freedom from prisons and chains that hold them in the smothering emotions caused by our alienation/self-effort. Papa's love , his grace and his affection towards us is the key to the prison door and the lock that holds the chains in place. It is not our job to free people....that is what Jesus does through the Spirit. We have the privilege of extending love and grace, his love and grace, to those that are overwhelmed by the things that have hold of them and the paralyzing fear that is ever present.

There is hope. I Know. The smothering emotions that had consumed me are gone or are in the process of going. On one hand I want to say don't give up and at the same time I want to say....give in. We can't extricate our selves from the prison by self effort. That just causes the mud to suck us in deeper and often we drag those around us in with us. Most other people are fighting their own deal and that is enough for them. All that is left to do is give into his love.

I want to share some of the story Willie uses to close out his telling of Mack's encounter at the shack. It also touches on the question I asked in the title of this post. These words ring true to what this story has been to me also.

" So the question I am faced with as I pen these words is how to end a tale like this? Perhaps I can do that best by telling you a little about how it affected me. As I stated in the forward, Mack's story changed me. I don't think that there is one aspect of my life, especially my relationships, that hasn't been touched deeply and altered in ways that truly matter. Do I think that it is true? I want all of it to be true. Perhaps if some of it is not actually true in one sense, it is still true nonetheless---if you know what I mean? I guess you and Sarayu will have to figure that one out."

Saturday, December 01, 2007

LOVE IS THE ENEMY OF MISERY

As I was listening to the U2 song Mercy (new video) this evening, the line Love is the enemy of misery stood out to me and I was reminded of one of the earliest conversations I had with my friend Paul Young and something he said to me. Here is what he said.

"The actions of self giving, of love, of sacrifice, of dying are the true 'violations' of this world system."

All the world system has to give is misery. Even when someone is "successful" playing the game, they are being oppressed by the system. Love doesn't care about the game or the goodies offered to those who play the game. Father's affection and attention is directed towards that which he loves. It is you and I. From the poorest to the riches, the oppressed and the oppressor, the religionist and the secularist, friend and enemy, and the young who have a life that awaits them and the old that are nearing their time of falling asleep to this world, these are the objects of his affection. If self-giving, love, sacrifice and dying are the true violations of the system that is eating alive those who God loves....I think I want to be a part of those violations.

HIS LOVE NEVER FAILS

Sue has put up a post I wanted to link to and encourage everyone to check out. You can find it here.

This U2 video came to mind as I read Sue's post.

U2 Please

Thursday, November 29, 2007

LOOKING BACK AND LAUGHING

I was reminded today of a video someone shared with me earlier this year that almost made me fall out of my chair with laughter. It had been a long time since I had seen it and it certainly, at that time took on a totally different meaning for me.

For all of my friends that hang out here you all are familiar with the undoing God set in motion and walked me through last year. This video reminded me of that time and how pathetic I was while in the midst of it and fighting to hang onto my old life. I never once thought about leaving but I think you will get the general idea when you see the clip. I'm so glad Papa had his way with me and I let go of the things(mostly a belief system) that stood in the way.

If you find yourself in a frustrating, disorienting, coming undone time, this video might not be funny to you in the same way it is for me. But I can promise you, when you get through it, having let go of the things that stand in the way of a dynamic loving, trusting relationship with God, you will look back and laugh. Well, at least I do when I look back on how big of a jerk I was.

The Jerk

WHAT A CHALLENGE IT IS

Being a people of grace, living in a harsh world governed by law and conformity, administered through all kinds of fear based systems of control certainly creates some challenges. It can be very costly. But whoever said this road was easy?

I've seen enough and it all becomes clearer and clearer everyday.

The road of going with the flow of the world's so called wisdom has always been a dead ender. But this is where we are to live and we are to live in it and not attempt to escape it. We are to be people of love and grace in the middle of it. Jesus' wisdom seemed to point to something on the lines of ; Live wide awake to the ways of the world and do not be fooled by the schemes and lies. We are also governed by necessity as we live here though. We need food, shelter and clothing, but let us not forget that Jesus said his father knows we need these things and he will provide. One of the things I am awakening to is, to the degree I have attempted to live beyond that necessity and grabbed for more things, the world's claws have penetrated deeper into me. Turning from that place that had become all too familiar, has begun to open up some WIDE SPACES. Spaces of freedom. In that wide open space the world loses it's grip on us.

The world's methods are not friendly to the ways of God. It does not understand grace. Every so often you might see grace attempt to peek through, but as quickly as it appeared it disappears again. Don't be surprised and don't be alarmed. The one we are following knows the world's game and he overcame. If we stick with him and keep our eyes open to our life hidden in him, in that place.....grace has already won and is set in place. It's the only place freedom can be found.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

LEARNING TO LIKE THE WAY IT FEELS

This is a continuation from the Vertigo post. I'm really not in a place of vertigo at this present time. Sometime last year that feeling began to lift from me and I began to get my footing again. It was just footing on different ground than I had ever stood before. I will describe it as a place where I began to embrace uncertainty and began to accept ambiguity. I've never felt more secure. Quite a paradox don't you think?

I have no idea what awaits me around the next corner....but I am certain God will be with me. It's all I am certain about. And it is enough for me in this new place. Tomorrow I might be feeling a bit of vertigo again but I don't spend much time thinking about tomorrow any more. What is in front of me right here, right now, is all there is and that is enough to concern myself with.

I'm learning to like the way this feels because I am learning that this is the only place Jesus is. We had a wonderful time at work today in conversation with a number of people. I must end this post right now because we are going to watch Amie dance. I wonder what awaits us there? We will see.

Monday, November 26, 2007

VERTIGO

I can feel....Your love is teaching me how to kneel

Transition can feel so disorienting and confusing. Too often this transition is aborted because we have been told that God is not a God of confusion. It's actually so tragic that people who think they are helping are often actually standing in the way.
I find it quite interesting that a rock band seems to "get it" and understand these things in a way many religious people don't. I guess when you spend the majority of your time out there where life happens in all it's complexity you learn these things as opposed to the sterile confines of that contrived environment where god is a god of order and absolutes and a belief system that tells you if you are confused it is the enemy.

When we begin to see more clearly the life of alienation/independence that we attempted to live and all it's illusions of security and certainty and we begin the walk out of that, you can bet there is going to be some shaking of the ground we stand on. As we begin to see it for what it is, we come face to face with our freedom to choose. To stay where we have been, the place a familiarity might seem safe....but who wants to settle for that if it is just an illusion?

What we are being offered is freedom. As we walk out of the prisons we have been living in, into that freedom, expect to feel a little bit of Vertigo.

A MANIFESTATION OF LIVING WITH EXPECTANCY IS LIVING GRACIOUSLY WITH OTHERS

I've been overwhelmed with God and his graciousness this morning. I shared the comment below from a brother's blog with a friend this morning to encourage them and it set in motion in me many tears of longing for us all. I long for us all to be able to extend grace to each other instead of expectations and demands to "do better". THIS HARSH WORLD PLACES ENOUGH DEMANDS ON PEOPLE. And don't miss that I said it is a longing I have.....this isn't something we can work up and produce ourselves. It's Father's love and acceptance that changes us...nothing else.

Here's what Paul shared on his blog.

“It is my opinion that a person brings everything they have at any moment. Sometimes it is a real mixed bag, fears and turmoil, denial and lies, theological acuteness or inaccuracy, embarrassment…whatever…but at that moment in time, it is everything they have. We are not talking about what a person could potentially bring, if they understood their identity clearly, if the wisdom that others have deposited would simply be tapped, if they could only draw upon the resources of their relationship with Father…we are talking about what they ‘do’ bring…and in their guilt or hiding or wonder or laughter…in that moment they bring everything they have. I also find that when you extend a person grace and allow for space for them to bring what they have, sometimes you will watch as they begin to look inside themselves to see if there isn’t more…and then…sometimes…you get surprised!”

Friday, November 23, 2007

PEOPLE THAT MAKE ME THINK...IN DIFFERENT WAYS

I am exercising my freedom to break from the guidelines of The Thinking Blogger Award that Joy has honored me with. You can find her here. Along with saying the things I write make her think, she said that I had been instrumental in music being brought back into her life. That in and of itself in my book is something that brings me great joy. As you all know, music is important to me and to think Joy is listening and enjoying music again makes my spirit sing.

The reason I wanted to break from the guidelines is because I wanted to use this opportunity to mention a number of people that have been so instrumental in the challenging thinking that has been a part of a wonderful change in my life. Instead of having to just pick 5 of you to give the award to (not that there is anything wrong with that) I just wanted to put all the names out there and encourage you all to check them out. They have all been mentioned here before.

My blog friends: Rob, Sue, Rich, Rick, Joy, Cynthia, Trish, Tina, and Jennifer you all have been an important part of this past two years of major transition in my life. I'm truly just a shadow of who I was three years ago. 18 years after Father began the process of unraveling the performance/obligation/conformity/fear based religion I had known all my life, something happened in me. You all walked through that with me. Your encouragement I have so appreciated and you all have played a role in this transformation with father. Don't ever doubt that you all have the Spirit living and moving in you and the impact your love and grace has on people is huge.

As to some other brothers and a sister (authors) that have at times gently and sometimes not so gently (Brueggemann) pulled rugs out from under me, I am so humbled at their love for God and their desire to help others to see better. Maybe it is that they help clear things out of the way that stand in the way of us seeing God more clearly? I would have to say that is what they did for me.

Jacques Ellul
Walter Brueggemann
Brian McLaren
Richard Rohr
NT Wright
Stanley Hauerwas
Mike Yaconelli
and Anne Lamott

And I save these three for last.

Wayne Jacobsen
Brad Cummings
and Paul Young

Wayne has been a friend for many years now and the role he played as he walked with me through the darkest most scary period of my life I am so grateful for. His help to me during that time when everything was coming undone in my life and no one else really understood, encouraged me to keep pressing through. His book He Loves Me and The Jake book were very instrumental in changing the way I approached God and seeing better how he desired to relate to me.

Paul came into my life through Wayne and an unpublished manuscript, at the time Jesus had begun to show me a way through the confusion and fear, to a place of freedom I had longed for. To say the shields were down and I was vulnerable when I sat down to read The Shack is the understatement of my life. I stood undone and exposed....with no defense....and at the same time was so acutely aware I didn't need one...I was being loved instead. I had never felt so loved and accepted and safe and I am still overwhelmed with that same feeling a year and a half later. This is all about grace and none of us can add anything to that. My email exchanges with Paul have been some of the most challenging and encouraging and paradigm shifting encounters I have ever had. He has so gently and lovingly pulled many rugs out from under me and in so doing, a new deeper, wider place of freedom would open up in front of me to wander into with Jesus. I look forward to sitting down with Paul soon. *of which I did in March of 08* I want to give him a big hug and sit and talk about Papa, Jesus and Sarayu....and let's not forget Sophia, and I want to hear more of Paul's life story and how the wastefulness of God's grace has been setting him free and healing his pain. Papa is doing amazing things through him and his story and The Shack, a book that was written for his children and is now spreading around the globe. His blog is one of the most thought provoking blogs out there...well, in my estimation. Thank you Paul

And Brad, who I get to listen in on every Friday chatting with Wayne on the God Journey Podcast. These two guys have had some wonderfully encouraging, challenging conversations since they began doing it back in '05'. I am going to California in January to spend a weekend with Wayne and Sara and I hope to get to meet Brad when I am out there. *of which I did in Feb. of 08* That could be a hoot hanging with Wayne and Brad for an afternoon. *of which it was* We will see.

So Joy, I know this isn't passing along The Thinking Blogger Award, but it is how I felt comfortable doing it. All of you that I have mentioned make me think and I am grateful to you all and thank Father for allowing me to get to know you all. One day we will raise a glass...all of us together...count on it.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

IF YOU HAVEN'T READ ANY ELLUL

I have been so stretched and challenged and have had many rugs pulled out from under me...gently...while reading Jacques Ellul's book and articles. I have come to love this process the Spirit seems to be walking me through. Off balance is good....being maladjusted to the things of the world and the way the world functions is good also.

I am so grateful on this Thanksgiving Day for having been challenged on a regular basis so graciously by someone like Ellul and a few other friends of mine. It's a good thing.

The Life and Works of Jacques Ellul

Monday, November 19, 2007

SUNRISE OF YOUR SMILE

I've just been in the mood for sharing songs that have been important to me. I am so glad this is the song my three girls heard so often while I was tucking them into bed the first several years of their lives. They grew up with me singing this song to them. It is so beautiful and you will hear Michael sing of many things that Father was finally able to get at in me that still resided inside me during those years when I was singing this song to the girls. Blindspots are interesting things to say the least.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jL712w2OUPM

Saturday, November 17, 2007

ARE WE TRYING TO REMOVE THE MYSTERY?

How many times do people that have some type of a Christian concept of God (shaped by fear/performance/obligation based religion) come upon a moment in their life that they are standing at a door way that would lead them into an exciting, transforming adventure with God and they turn away?

I think this happens all the time.

One of the things that I see that causes people to turn away, is confusion and disorientation. UNCERTAINTY. When the freedom of God comes close to disentangle us from that which we are bound by (often things we have become comfortable and familiar with) it can be rather confusing and disorienting to say the least. But the people I speak of have had some very controlling fear based things ingrained in them. How many times have we heard that God is not a God of confusion?

I agree....he is not confused at all. But when his wisdom and his ways invade our space (shaped by alienation) you can be darn well sure that some confusion and disorientation is going to be experienced. Every time the Spirit moves to make a correction inside us to set another place inside us free, it turns our comfortable and definable understanding UPSIDE DOWN. That will create some confusion. If we want to walk with and follow Jesus into more and more places of freedom....be prepared to be confused and disoriented at times.

Once we learn to trust the one we are following, this confusion and disorientation begins to subside. As the life shaped by the attempts at living independently...alienated from God begins to die, and new life/free life.....who we truly are in him begins to rise up and walk. This is a walk of faith.

Hebrews 11:1

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

From The Message: Hebrews 11:1

The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It's our handle on what we can't see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.

I love these thoughts by Richard Rohr. This is from an NPR interview. It was in December of last year that I ran across this. What a couple years of being Utterly Humbled By Mystery it has turned out to be.

"I believe in mystery and multiplicity. To religious believers this may sound almost pagan. But I don't think so. My very belief and experience of a loving and endlessly creative God has led me to trust in both.
I've had the good fortune of teaching and preaching across much of the globe, while also struggling to make sense of my experience in my own tiny world. This life journey has led me to love mystery and not feel the need to change it or make it un-mysterious. This has put me at odds with many other believers I know who seem to need explanations for everything.

Religious belief has made me comfortable with ambiguity. "Hints and guesses," as T.S. Eliot would say. I often spend the season of Lent in a hermitage, where I live alone for the whole 40 days. The more I am alone with the Alone, the more I surrender to ambivalence, to happy contradictions and seeming inconsistencies in myself and almost everything else, including God. Paradoxes don't scare me anymore.
When I was young, I couldn't tolerate such ambiguity. My education had trained me to have a lust for answers and explanations. Now, at age 63, it's all quite different. I no longer believe this is a quid pro quo universe -- I've counseled too many prisoners, worked with too many failed marriages, faced my own dilemmas too many times and been loved gratuitously after too many failures.

Whenever I think there's a perfect pattern, further reading and study reveal an exception. Whenever I want to say "only" or "always," someone or something proves me wrong. My scientist friends have come up with things like "principles of uncertainty" and dark holes. They're willing to live inside imagined hypotheses and theories. But many religious folks insist on answers that are always true. We love closure, resolution and clarity, while thinking that we are people of "faith"! How strange that the very word "faith" has come to mean its exact opposite.

People who have really met the Holy are always humble. It's the people who don't know who usually pretend that they do. People who've had any genuine spiritual experience always know they don't know. They are utterly humbled before mystery. They are in awe before the abyss of it all, in wonder at eternity and depth, and a Love, which is incomprehensible to the mind. It is a litmus test for authentic God experience, and is -- quite sadly -- absent from much of our religious conversation today. My belief and comfort is in the depths of Mystery, which should be the very task of religion."


SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT IT

When God incarnate was walking the earth he was not a Christian. Do you think he would be today if he came in the flesh to visit us again?

And then think about this.....he is here.

Friday, November 16, 2007

AMAZED

Everyday I am amazed by the stories God is inviting me to look in on. Weeping with a client as I am trying to make them look good while cutting their hair can be tricky. But hey.....I feel privileged to be let in on this.

I let go of the life I had been clinging onto so tightly, as if it was what I was suppose to do and I found out I hadn't been living at all. I am past asking why it took me so long..... I'm finding Papa's timing is perfect.

I love where I am at and I am at peace. On average I see 10 clients a day. Everyone of them leads to a conversation. Since this transformation, it has become impossible to think of them as clients. They are friends. I can't think of anything I would rather be doing and unless Father suggests to me that he has something else for me to do and as long as he gives me the health to do it........I'm a Hairstylist. Tell me your stories, I have time to listen.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

HAVE WE MISSED THE POINT BY MAKING MORALITY SO MUCH OF THE FOCUS?

It just seems to me that when the visible expression of the community that professes to represent God in the culture takes on the mantle of Moral Policeman it's just another adventure in missing the point?

This is from the book The Ethics of Freedom by Jacques Ellul.

"We have to take seriously the morals of our century. In so doing, of course, we alienate freedom. To take current morals seriously may well be the price we have to pay if the society in which we find ourselves is to continue. All the same, we have to see clearly at this point, for the alienation entailed may well be the most serious act to which we can assist, and there is no place for frivolity here. If it is not absolutely necessary to obey these morals for the sake of love, or witness, or the support of the weak, then we should stand aloof and not only dispute them but actually act outside the body of this established morality."

Today so much energy is spent in attempting to get people who don't even believe in the good news to obey these moral and ethical codes. It is a lost cause and an adventure in seriously missing the point. People are powerless to do it. That includes even all of us that have accepted the message of the kingdom of God as being reality.....except for the reality of the life of God in us. How did we ever come to a place of thinking that enforcing a 'way of living' on people who don't Know the Way would be effective and helpful to anyone? Or is this approach helpful for something? It does at times help keep society from being really 'out of control' messy. But is that what the message of the kingdom of God is about? Or is it about addressing the condition of alienation?

I think this approach exposes that we are more interested in hanging onto a life Jesus says we need to lose in order to find the real deal.

The mess caused by immorality and lawlessness is to expose this condition of alienation. For those that are being set free from the bondage of this alienation and in turn finding freedom through life in the Spirit they become the alternative reality of the only thing that is real and free. People living in this freedom, being embraced by the love of God, will find themselves being disentangled from the effects caused by their years spent in the bondage of alienation.

They will be people of overwhelming compassion and understanding towards those still trapped. They won't be able to live any other way because they will remember clearly that it wasn't long ago that they were trapped in the same destructive behavior. But for the grace and love of God....no one has the courage or the understanding of how to walk out of that prison.

We only become people of love and grace when we know, by (seeing and hearing) the living word of God.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

FREEDOM TO CHOOSE

I've been thinking about the dynamics created in all our lives through this exercise of choice. WOW, just think about it. We can not avoid it. Even those people that seem to be paralyzed in fear and rarely make a decision, are still involved in choosing. Everything we do sets something in motion....ripples begin to spread out in all directions.

As I mentioned the other day in GOD GIVES US THE DESIRES OF OUR HEART, I think this is what everything hinges on. I know that sounds simplistic but is it not true?

When Jesus was tempted, what was it about? It was about choice was it not? Back in the garden with Adam and Eve wasn't it about choice? Through out the recorded history of God's dealings with Israel we see the same things play out. God in his love and grace allows his people to freely choose. The story of the prodigal son paints the same scenario for us. A father and the wastefulness of his grace and love to let his boys choose to follow the desires of their hearts.

Why does he do this? I think it is about freedom. God's wild freedom.

If he doesn't let us choose, we are not free in any way, shape, or form. But this freedom to choose doesn't lead necessarily to the freedom he desires for us. All it is about is the freedom to pursue the things that we desire. Choice is never really free. We are conditioned by many forces that shape our choices. This is where man/woman find them selves. It's a loveless place.

But our wonderful father is at work in it all. The desires of our hearts lead us to dry places. The valley of despair leads us to the doorway of hope.

"Therefore, I will allure her I will lead her to the wilderness and I will speak to her heart. There I will give her a vineyard I will give the valley of Achor (suffering) as a gate of hope. [Like] when she was a virgin Like the day she went up out of the land of Egypt," (Hosea 2:16-17).

"When that day comes Says the Lord. You will call me 'my husband' You will no longer call me 'my lord (Baal).' I will remove every name of Baal From her mouth You are not to recite that name," (Hosea 2:18-19).

Father's love is the only thing that redeems the mess caused by our freedom to choose. Man's politics (kings)...man's religion (self effort towards making himself/herself right with God, based on a belief system)...man's economies (all the world has to offer) has always been the valley of troubles.

The valley of trouble is about bringing us to the end of the misplaced hope in the things that fill our heart. Until that happens we really can't see the doorway that is hope. Father's love in all it's freedom. It's all that matters. When we are captured by Him, all our heart's desires will be transformed. We'll choose him.

Monday, November 12, 2007

WHAT'S THE FREQUENCY KENNETH?

I will spare you the REM video for this song because it's a stretch to make it applicable to what I am thinking, other than the strange story of Dan Rather being mugged in Central Park by a crazy guy asking Dan for the frequency codes the news media was using to control him.

Every time I think of this song I think of the difficulty we all have in communicating. I find myself often wanting to say: What's the frequency Kenneth?....but I am sure all that would get me is strange looks and I don't know that it would help me or the other in communicating?

I read a book a few weeks ago written by Jacques Ellul called The Humiliation of The Word and it deals with the difficulty we find ourselves in when it comes to language and our attempts to use it. One of the things he points out is that we have become a people that have been so shaped by Images. It has really sparked some thinking in me as to how images do have a way of shutting down thinking. To understand the spoken word it takes time and effort. To understand a picture like we are so governed by due to tv, magazines, movies, books as so on, it takes little or no thought at all. We see an image and we think we know what is going on.

Having been so shaped by images, even when we hear the spoken word, pictures begin to run none stop in our head, ( if they had ever stopped in the first place) and this makes 'listening' to the other most difficult if not impossible. But even beyond that, this unbroken stream of images that runs in our brains none stop make understanding the word most difficult.

This creates much difficulty for us when the only thing true that exists is the Word that proceeds from God's mouth. It becomes even more complicated for us now when we have been so shaped to live by what we see (images, pictures, and the visible world) when living a life of faith is living by what we don't see.

I want to learn to communicate in a better way. But even if I am capable of accomplishing that, the minute I say it or write it, it enters the realm of interpretation and the images it brings to life in the listener's mind. At that point we begin the adventure of slogging through the mixed frequencies all over again.

Confusing?

WHAT GOD HAS GIVEN.......AND GRABBING FOR WHAT HE HAS NOT GIVEN

Is what God has given us anymore complicated than....(1) Him self in all his wonder, God our father, Jesus our brother and the Spirit.....(2) each other....(3) his beautiful creation....and (4) the freedom to choose?

Just thinking on these things this morning.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

HE GIVES US THE DESIRES OF OUR HEART

I've been thinking for awhile now of this concept that is thrown around so often in religious circles. And where it has led me is a little bit different than I have ever thought about it before. This idea of God giving us the desires of our hearts used to just confuse me. We Americans I think have a really difficult time with it due to all the 'things' we have to desire and the wealth to attain it. A friend of mine the other day on another forum used the phrase "an adventure in missing the point" and I think that works pretty well here also?

If God gives us the desires of our heart, is it always good? I think it is. I think it is in the free choice God gave us, all this plays out. He gives us the freedom to pursue what we desire. Israel with their freedom of choice asked God for kings and religion(and many other things) because they were afraid and wanted to be like the other nations. We seem to still be somewhat stuck with the fall out from those choices even though he has clearly displayed that they were not what he had desired for us . Too many hearts still sink and suffer under the weight and despair caused by placing our trust in those things.

The struggles today seem to still be pretty similar and God continues to give us the desires of our hearts expressed through our use of the freedom to choose. But one might ask, Why does he give us things that hurt us if he is such a loving God? I would then ask, Do you really want to be free? Or do you want him making all your choices for you through a predetermined arrangement so that no trouble comes into your life caused by your choices or by the choices of the other people around you?

Let's not be confused here, everything God gives us is for our good and because he loves us. And let's not confuse what it is he is giving us with what we are getting through our choosing.

This loving Father lets us choose. Isn't the point of that freedom to lead us all back to him where life is found? Trusting in worldly kings has been proven to be a dead end road and a bad choice, but there was a purpose in it all. Having Moses go meet with God because they were too afraid to and in turn accepted mediators and a religion that would just be an exhausting exercise in futility was another dead end road and a bad choice, but a good purpose was accomplished through it also. And today we continue to exercise that freedom of choice and we get to live with all the things our choices and the choices of others opens up to us. See, like I said earlier, freedom of choice is a good thing. If life in God is the only place real life and freedom is found and if what Jesus said is true about his yoke being easy and his burden being light these should be pretty good indicators for us as to where we are in this journey.

If we are exhausted and weighted down by the things and circumstances our choices have created in our lives we shouldn't be discouraged and shouldn't beat our selves up too much over it. Isn't this the point of it all? That we would come to the end of our self-effort and give up the futile attempt to live a life of independence? If this is where we find ourselves, let's give ourselves a break. I think we have good reason to rejoice.

MATTHEW 5 from the Message

When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:

"You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

"You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

"You're blessed when you're content with just who you are—no more, no less. That's the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can't be bought.

"You're blessed when you've worked up a good appetite for God. He's food and drink in the best meal you'll ever eat.

"You're blessed when you care. At the moment of being 'care-full,' you find yourselves cared for.

"You're blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

"You're blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That's when you discover who you really are, and your place in God's family.

"You're blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God's kingdom.

"Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don't like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.



Friday, November 09, 2007

OVERJOYED

I was reading my friend Sue's blog Discombobula tonight and as I was responding to her recent post I was reminded of the song Right Here Right Now by Jesus Jones. You can watch it here.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QtYBQXIeLRw

I know I have spoken of it here many times but the change in my everyday experience has been drastically transformed over the past couple years. Living with expectancy, flowing from a place of trusting God even when I have no idea what he is doing has begun to reshape me and change everything.

This world had shaped me to expect many things. I don't know where this concept came from but I know it is just disastrous if we want to live in peace and joy and free of fear. That way of living is about control, manipulation and conformity. The world (whichever world system we have been born into) tells us to conform to the game that they are providing for us to play and things will go well for us. It is a lie. It goes well for some and not so well for others. But the outcome for all is the same....more fear and no rest.

I had been one of the lucky ones. Well, that is as the world defines it. I'm a white male and I am an American for starters and that means I'm pretty close to the top of the heap to begin with. I was born in a middle class family that gave me a good start. I've done well. But I came to see it as really being empty.

I'm siting here tonight by myself thinking of my family that has gone out tonight in many different direction. My oldest daughter is on the highway making a drive an hour and half away for the first time with another female friend riding along with her. I'm not freaking out with worry. My youngest is heading to the same place as my oldest, but she is on a bus with a large group of kids. I'm not freaking out with worry. My middle daughter is out running with someone else and I really don't know exactly what she is doing. I'm not freaking out with worry. My wife is at work taking care of patients that can't take care of themselves. I am amazed at her sacrifice doing what she does.

I'm not living in a dream world. I know everything could change in a moment. That is just how it is in this world of uncertainty. Our lives are very fragile. But learning that reality has been a part of this transition Jesus is helping me to make in my life. It's strange to think that Peace and Joy and Freedom from fear have become much more a reality just from accepting the reality that I am not in control and never have been.

The world's game had led me to believe the exact opposite. So I worked that game hard and it never delivered anything that put me at rest. It just exacerbated the things I wanted to be rid of. The world can have it's game. I am learning to live in it more in line to what Jesus has taught me. I see what it is and I see through it's lie. My heart is no longer longing for what it has to offer. The kingdom of heaven is where my heart and head long to be. Right Here Right Now....there is no other place I want to be.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

WHEN WE THINK WE KNOW

"Kent, you have no idea what I'm doing right now." God

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

A LITTLE MORE ON THE CHOICE BETWEEN THINGS AND RELATIONSHIPS

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XyK7iXVhLEs


It will take a miracle to get me out to the shopping mall
All I want for Christmas is you.


After posting this morning about relational living I was driving to work and put Over The Rhine's Snow Angels Christmas CD in. I listen to it all year long regularly because it is so beautiful. All I Ever Get For Christmas Is Blue is the first song on the CD. The line I posted above has always stood out to me as my heart cry from the first time I heard the song last December. It speaks of what our hearts are longing for. All we really need is God and as we begin to understand and experience that, I think all the other things that we have used to numb the pain (the blues) will begin to fall away from us. And then we will begin to notice something else that we long for and has been in front of us all along. People to embrace and to be embraced by. Our spouse, our children, parents, siblings, friends, neighbors and the others that are alone in this world, having been rejected for whatever reason. The possibilities are endless.


There is another song on this CD that works so well with these thoughts that I have used on this blog before from the song Here It Is. You can find the words to that song here. http://nthegarden.blogspot.com/2007/10/here-it-is.html

I told Julie, that's my wife, the other day that I was so looking forward to the first snow fall here in St. Louis this winter. She and I are going to get in the car and take a drive through the country with the snow falling and Snow Angels playing on the stereo. Hopefully at night with the headlights lighting our way through the gently falling snow. There is another song on the CD called I Want To Get Snowed In With You. That sounds like fun also.

I wish you all a wonderful holiday season with those people that are most important to you. Make it so Father.

RELATIONAL LIVING vs ALL THE THINGS THIS WORLD PLACES ABOVE IT

I've been thinking about this for awhile now. It's actually a big part of the journey I have been on for awhile. Because of this, 'Other Things' are losing their grip on me and in turn, relationships are becoming much healthier.

Once I began to see the other things for what they are, my desire for them just began to look silly. Father didn't rip these things out of my hands. He's not like that. He continued to let me know the choice was mine to make. It was more about what I wanted. Did I want peace and joy or did I want to continuing living the life this world and all it's things produced in me?

To say the choice began to become clear to me is an understatement. I wanted peace and joy and rest. I knew enough to know that these are only found in him. As I continue to walk on this new path with Father, the 'other things' continue to lose their hold on me. I'm breathing much better these days.

I had heard about this pearl of great price my entire life. Knowing about him is not the same thing as Knowing him. I'm finding out that trying to hold on to that other life had so clouded my ability to see. What I am seeing makes letting go of everything else so worth it.

Keep inviting me into new places Father, out of the old places that are nothing but bondage.

Monday, November 05, 2007

PHOTO ALBUM

If anyone cares to check out some of the photos I have taken I have put a link to my photo album under Favorite Sites.

You will find pictures of our Disney trip that was a part of getting our family back to a healthy place. There are some of my garden, some from my trip to Oregon during the spring of 06 and a few from the Missouri Botanical Garden.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

THE COMPLEXITY OUR INDEPENDENCE BRINGS TO LIFE

This is a continuation of the theme of becoming more child like again, believe it or not.

Technique: The systematic procedure by which a complex or scientific task is accomplished.

This is taken from Technique and the Opening Chapters of Genesis by Jacques Ellul. I will add a link at the end where it can be read in it's entirety.

"We have seen why technique was impossible in Eden, but the fall brings about a radical break ‑the universum which had been created has been shattered. Adam is no longer in direct communion with God: he hides. The break between them is complete. Starting from this break between God and man, all other breaks follow ‑Adam and Eve separate. (Adam accuses his wife‑what greater break?) They are no longer one, but two. Man and the animals separate. (Eve accuses the serpent.) They learn fear and shame. "Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked" (Genesis 3:7). That is to say, precisely, that the relationship among the elements of creation is completely upset. Instead of unity and communion, there is now an "I" and a "You.” There is the gaze of the Other, which is the gaze of a stranger imposed on me. Now I am under the scrutiny of the gaze of the Other, which is a look without love and without understanding and welcome, but only coldly perspicacious. (Here it is‑science, which discerns the objective reality of things and which sees that I am "other.” This observation now transforms everything into an object, and the other has become an object for me.) The mirror of creation is shattered. The universum is broken, and therefore it is necessary to have means‑means for holding the pieces together, means for establishing new relations in a world without relations.

Now it is necessary to have mediators and intermediaries because of the distance that has been established between God and man, between people, and between man and matter. There is no more immediate contact. Everything has become mediated. In particular, in his relationship with God, man is going to institute religion, which is both a screen between the two and, at the same time, a way of approach. Thus we have the sacrifices of Abel and Cain. Then, in his relationship with nature, man creates technique. At this point, we are thrown into the world of means and into their multiplication without end, without any checks. Indeed, we have to grasp that the proliferation of means characterizing our age is not a sort of progress whose roots reach back into the situation of Adam and Eden. Technical proliferation is necessary precisely because that situation no longer exists!

Thus Adam finds himself in a relationship of struggle, and rules by this means, that is, his technique, which cannot be an instrument of love but of domination.

Similarly, the world has become hostile with its powers of aggression which it hides from man‑wild animals, beginning with the serpent. Man now has to protect himself from everything that attacks him, and thus other means become necessary ‑weapons, for example. (Why should one limit techniques to tools? Weapons are the sign of a technique at least as early as tools!) More importantly, once again, he has to resort to the whole of technique. A qualified expert in these matters has been able to write that technique is a "protective envelope which man wraps around himself" (Leroi‑Gourhan[8]). And it is true that technique is a collection of means for protection at least as much as it is the means of domination. In both cases, however, what characterizes the instrument is its efficiency. The only thing that denotes technique is its efficiency. That is to say, it is an absolutely new preoccupation which comes about in a world which denies and attacks, but a preoccupation which would have been incomprehensible in the garden of Eden.

Now Adam has to succeed in. . . . But what would success mean in a world of thanksgiving, of gift? Thus it is that Adam has now been placed in a truly new situation. He knows necessity, a few aspects of which have just been recalled. Previously, Adam had lived in freedom, and his work was freedom, play, child‑like. He was free to be himself in front of his Creator who was his Father. He was free from all constraint, all obligation. He knew only this freedom, with its complement of respect for the will of God, respect within a free love and a free dialogue. There was no law, but an order‑the very order of the freedom of God. From the moment when Adam separated himself from God, when his freedom was no longer love but the choice between two possibilities, from that moment Adam moved from the realm of freedom into the realm of necessity. (As for us, we no longer know anything but the freedom which is always the choice between two possibilities, and we characterize freedom by the possibility of choice; but let us not forget that this is nothing but freedom in the world of the fall and gravity and death.) When he no longer lives in the communion of love with God, then he lives in the order of law. Now he knows only duty. Now he knows that an implacable order governs his destiny, and that his universe is one where everything falls‑that his universe is truly one of gravity, of care, of the fall.

Everything is now governed necessarily. Fatality becomes a sign of his life and he is subject to an interplay of laws on every level‑physical and moral, biological and sociological‑ each of which is only a facet of the same necessity. In this universe of necessity, to which he must yield, man learns to use necessity, to be crafty with it or turn it against itself. He learns to know and calculate the laws of nature for the modification of his own condition. By submitting to these laws, he is able to rule them ‑ It is in discerning them as necessity that he is able to live in the middle of them and to subsist as a man who, in the depth of his heart, still keeps alive the memory of and aspiration for freedom.

When we write this, however, we have done no more than describe the process of technique, itself guided by science‑the means of submitting to necessity by yielding to it. But in a world where there was no necessity, what would this mean? Thus, no matter what attitude one takes toward technique, it can only be perceived as a phenomenon of the fall; it has nothing to do with the order of creation; it by no means results from the vocation of Adam desired by God. It is necessarily of the situation of the fallen Adam.

And now it remains for me to beg the reader not to have me say what I did not say! I did not say that technique is a fruit of sin. I did not say that technique is contrary to the will of God. I did not say that technique in itself is evil. I said only that technique is not a prolongation of the Edenic creation that it is not a compliance of man to a vocation which was given to him by God, that it is not the fruit of the first nature of Adam. It is the product of the situation in which sin has put man; it is inscribed exclusively in the fallen world; it is uniquely part of this fallen world; it is a product of necessity and not of human freedom."

http://www.jesusradicals.com/library/ellul/various/technogenesis.html