Sunday, April 29, 2007

SOCIETY SUFFERS AND DIES WHEN COMMUNITY IS UNDERMIND

I am reading through Wendell Berry's book Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community again.

This jumped out at me today.

"The indispensable form that can intervene between public and private interests is that of community. The concerns of public and private, republic and citizen, necessary as they are, are not adequate for the shaping of human life. Community alone, as principle and as fact, can raise the standards of local health (ecological, economic, social, and spiritual) without which the other two interests will destroy one another."

I think everything in our society is set against this happening. "Growing the economic machine" works against community. Individuals are continuously pulled out of the context of family and community to serve this machine. Such a large number of people can't even really think about putting down roots any longer. That is, unless we can think an alternate thought of how to live differently.

FAITHFULLY DANGEROUS

When I logged onto today the name of my blog just struck me again in a powerful way. I chose the name from a song by one of my favorite bands. I chose it at a time God was proving himself as being faithfully dangerous. Yet at the same time so wonderfully awesome.

Today I can say this is such a perfect description of LIFE.

Our very existence is full of danger. How we approach life can add to that danger, but let us not fool ourselves. It's not determined by whether we live wildly or cautiously. Danger is all around regardless.

I think we who have grown up in the West are so misguided. Our religious subculture is suffering under the same reality. What do we fear the most. The loss of our physical life or the loss of our spiritual life? I think we live more like we are in fear of losing our physical life and in so doing we suffer more. Life is so full of paradox. To find our lives we must lose them, is what the scripture says.

Oh.....in the process of playing by the worlds rules we can preserve our lives, but in that process the same worldly games are beating the hell out of who we are to be in Christ. What is it that will awaken us to this reality and lead us to live in the real reality of Jesus is Lord?

Yes, life is faithfully dangerous and yes, the life hidden with Christ in God is faithfully dangerous also. The way that seems so right to the many, will keep us from the reality of life in him, (which is really the only true life). You might gain the whole world in that place but forfeit your soul. The life hidden with Christ in God may cost you everything this life has to offer, but in return for that loss you gain everything that really matters.

At first it might seem like a big risk to believe such foolishness. But when one's eyes are opened, you see clearly that the only risk and the most dangerous choice is to continue believing what the world is saying and buying what it is selling.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

A WAY FORWARD?

I am still waiting for someone to give me a defense for the use of violence as a redemptive tool that God has placed in our hands. That is, the hands of those who choose to follow Jesus. The Old Testament arguments just don't work for me anymore. God in Christ just seems to trump all of those arguments. It just seems to me you have to absolutely disregard Jesus and his disciples to argue that violence against another human being is acceptable. I can no longer so easily put it aside.

Here is a speech from a man who also refused to except the old arguments and the status quo that had engulfed the generation he was born into and those that preceeded him.

http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1964/king-acceptance.html

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

TIME WITH FRIENDS OLD AND NEW

I traveled to Kansas City Mo. on Saturday to meet my good friend Wayne Jacobsen while he was hanging with a group of folks that had gathered to have a conversation about this wonderful journey with God. Getting to spend some time with Wayne never disappoints. Learning to live free of expectations has helped push me a little further down this road of transformation. I love being with Wayne and I always live with wonderful expectancy of what we might discover together about this most wonderful father we share. It was another one of those times. Whether we were in the car driving to another destination, setting as guests in some one's home, on the golf course or setting with former acquaintances and friends, I found myself challenged by the conversation to rest in father's love and let that take me deeper into his heart.

The connection with some new friends turned out to be such a blessing also. Dan and Terry offered me a place to stay with them on their farm. It reminded me of my childhood, growing up on a farm surrounded by wide open spaces. I immediately felt at home with them. I am still just amazed at the connection we all have in this reality of God's family. I never once felt like anything but family. One night their 21 year old daughter joined us and we all shared some common struggles we have had in our families. Their daughter's openness was just so refreshing and so wonderful to see. Seeing the work of God in their lives, that I could so relate to, just humbled me once again. We all sat and asked why? Why did our families seem to emerge from things that crush others? The only answer I have any more is that it is all God's grace. And I mean all of it. Even when it doesn't work out like we hope, can we live with expectancy instead of expectation? Can we trust God with it all? I feel like I am learning to. So often we don't know what the author and finisher of our faith is up to. But we can rest in the truth that he has ways of redeeming anything, regardless of how ugly it might look. Grace makes beauty out of ugly things.

I sat with another friend, Evan, who I had met last December in Springfield while Wayne was there. It was good to catch up with him and hear more of his encounter with God in his life. Some good things seem to be going on Evan. Keep pressing on.

And then there was Monday on the golf course with Dan, Wayne and Pat. What a hoot that turned out to be. We seemed to have a lot of trouble keeping our golf bags on our carts due to people unlatching the straps that held them in as they walked by. At one point one of the carts just happened to roll right over someones ball and plugged it in the ground. I don't think I have ever stood over as many putts with conversation going on and the clearing of throats. I had a 3 putt on one of these occasions with my ball sitting within 5 feet of the hole. I couldn't stop laughing. The round Wayne and I played today was a more traditional round of golf. We didn't laugh as much but we had a great time all the same. I will laugh about that round of golf in KC for a long time and I'm sure it will remain a great memory.

We spent Monday night with our friends Roger and Trish and then Tuesday night with my brother and his wife and our friend Mike, just sitting around talking about the things we are discovering in our lives, learning to trust in this unyielding and unfailing love of God. I think this is more about him finding us than it is about us finding him. He runs much harder after us than we run after him, even on our best days. To see the things being work out in my friends and them being set free is just so much fun. We all struggle, but it is in the struggle that we are stretched and changed. Life can be tough. I hope when we all get to the end we can look back and say that we struggled well and smile on it all.

To all my friends I want to say this; Don't ever give up. Wrestling with God, loved ones, friends, strangers, enemies, and life itself, is worth it. Learning to embrace both the struggle and the joy seems to be an important reality. When we emerge on the other side of these temporary struggles hopefully there will be a lot of laughter and more love than we have ever known before. It's the only way to get to the real stuff. This weekend for me, with Dan, Terry, and their daughter Ann, was a great reminder of this truth.

Thanks guys.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

SPRING AGAIN







Click on each picture to get a close up.
Now tell me there isn't a Creator.



Saturday, April 14, 2007

A TIME FOR TRANSITION

We live in a time where people just can't handle ambiguity. People need it spelled out black and white. This seems to be due to the fact that we as people don't want to work anymore. That is, the most important work.

We will bury ourselves in trivial stuff all our days and ignore the most important task we have been given. Work or vocation seems to dominate most people's thoughts. The system demands so much from everyone you just feel trapped into giving more to it than you really have to give. It doesn't leave much time for anything else.

The next thing that dominates us usually is the American way of life. Consuming. Materialism and all sorts of pleasure seeking. I hope explaining that isn't necessary. And FEAR.

Then we might get to family.( I know some would have family before Consuming, but I would venture to guess even those of us who would say family before consuming, would be surprised if we were really honest.) The prevailing culture and it's curriculum just demands our attention first.

I mention all of that to get at this. Using our minds to think and to ponder the important things needs to be at the top of this list. If we can't think an alternate thought other than what our surroundings demand, our sorroundings own us. Wanting it spelled out for us in black and white terms by someone else is an indicator that we just don't want to do the work ourselves anymore.

Life isn't black and white. Boundaries and certainties leave us cold and unloving. Ideas become more important than people.

Reductionism is killing us and it never paints the real picture that is life. Life is complex. Very very complex. Everyone has a story. Jesus listened to peoples stories. We need to learn to listen. Who knows what we might learn? You never know in whose face you might see your savior?

I want to put aside the former way of living, and I want to be renewed in the spirit of my mind. I must learn to use it again.

I'm being kind. Look how it is said in the Message translation

Ephesians 4:17-32 (The Message)

The Old Way Has to Go

17-19
And so I insist—and God backs me up on this—that there be no going along with the crowd, the empty-headed, mindless crowd. They've refused for so long to deal with God that they've lost touch not only with God but with reality itself. They can't think straight anymore. Feeling no pain, they let themselves go in sexual obsession, addicted to every sort of perversion.

20-24 But that's no life for you. You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It's rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.

25 What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ's body we're all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself.

26-27 Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don't use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don't stay angry. Don't go to bed angry. Don't give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life.

28 Did you use to make ends meet by stealing? Well, no more! Get an honest job so that you can help others who can't work.

29 Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.

30 Don't grieve God. Don't break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don't take such a gift for granted.

31-32 Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.

Friday, April 13, 2007

PONDER THIS FOR AWHILE

The church in America has much to learn from Walter Brueggemann.

Is anyone listening?

Speaking of believers living in a hostile land of exile and yes he is talking about America.

"If it is true that secular society is fundamentally hostile to our claims, then I think it is wise that we understand our true location. If you just think that the primal ethical commitment of the gospel community is neighbor love, our society is profoundly organized against neighbor love and will not tolerate anyone who makes that a primary commitment."

This is again something I have touched on before. you can read it all here:

http://sunflower.com/~uman/walter_brueggemann_19_theses_transcript.htm

"The dominant scripting in our society is a script of technological, therapeutic, consumer militarism that socializes us all, liberal and conservative.

4. That script (technological, therapeutic, consumer militarism) enacted through advertising and propaganda and ideology, especially on the liturgies of television, promises to make us safe and to make us happy.

5. That script has failed. That script of military consumerism cannot make us safe and it cannot make us happy. We may be the unhappiest society in the world.

Here are some interviews that are so worth the time to listen to.

http://64.224.192.90/Site/Resource/Downloads/index.htm

Thursday, April 12, 2007

AN EXPLANATION

Someone asked me the other day about this quote that I have on my profile page:

It's not the spark that caused the fire. It was the air you breathed that fanned the flame.

It's taken from the song "Spark" by Over The Rhine

What it speaks to me is this. We live in a world where many fires are already raging. The question I try to live by is this;

Does the way I live (my actions and my tongue) by using the power God has given me, fan the flames or help put out the flames?

Read the book of James and hear what he says about the power of the tongue.

You can see the lyrics to the song here;

http://lyrics.christiansunite.com/lyrics_2153_5.shtml

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A REVISIT OF A PREVIOUS POST

Jesus seemed to revisit the same ideas he wanted the disciples to catch over and over. That is something it seems we in America don't do well? We accumulate massive amounts of information by reading and moving on. Do we ever really assimilate what we need by living that way?

Over the past couple years I have read and listened to many people. Probably 10 different Christian authors and Theologians. Different folks from the other side of the road than I had lived my entire life on. The effect......my thinking began to be reshaped. As I allowed my myself to consider different ideas or ways of looking at things, many things happened. When I ran across something that made me squirm I just stuck with it. Going back to it often and comparing it to the words and the way of Jesus.

Through this process I realized much of my prior thinking was flawed. Walter Brueggemann has become one of my favorite Theologians. He made me very uncomfortable. I had come to see I needed my cage rattled. When I first read an article of his a couple years ago he actually made me angry and I set him aside. The spirit just kept bringing those thoughts he had expressed back to me. I went back to reconsider Brueggemann.

When we get stuck through extreme confidence of what we think is "the way" or we are just stuck because we are surrounded by agreeable people it is hard to even imagine another thought. I'm imagining new thoughts and I am only a shadow today of who I used to be. It is changing how I live in the world.

The predominate culture we find ourselves in has a numbing effect on us all. For those who are numb something must recapture their imagination. The question becomes: Will we heed the call to turn from that which has dulled our senses and has quenched our spirit, and in turn I believe caused us to Americanize the gospel and reduced it to something that is hurtful and destructive? Even when folks make a profession of faith we plug them into this encultured thinking and with that mindset I believe the gospel becomes unintelligible?

I find these words of Brueggemann to be of utmost importance.

This is from the book The Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggemann

He speaks of the culture and it's mindset as the royal consciousness.

"We also are children of royal consciousness. All of us, in one way or another, have deep commitments to it. So the first question is: How can we have enough freedom to imagine and articulate a real historical newness in our situation? That is not to ask, as Israel's prophets ever asked, if this freedom is realistic or politically practical or economically viable. To begin with such questions is to concede everything to the royal consciousness even before we begin. We need to ask not whether it is realistic or practical or viable but whether it is imaginable. We need to ask if our consciousness and imagination have been so assaulted and co-opted by the royal consciousness that we have been robbed of the courage or power to think an alternative thought."

Do we dare to believe in something other than what this world and it's economic, political and religious systems tell us?

"The royal consciousness leads people to despair about the power to move toward new life. It is the task of prophetic imagination and ministry to bring people to engage the promise of newness that is at work in our history with God."

Sunday, April 08, 2007

MY EASTER SONG FOR THIS YEAR

Here are two different video versions

http://youtube.com/watch?v=i_uQeAOMqWk

http://youtube.com/watch?v=VskbxuehP3I


Window In The Skies

The shackles are undone
The bullets quit the gun
The heat that’s in the son
Will keep us when there’s none
The rule has been disproved
The stone it has been moved
The grave is now a groove
All debts are removed

Oh can’t you see what love has done?
Oh can’t you see what love has done?
Oh can’t you see what love has done?
What it’s done to me?

Love makes strange enemies
Makes love where love may please
The soul and its striptease
Hate brought to its knees
The sky over our head
We can reach it from our bed
You let me in your heart
And out of my head, head…

Oh can’t you see what love has done?
Oh can’t you see what love has done?
Oh can’t you see what love has done?
What it’s done to me?

Oh, oh, oh, oh…Oh, oh, oh, oh…
Please don’t ever let me out of you

I’ve got no shame, oh no, oh no

Oh can’t you see what love has done?
Oh can’t you see?
Oh can’t you see what love has done?
What it’s doing to me?
I know I hurt you and I made you cry

Did everything but murder you and I
But love left a window in the skies
And to love I rhapsodize
To every broken heart
For every heart that cries
Love left a window in the skies
And to love I rhapsodize

Friday, April 06, 2007

OUR INABILITY TO LISTEN TO THE "OTHER" IS JUST DISASTEROUS

NT WRIGHT:

"One sign of Christian maturity may be a readiness to hear the argument through to the end, rather than what many Christians are eager to do, short circuiting the argument in the interest of quick fix spirituality or missiology."

This reality played out right before my very eyes this morning. I was having a conversation with someone I have known for several years. This morning the abortion issue came up. We both agree that abortion is horrific. We both want to see it unnecessary. But when I suggested my stance on how to solve it was changing from the hard line "Pro-Life Movement" stance she wouldn't even let me explain. She just refused to listen.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

BLESSING?

It just depends on what we do with our abundance that will determine if it is blessing.

From "Hope Against Darkness" by Richard Rohr

Entitlement is a Poor Teacher

"A sense of limits offers a much more honest attitude about what we can expect from life. We are set up for anger and judgement when we expect too much from one another, from the world and from institutions. This is called a sense of entitlement, and characterizes most people who are rich, from developed countries, and most younger people born into the new world of "rights." Our parents and grandparents grew up instead in a world of responsibility. We are still searching for the happy middle between the two.

Most people learn a sense of limits much earlier in the Third World. Observing such people is what gives me the courage to speak this way. People in the Third World are usually in need and have a right to more, to justice, but they also have a much more honest expectation of reality. They have a more properly shaped ego. The tragic, the broken, the sinful is already woven into reality. We in the West have gotten away with a false sense of entitlement that did not weave the tragic into our world veiw. We actually suffer more because of it. Anyone who has been there will tell you that the poor in the Third World tend to smile more than the middle class or the wealthy in any country."

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

TO REALLY LIVE

To wake up everyday and approach it with eyes wide open. God, I want to be attuned to whatever it is you are up to today. What do we miss each day in our busyness? I know one that we probably miss. We miss him. If we are missing him everything else is just flat and colorless. We might find a momentary "fix", but it's not life.

To really live, I'm learning quieting myself of the distractions is necessary. The noise of the world is not easily quieted. But it is possible.

If we learn to live in the quiet with him, when we are out in the flowing tide that is daily life, we will be able to recognize his still small voice so that we can be ever present for the "other".