Thursday, August 30, 2007
In a sense I think it was unique because we all are so unique in who God has created us to be. And we all have our own personal road we have been on. But in the most important way that I mean for this question to get at, I don't think what happened to Paul was unique at all.
I am finding many people today that, while on their own road, going somewhere, got knocked off whatever they were traveling on and met the Lord Jesus.
I bring this up because I am just a bit perplexed at how so many people today sell what is available to those who are being reconciled back to God, so short. Jesus was the first born of many brethren. The apostle Paul happened to fall into that line of brethren after Jesus and before us. But let us not forget he was just a man who had the same struggles we have, he openly admits these struggles in his letters. He had an encounter with Jesus. An encounter that changed the direction he was traveling in his life.
If we open our selves up to Father through the life of our brother Jesus, don't forget that this is the exact life that Paul was living and that we can experience.
He has nothing on anyone who is experiencing this life that was made available to all of us just as it was to him. He is just another one of my brothers. Let's be careful not to elevate him above other brothers and sisters that today are experiencing an intimate relationship with Father that we can learn from. Our Father is so committed to setting us free. Crawl up into his lap and let his love wash over you and free you from the fear that paralyzes us all.
Grace and mercy to you all.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Sue asked a question about praying dangerous prayers in the previous post and it made me think of the question above. I do know exactly what Sue means but it got me to thinking. It actually brings up a different question for me.
Is it dangerous prayers that are the catalyst for this or is it a Father that just loves us enough to want to free us from the tyranny of the false self? I found that being wrung out like a rag yet exhilaratingly alive came about not from a prayer but from trusting my life into his hands. It was realizing that I spoke of a life in which I said I believed, but went on living like I didn't believe it. The Spirit is the one that spoke that into my ear and suggested that I change directions.....I certainly wasn't praying on those lines. I'm just not that bright nor brave. To be completely honest I actually thought it was those around me that were causing my troubles. What a knucklehead.
I named my blog during that time in my life. The faithfully dangerous part actually came as a surprise to me. A beautiful change began to happen but it wasn't in Father moving to fix the things I had determined needed fixing.
I came to see that my difficulties really have nothing to do with anybody else. So.....my word of advice is to not waste any time thinking it is others that are causing your troubles. My difficulties were about me and the tyranny caused by my alienation. The Faithfully Dangerous One knows exactly what to do with that problem. When he comes and begins to set us free, the problems and struggles of others just don't cause the same reactions in us....it actually sets in motion compassion for the other, and removes contempt from us. Contempt is not one of Father's gifts of the Spirit. All of this proved to be very dangerous to the life I have attempted to build on a faulty foundation. Oh, but something had happened in me and I welcomed it. I already explained some of that in the Undoing post.
Faithfully Dangerous....yet so wonderfully awesome became my expression for the one who had brought about in my life the feeling of being wrung out like a rag yet exhilaratingly alive.
I had sent an email to two separate friends last night with some information I had worked up. The info. is not important, just the fact that I was confident enough in the stats I had gathered. I was getting dressed this morning thinking about it all when it dawned on me that my stats were wrong. I realized in a moment my little over site.
Here is what's so funny about it all and just makes me think our Father has a great sense of humor and ways of revealing things to us. Little reminders, if you will. The email I sent out had to do with how people create in their minds conclusions that they are so certain about and many times those conclusions are just illusions. They aren't based in fact or reality. Just because we have convinced our self something is true doesn't mean that it is.
Assuming things about people we really don't know is just a dangerous way to live. People get hurt and relationships suffer. We shouldn't be surprised that healthy fellowship is so rare. This is one of the ways we create those webs of distortions. We become "fixed" and "entrenched" in our own delusions. Illusions become the "false reality" we then live by.
This morning was a funny episode because it didn't involve anything serious. But it was a great reminder to me to live so very aware and awake to this tendency we all have. How many other illusions do I still need to awaken to?
Awaken me Father..............
Monday, August 27, 2007
This network becomes so familiar to us because we have lived our entire life in it and until the undoing happens, it's all we've got.
While in this web of illusions we are not free. The scripture uses many words to describe our lack of freedom or our state of alienation and bondage. Do we really want to be free? Free from the web that has become our personal self life and free from the system of bondage that is the world. The world of Babylonian economic systems....political systems...social order system...and religious belief systems.
Only through God's radical grace....his wasteful grace, the gift that he offers us all, can we find our way out of the illusion. He says his yoke is easy and his burden is light. How do you spend most of your time? Are you stressed....angry....depressed....anxious....burdened....worn out....frustrated? That sounds pretty hard and certainly not easy. The life of illusion says to us: Keep your head above water and fight. Maybe Jesus is saying: Until you come to the very end of your self effort to make it all work, you are on that dead end road that is way too familiar to way too many people?
I found that it was in my most broken and spent moment, when I had nothing left worth hanging onto from that life built on illusions and fears, that my undoing began in full. It was the most scary time of my life up to that point. But grace felt so right in that moment and the road I had been on felt so wrong. Trusting Jesus and the grace I had begun to know and long for just seemed like the best thing going. It sounded like really Good News. I sold everything I had been up to that point in exchange for that piece of ground that had the promise of a hidden treasure of great price.
Why had I waited so long? I don't know, but maybe it has something to do with Father's perfect timing? All I have to say about that is don't fight it if the illusion begins to be exposed and the work of keeping it going just seems to be too much......the illusion is not worth all the hard work.
The treasure is worth whatever it costs you.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
I'm so enjoying being a part of this book and the affect it is having in so many people's lives. Beyond a shadow of doubt I know there are more phone calls coming and conversations I'm going to have with folks that have read this book and have felt the overwhelming embrace from Papa, Jesus and Sarayu.
So here is the original post.
I received in an e mail earlier this week and it has inspired me to read this book again. My weekend is planned now.....as I began to read this morning I ran across a line that has been one of my constant traveling companions from the time I first read it while walking through a painful family experience last spring. I use it often.
"GRACE RARELY MAKES SENSE FOR THOSE LOOKING IN FROM THE OUTSIDE."
The thought that precedes this in the book is this:
"I suppose since most of our hurts come through relationships so will our healing."
I have had a few of those relationships this past year that have so helped in the healing I had needed for so long. The author of this book being one of them. The words and stories in this book and his words to me personally have been like dipping my feet into a cool gentle flowing stream on a hot and humid Midwest summer day. Thank you Paul.
Those other friends I speak of, if you are reading this, you know who you are, and I cherish every moment I have with you all. My prayer and my hope is that we all are so captured by the love and the freedom that our awesome Father has for us and longs for us to walk in.
If you haven't read this book or if you have and didn't like it, don't sweat it......Father is bigger than words on the pages of a book....even the Bible. But let us not forget that great stories written by those that have touched him and even more importantly been touched by him, can reveal something of him and his love that we might not see on our own. With that being said, if you are so moved to read The Shack or the Bible or any other story written by someone who is experiencing a wonderful relationship with Father, you might just be surprised by who you find there?
Saturday, August 25, 2007
So is there a better way of dealing with this reality then we are presently going about it? For all of us who profess Jesus there must be. It takes freedom in him for this to be possible though. If we are not free....we will go about it in a way that will add nothing but more contention and strife to the already charged atmosphere.
I think we need a good dose of reality. And what do I mean by that? Do we even really think about how politics work? How the world system works? How nations work? and so forth.........And more importantly how the freedom of a follower of Jesus is to be lived out?....what is it for?....and why our freedom was so important?....so important that God came very close in Jesus, and dwelt among men and women to make that freedom a reality.
If politics by nature are partisan, and hopefully we all are at least aware of that?....and Jesus called us to be peace makers and healers, and hopefully we can all agree on that?....what might our role in the daily politics of our nation look like?
Jesus seemed to be immersed in a culture, religious and secular, that was pushing him to make a choice? It seems to me that he never chose sides. He always had a way of turning it around so as to oppose the status quo on both sides. The status quo of both sides (right/left...rich/poor...liberal/conservative...Democratic/Communist/Socialist/Marxist)being directed and shaped by men and women who are not free, are equally problematic.
So, is the freedom that we have in our lives through Jesus to be used in choosing sides and supporting any of the ideologies of man? Or might our role be as calming mediators and reconcilers so as to help calm the fears that propel us at breakneck speeds into many dangerous situations?
Unfortunately those today in politics that proclaim the name of Jesus, seem to be some of the most combative proponents of the hostile environment. How can this be if we are to be peacemakers? And even worse, why does it seem that the Church is okay with this approach? I think I know? Most professing Christians I know have got sucked into the same game of identifying anyone who thinks differently then their tribe thinks, and then branding them the enemy. Here is another puzzling sad reality that the Church has adopted. The enemy must be destroyed. How does that fit with Jesus' words? Love your enemy. It's actually even worse than that.....we have labeled people enemies that aren't even enemies and then we develop a hatred for them and set out to destroy them. Many of them are our brothers and sisters of the faith. Since the Church is refered to as one body, doesn't this reality reveal to us that we are actually committing suicide? We are committing violent acts against our self in word and deed. This is insane.
So what do we do? Jesus pulled together a pretty eclectic bunch of guys at first and then as the church began to grow the eclectic nature of this body he was building had to of become even more diverse don't you think?
What was the difference? I think it was the leader and what they were learning from him as he lived out of his freedom following his Father's lead. Jesus didn't seem to let the ideology of the day...secular or religious...determine how he treated people. He just loved.
What will we do?
Learn to live loved so as to love as he loved?
Or go the way of the world and follow the example of those representing the religious system of the day that have bought into the world's way of dealing with people?
Who will we let shape us? Jesus......or someone else?
"This is why it is a mistake to present the demands of the Christian life on any other grounds than that of freedom. Without freedom they are radically impossible."
This is why the radical and aggressive forms of the Christian religion (one form being the religious right) we see in the world that have locked horns with other religions and the cultures in which they reside just seem to be something other than the way of Jesus.
If there is no freedom other than the freedom of Christ, people can't possibly live out that freedom without Christ. It's just not possible. They are trapped in alienation and everything they do, will be at best, just a replica of freedom. There is no freedom outside of Christ and when we attempt to give them something other than that, all we do is create a deception that masquerades as freedom.
Doesn't that just create a deeper problem?
Friday, August 24, 2007
In this documentary the representatives of Christianity made basically the same arguments for doing what Christianity does in the world as those from Islam and Judaism made. Judaism is a bit different though because it is impossible to separate it from the nation of Israel.
I sat there and couldn't help but think of Jesus and the Gospels. Hang with me here.......It just seems if we work from the gospels it is impossible to come up with another religion that Jesus was setting out to establish? The epistles can so easily be distorted and used to defend the whole mindset of religious structure and thought unless read wholly through Jesus ( who is God of the Old Covenant incarnate). The religion of Christianity leans more heavily on Old Covenant renderings of a God that separates by tribes....in this case the Christian tribe.....and all else must die. That is what Judaism says and Islam says about those other than themselves.
God in Christ seems to have said....wait a minute....I'm laying down something new...the old laws will finally be fulfilled in me and love is the fulfillment....this will be the way of healing for the nations and a way out of the nightmare of the tit for tat cycle of violence.....control....domination and death that religion was incapable of ever bringing us out of. All Religions (Christianity included) have always been a part of this destructive cycle.
So, did Jesus come to give the world another religion that would always feel compelled to make a stand using means that he never showed us to use and actually with his words and life seemed to speak out against?
Or did Jesus become the Good Shepard that would gather unto himself the flock that has been scattered by the destructive religions of the world, promising something that they are never able to deliver? The Jesus I see in the gospels seems to be about finding that which was lost and gathering them to himself......and much less worried about laws and systems that are incapable of love or of ever delivering us.
If you didn't see the documentary here is a link to youtube and some videos from the special.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Is there any way for us to break free from this framing story that is so predominant here in America? Plan your future...think ahead...set goals...and if you don't, we'll make you feel like a fool.
I think there is and I think to really live free it is very necessary to rethink all of this.
If everything beyond this moment is only an imagined uncertain future, does living like we can plan it all out even make sense? If all we have is right now, living in the past and yes even planning our tomorrows can cause us much trouble. Much trouble that is, in the things that count with God. Here is a big problem that I think it causes in most people. We all too often miss what is right in front of us in the moment.
Here is why this is so important. Love only exists RIGHT NOW. It's not in the past and it is not in tomorrow. If only the love found through freedom in Christ can turn things around, it seems living in the now would be of great importance? If I am thinking about tomorrow or the past all the time, how many moments do I miss? I'm guessing it would be more than I would like to know?
Too many people miss out, myself included, when I live anywhere other than wide awake in the moment. With this being so true, it seems to me that we might want to rethink this whole concept of living so much of our life somewhere we don't even have?
Freedom in Christ
1. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Here is something from the book The Ethics of Freedom. I am really enjoying this book and having my heart and mind exercised in all kinds of ways. Jacques Ellul is another one of those brothers that I would have loved to walk with for a time to learn from him the things he had learned from Jesus.
"We are wrong to speak only of the ambition and pride of popes and prelates, of their ardent self-interest in trying to control temporal matters. There was here a genuine concern for the world. There was a conviction that they had the key to wisdom and justice for the world. They thought that they could give the world just and good institutions in which men could live both as Christians and as true men. In this regard the medieval churches mounted a positive operation except for one thing: it demanded suppression of freedom.
Everything else was catered for. Everything was foreseen and calculated an advance for better truth and fuller justice. But the manifestation of freedom was out of the question. This is the one dimension that has been missing in the church from the very first. But this is the decisive dimension without which the Christian life is without significance for the world. In the absence of freedom the forms of the church's actions have all become legalistic. Here is the real betrayal."
I think this is something that needs to be grappled with. Putting together good organizations set on good works seems to miss this decisive deminsion Ellul speaks of. If people don't find real freedom and learn to remain in it, they have no freedom to give away. They are left with only principles and formulas and moral codes....etc.
Jesus seems to have been about setting us free......free indeed. Think about this for awhile....if Jacques is right about this being the missing dimension from the church....this would bring some clarity to why so many of our organized gatherings leave so many people unsatisfied and trapped in bondages that they struggle with for a life time and then so often live colluding with the culture that spreads such injustice and oppression and more bondages?
I think there is still this freedom out there for us find. It can only be found as we live in him.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
On another website some comments have been made about a simple little line from the book The Shack. Like so many things with God....it's so profound but amazingly simple.
It is on page 183 and it is when Mack sees Papa sitting on the front porch in the sun and says; "What's this? God has time to catch a few rays? Don't you have anything better to do this afternoon?"
And Papa responds; "Mack you have no idea what I'm doing right now."
This little conversation, I believe is so valuable. At least it has been in my life since Papa said something very similar to me.
It has been simply amazing having those moments of surprise that create such wonder since Papa suggested to me that I didn't know as much as I thought I did. Things about life in general and how it all works, things about other people and especially about him. I'm resting more in the reality that Papa's usually up to something I'm not even aware of and then in a moment I begin to realize something is different he has canged something inside me. I guess that is what trust causes to happen?
We can finally get out of his way.
Monday, August 20, 2007
Only in Christ can harmony be birthed into the chaos. The new reality is set.
Only as one comes to understand this freedom and he takes up this freedom, does it become livable again. That is if he uses that freedom and lives according to LOVE.
The systems and their dead laws have failed.
LOVE HAS COME TO TOWN.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Did God in his coming to dwell among us say anything about this? Did Jesus seem to be a systems guy or did he seem to lay the axe at the foundations of them all. And it was the religious system he had the most trouble with. Jesus was not too pleased with the fact that his father's children were being crushed and oppressed. But Jesus seemed to care as much about the oppressors as he did those that were being crushed. What does this tell us?
The Church so often has made this about identifying the "evil" people and punishing them, eliminating them or at least threatening them with God's punishment at the end of the age. Jesus seemed to be going after something else. He actually went to the cross that day as much for Pilot as he did James and John and you and I.
Is the kingdom of heaven about removing the trouble makers from power and putting others in their place or is it about learning to live free of the systems that man created in an attempt to bring order to the chaos caused by alienation? Is the kingdom of heaven about transforming systems or is it about transforming alienated men and women? And I am not just talking about just making sure their souls are okay.
Jesus seemed to care about people.....oppressed and oppressor alike. Both are equally in a state of alienation until they are set free and their eyes are opened by the Spirit. Systems seem to be the problem. Systems are about power and control. It is man's attempt to bring order to the chaos of alienation caused by sin and the death. These systems operate by worldly power......that will always lead to trouble for us all.
I say that because that was me not too long ago.
I was raised in Christian home. Accepted Jesus as my savior when I was very young. I thought I was living the life he had called his followers to live......even though I lived with that nagging feeling that I wasn't doing good enough and God was going to "get" me because I wasn't do it good enough. But I had been told if I just keep repenting for my mistakes and trying harder he would forgive me....so that is what I did.
I graduated from college and then set out to make a life for myself and hoped to start a family. All of that happened pretty quickly for me. I went to work to build a good life. I worked hard and built a good business. After having our first child we went and bought a house to make a home for our family. We were on a roll. My dad had been successful in building in me a good hard-working American work ethic and it was paying off . I could afford a home, a car, nice things, vacations, all the insurance we needed and I was determined to build a savings for the future and for that possible "rainy day" most of the more seasoned adults around me were constantly warning me of. So that is what I attempted to do.
This framing story I'm sure sounds very similar to most of my peers. It should because most of my peers are middle class white Americans. It's a big part of our framing story growing up in middle class America.
I mentioned earlier something about feeling like we were on a roll. We were in a sense, but after about 15 years into this life I had built around my family, it began to take it's toll on me. It was taking a toll on all of us. Just in different ways. We had accumulated a lot of stuff by this time....but for some reason it wasn't enough because we just kept buying more. This pursuit of the American Dream always seemed to demand that we make more money also. So I worked longer hours. I was even better off than most in that area because I was self-employed and had control at least as to when I worked and how much I worked. If I worked longer, there was an immediate tangible pay off. More money.
Again, I'm certain all of this sounds familiar....it's how the American--Middle Class---framing story has shaped us. Oh, I forgot to mention anything about the other framing story on top of this American Middle Class White story and that other framing story is the story of Christendom. All of this was God's blessing upon my family because we were a part of his family and he was rich in blessing.
Without going into detail all I have to say is those two framing stories caused a big distortion in my life and my family when it comes to the framing story of God and his kingdom. And his family.
Two things now pop into my mind from a running theme here on this blog for awhile now....the movie The Matrix. The first one is something Morpheus said to Neo: You can't show anyone what the matrix is. They have to see it for themself......and then something the Oracle said to Neo.....know thy self.
None of us have the ability to make our framing story someone else's. They must have that discovery for them self. And then they have to make a choice. Our framing stories though can have an effect on others. We can inspire others to at least "look at" what has shaped their lives. I can specifically call by name, brothers and sisters that have helped me see the problem with the one story that shaped much of my life and had led me down a road that had exhausted me and left me wanting more of the things that will never satisfy. I am grateful for those brothers and sisters.
I will end with this. My own personal experience has taught me this and I wish it wasn't true. Until we come to the end of our self effort and exhaustion beats us down, and the pain of life brought on by not being able to make it happen the way the prevailing culture's framing story has shaped us to believe it is suppose to happen..... and usually, not until then does the possibility of awakening from our sleep begin.
I think of Jesus, my older brother at this point in my story. Standing there beside me, when the American Middle Class---Christendom framing story came crashing down in my life and I was exhausted enough and at the end of my self effort to listen to him and risk trusting him that his words are true. He said to me: DON'T BE AFRAID
Saturday, August 18, 2007
I really appreciate and can speak personally to at least one of the themes in this book. A change in the stories that shape us. That awakening in my life has changed everything and is continuing to change even more. As Christians living in America, or any other nation for that matter, being shaped by the script/story that is the way of life in our nation, it just seems we would want to test that script/story against the story of Jesus and his kingdom? Does it fit with what he said or does it run counter-productive to it? Brian presents these two competing stories in a very clear way. The story of the world system of domination, violence and control and the story of God's redemptive plan through the Good News of his kingdom.
My one criticism of the book, and I would love to hear Brian's thoughts on this, is it seems to me he believes this story of God's redemptive plan for mankind might be embraced by enough people that the destructive world system or as he calls it, the suicide machine (great name by the way) could be turned around. I want to believe Brian is right. But these things cannot be seen by the natural eye in a way that will set in motion justice and equity and hope. (1 Corinthians 2:14-16) It is only in those who's eyes have been opened to the things of the Spirit by the Spirit of God that can actually see the way of unconditional love, by the way of grace and mercy, through acts of sacrificial service. Without that transformation, the people kicking against one injustice will just create another injustice somewhere else, against someone else. It will just be pushed somewhere else and the injustice will be manifested once again. Haven't many of the social activist movements throughout history proven that?
But with that being said, I do not believe we are forever trapped being dragged along by the suicidal world system. Jesus' message of the kingdom of heaven is the alternative framing story Brian McLaren points to in Everything Must Change, as being The Way and The truth and the only hope for The Life Jesus came to make possible for us all. That alternative story can over turn the nasty effects in our lives and the lives of others that has been caused by the world's covert curriculum and spreads out in all directions and destroys or at least harms everything in it's path. Along with the unmasking of this covert curriculum, Brian shares many inspiring stories of people who are making a difference in their world, doing their part as God leads them to reach out and make a difference in a life....a neighborhood....a workplace...a city...a remote village...a nation and even the global community.
I highly recommend this book because the message of the kingdom of heaven and the life made possible through Jesus and his sacrifice, is the only way out of this nightmare the people of this world are suffering under, being controlled, manipulated and oppressed by the world system. Brian does a great job describing it.
Friday, August 17, 2007
Jesus was free to respond in the moment.....to whatever or whomever was in front of him. From watching and experiencing systems and systematic approaches, it seems to me "in the moment" responses are difficult at best and more than likely, impossible. Why is this?
Remember, these are observations I have made and I'm sort of thinking out loud here.
Systems have to function as machines. Machines have to have rules to function. Rules then make it impossible to operate freely. When operating within the confines of the rules of the system, Love is not the starting point.....or the finish line....law is. It's fixed and static. But Love is neither fixed nor static. Love is alive and free and sees the uniqueness of each situation and each individual involved.
Love opens up a space to live free so we can respond as Jesus would have us respond at any given moment......"I do nothing except that which I see my Father doing." That is active and in the moment.
If Jesus had said: I follow the principles and formulas that my Father has given me based upon a preset agenda to maximize effectiveness and efficiency, I might be able to see the possibility of the Good News working systematically. But that is not what he said and that is not how he lived.
Systems.....all of them.... seem to me, to be about trying to make sense out of and attempting to bring order to a world that has no order. It is in chaos and it is because of man's alienation. This leaves me a bit skeptical of the possibility of God's love ever flowing through systems that must operate by rules. If these systems that have been built by man and are a part of the world, and the world has no ability to love as God loves, why do we who are being set free to love with his love, put any trust in them?
Thursday, August 16, 2007
"An errant Religion often functions like the mafia, which promises security and protection for a fee; but if you don't pay the fee, it promises to destroy you. Instead of "protection rackets," religions often become "forgiveness rackets," creating guilt and anxiety and then offering forgiveness and comfort, but then creating more guilt and anxiety so that you'll need more forgiveness and comfort tomorrow, and so on."
He uses this analogy to compare how capitalism (Theocapitalism) has become religion like. Another thing the Spirit began to walk me through last year so as to show me how to begin to let that untwisting happen.
The Matchless Discovery
"Each individual will make a matchless discovery. He will be able to cease from constantly scrutinizing the other person, judging him, condemning him, putting him in his particular place where he can gain ascendancy over him and thus doing violence to him as a person. Now he can allow the brother to exist as a completely free person, as God made him to be. His view expands and, to his amazement, for the first time he sees, shining within his brethren, the richness of God's creative glory. God did not make this person as I would have made him. He did not give him to me as a brother for me to dominate and control, but in order that I might find within him the Creator. Now the other person, in the freedom with which he was created, becomes the occasion of joy, whereas before he was only a nuisance and an affliction.
God does not will that I should fashion the other person according to the image that seems good to me, that is, in my own image; rather in his very freedom from me God made this person in His image. I can never know beforehand how God's image should appear in others. That image always manifests a completely new and unique form that comes solely from God's free and sovereign creation. To me the sight may seem strange, even ungodly. But God creates every man in the likeness of His Son, the Crucified. After all, even that image certainly looked strange and ungodly to me before I grasped it.
Strong and weak, wise and foolish, gifted or ungifted, pious or impious, the diverse individuals in the community are no longer incentives for talking and judging and condemning, and thus excuses for self-justification. They are rather cause for rejoicing in one another and serving one another."
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book Life Together
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
What was the tipping point in all my life that brought about these significant changes? I will speak to the fruit it produced. Peace....like never before, joy...like never before, hope...like never before, an ability to love and be loved...like never before, being in the present like never before so as to be able to really listen to the one in front of me.....in short new freedoms began to change everything. And then began the unwinding of anger...fear of loss...anxiety caused by the fear of loss...stress and many other things that had begun to feel like a heavy weight I didn't know if I could carry anymore. All my best efforts to change these things had failed. Oh...but when Love came to town...I found out that he's very experienced in these matters.
I think the change began in earnest the day the curtain was pulled back in my life and CONTROL WAS EXPOSED. What an ugly thing that hides behind many disguises. It wasn't until I my eyes were opened to the ways in which I used control and the ways I was being controlled by people and the world system that freedom began to happen. Or at least I was able to see and feel it. God had already begun that process without me even knowing it. The process of setting me free from these things. If he hadn't, it wouldn't have happened because we humans just aren't that bright and won't let go of control on our own.
I was so shocked and amazed with this big exposing in my life that set this all in motion. Where did the Spirit begin this awaking with me? My family....my wife and my children. It hit me hard. I had an 18 year flash back when it came to my wife and it broke me. I had been a very caring and loving husband most of those years. Always wanting the best for us and working hard for it. I was there for my wife I believe more than most husband are these days.....but it was still about control. I had been there for my children in a big way. Usually always available, and man, did I love these girls...but it was still about control. I came to realize the American Christian script had taught me to control the ones I am actually called to serve.....controlling them is not loving and serving them.
So after this awakening and exposure happened in my life, the question to me became: Are you ready to give up this control game that you have been trapped in, brought on by your alienation from me? I said yes and with the suggestion from Jesus, I jumped from that speeding train.
EVERYTHING BEGAN TO CHANGE.......
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
I am presently reading the soon to be released book from Brian McLaren Everything Must Change....Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope. I am almost half way through at this point, and in my reading today I ran across what has been for me the greatest point he has made so far. There have been others though.
It comes from a section he calls: HEARING JESUS WITH FIRST-CENTURY EARS. The phrase comes from NT Wright, who has done much work studying Jesus in his historical setting.
I am going to refrain from putting up anymore large sections of this book so as to leave it to those who are interested in reading it themselves so that you can have your own discoveries. Like I said, this one I couldn't resist putting out there as a taste. I believe this to be a much needed perspective change. It has been instrumental this past year producing in me an entire deconstruction and re-working of my world view.
"The phrase "kingdom of God" on Jesus' lips, then, means almost the opposite of what an American like me might assume, living in the richest, most powerful nation on earth. To the citizen of Western civilization like me, kingdom language suggest order, stability, government, policy, domination, control, maybe even vengeance on the rebels and threats of banishment for the uncooperative. But on Jesus' lips, those words describe Caesar's kingdom: God's kingdom turns all of those associations upside down. Order becomes opportunity, stability melts into movement and change, status-quo government gives way to revolution of community and neighborliness, policy bows to love, domination descends to service and sacrifice, control morphs into influence and inspiration, vengeance and threats are transformed into forgiveness and blessing.
In his message of the kingdom of God, then, Jesus proposes a radical new framing story, and he wanted people to trust him enough to give his way to peace a chance. How does he do so? In public, he teaches people (often using parables, which invite them to think rather than telling them what to think) and heals them (which is often described as freeing or liberating them from disease and demons)---rather than propagandizing them (telling them what to think while simultaneously keeping them from thinking for themselves) controlling them (oppressing them under sick and demonic systems of oppression). In private, he eats meals with people---all the wrong sorts of people---to demonstrate that the kingdom of God transforms by grace and acceptance rather than by fear or threats of exclusion. In the midst of Rome's empire, wherever Jesus goes, he creates a family meal where all are welcome.
Some will be quick to note that Jesus also used strong language of exclusion---being thrust into "outer darkness," for example where there is "weeping and gnashing of teeth." But in an irony that is so powerful it can hardly be overstated, Jesus applies that language to the typically exclusive (religious scholars, Pharisees,etc.), and asserts that the typically excluded (prostitutes, sinners, even Gentiles) will be included before them (Matthew 23:13, Luke 13:28-30, Luke 4:24-27) Clearly Jesus is deconstructing the dominant system of exclusion---not fortifying it.
No wonder Jesus mixes metaphors so freely: kingdom can be useful in confronting the kingdom of Herod and the empire of Caesar, but it also needs to be deconstructed and augmented by other more intimate and less violent metaphors. So Jesus habitually refers to God as Father rather than King. As the famous prodigal son parable profoundly communicates, the rebel and the upright are equally God's children, as (we could extrapolate) are the Jew and the Gentile, the free and the slave, the religious scholar and the prostitute, the female and the male. The Father's deep desire is to bring all the children home into his feast (Luke 15:11-32)."
This is some of what Father has been doing in my life this past year. Deconstructing how the dominant framing script of American Christianity had shaped me to see things. I just couldn't defend it any longer. I so clearly remember feeling that he was speaking to me this simple but stern statement. Kent, you speak of a life you say you believe in, but you go one living like you don't believe it. My life began to come undone at that point because I knew this was true. I also remember my response at that time. Okay, show me. The showing began and still continues today. I have said so many times as something new is revealed to me; I don't think I can do this? He has been so gentle in his response; I know. But I can take you there. He has been so faithful to that promise.
So I move on in this new journey one day at a time. I think that is how he encouraged us to proceed?
I will put up a full review once I finish reading the book.
Monday, August 13, 2007
Maybe the system can't be fixed?
Take a look at the history of the world. Yes.....we have experienced many accomplishments that we point to as progress and yes standards of living and safety have improved for some. But let's be real...it is a small % of the whole. For me, something seems to be happening. I can no longer deny that one man's progress sets in motion another man's decline. And on the bigger scale, one nation's (or allied nation's) progress and prosperity creates many problems for others.
Is there a solution? Maybe there is not a solution that stops this trend of systematic exploitation? I'm beginning to believe it is just the "nature of the beast." But there is something we as people, redeemed people can do. If there is not, we need to reconsider many things. I for one believe something has been set in motion that can change things. Maybe not change the systems that by nature have un-fixable problems that lead to the exploitation and injustice that reach to the heavens? But for people and the beautiful natural world God created, we have may things we can do.
But that leads me to another question. If we go about this in a systematic way, trusting and using these systems that just seem to push one injustice and exploitation to another group of people, as it is freeing another group of people from oppression, are we really solving anything? It seems to me we are just shuffling the problems around within the world system that knows nothing but hurt....hatred....war....exploitation....greed....and domination. People suffer and the system seems to me to be a big part of the problem.
When it comes to the natural world, the system seems to be the problem again. The system must continue to grow or it dies. As it grows it eats most of everything in it's path. People and natural resources. I've heard it said like this before: "We treat the natural world as a gold mine and an ashtray all at the same time." All in the name of progress. But is anyone going to stop progress? Is anyone even talking about it? Since the system is already here and people are dependant on it....does stopping progress and letting the system suffer cause even more suffering for those people, creating another injustice?
Is the tangled web I mentioned earlier making sense? What do we do? I don't know? But I do know we better go slowly and prayerfully, considering we are wanting to help all people, not just our own. Most systems don't allow for diversity. They demand conformity to that system's game plan. That in and of itself leaves us in a bind. Someone or some group gets left out.
Maybe we aren't asking the right questions yet? But I am encouraged, because I've found some people to hang with that sense there is a big problem and have at least begun to ask question again.
And I will end with this....the most important thing. I've been captured and continue to be captured by the one who knows where this is going. I trust him, that if I just keep responding to what he has placed before me today and if those others out there that are being captured by him also do the same....dangerous wonder will continue to spread throughout the system and people will be set free.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
What confounds me is that the talk of non-violence by some in the Church sends others into a sort of convulsions. This morning as I was pondering these things and praying, all I could think of was the reaction many had to the way Jesus loved people. The way Jesus loved left those bound by hate in a more agitated state. It stirred even more anger in them. In a sense, God's love seen in Jesus is an act of rebellion. Rebellion against the powers of the world. A hostile act of sorts from the perspective of alienated humanity. It exposes it for what it is.
People who are hanging onto the use of violence in any form will certainly feel that anger and violence rise to the surface when faced with the self-sacrificing love of God. Especially when expressed in circumstances they don't think deserve it. The love expressed in Jesus just has that effect. He was crucified because the world just doesn't know how to deal with it. All they know is violence and hatred and self love (which really isn't love).
The actions of self giving, of love, of sacrifice, of dying are the true 'violations' of this world system and they will cause a great perturbation in those that don't understand this kind of love. But why does this cause such a ruckus in the Church? I will leave that for you to decide for yourself.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
So what kind of power do you trust in for this revolution? The world's kind....tit for tat......let's hope on a wing and prayer we end up on top?
Or God's kind as demonstrated through his incarnation?
One choice leads to the doorway that the world and unfortunately most of the organized Church is very familiar with and it just plays into the cycle of violence and domination. The world understands this way and actually accepts it because this is the only way alienated man sees to resolve conflict driven by fear and greed.
The other choice is entirely different. The tit for tat.....cause and effect way of the world no longer dominates and determines the response for these people who are free.
Both ways are costly I will admit. But if we are to be in the world, but not of it, it seems the way of Jesus would put us in major violation of this world system. A revolution of sorts. But not as the world defines revolution....the stronger over powering the weaker.
For those who are found in Jesus, shaped by the power of the cross and resurrection, something else is at work and it is the power unto real change in hearts and minds. The way unto real freedom this world does not understand. The way of self giving, of love, of sacrifice, and of dying. This was Jesus' most powerful action against the tit for tat world system and the "powers" only knew one way of dealing with him. But don't forget.....the "powers" that day were publically put on display as DEFEATED.
Friday, August 10, 2007
"It is the emergence of mass media which makes possible the use of propaganda techniques on a societal scale"
"Modern technology has become a total phenomenon for civilization, the defining force of a new social order in which efficiency is no longer an option but a necessity imposed on all human activity. "
"The orchestration of press, radio and television to create a continuous, lasting and total environment renders the influence of propaganda virtually unnoticed precisely because it creates a constant environment."
"Thinking has become a superfluous exercise... purely internal, without compelling force, more or less a game."
I will end with this from the movie The Matrix
Morpheus: The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work... when you go to church... when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Morpheus: That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.
Thursday, August 09, 2007
I'm joining a little piece from The Shack to it also.
"Mack, if anything matters then everything matters. Because you are important, everything you do is important. Every time you forgive, the universe changes; every time you reach out and touch a heart or a life, the world changes; with every kindness and service, seen or unseen, my purposes are accomplished and nothing will ever be the same again."
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
It's not the spark that caused the fire. It was already burning when you and I were born. It's the history of alienated man.....the cycle just continues. It doesn't matter if it is one on one relationships or group relationships or relations between nation, if we remain alienated from the Creator, the dynamics revolve around power and control. Were power and control remain intact, harmony will not be our experience. Nor will love be. Domination will rule those who remain alienated. I know domination is a strong word, but that is what control is about. Someone exercising rule over someone else. It's just the way it is.
But the cross and resurrection made a way for this cycle to be broken. It is the doorway out of the nightmare of feeling like we have to dominate others and at the same time we are being dominated by someone else. Some call it the pecking order of the world system. Many actually believe it is the way it has to be. I disagree.
The line from this song that I want to bring focus to today is this:
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?
The cross seems to me to be about dealing with this condition of self-preservation carried along in our lives by fear. I have found it to be so true that to the degree we are living being motivated by fear, we actually aren't living. Not really, or at least not how God intends for us to live. And as long as that is the case we aren't loving as he would have us love and we are probably fanning the flames of the fire of hatred that continues to consume people at an alarming rate. And often we aren't even aware of it.
Only love can turn this around. Force and violence will not lead to peace or harmony. Alienated man/woman just can't love because they are living outside the embrace of our loving God. Only when we come to know of that love can we begin to love. And only as we begin live the life hidden with Christ in God and we embrace the work of the cross day to day, will the fear that always leads to a life controlled by self-preservation be broken.
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
For me it speaks of always living aware of the transforming power of struggle and leaving things behind. Even when we don't know what God is up to. I left a lot behind last year. My load is much lighter and it feels really good. I am only a shadow of who I was a year and a half ago. What did I leave behind? I do not believe listing the things I left behind really is all that important to anyone but me. The things we need to let go of will be different for all of us. I will mention one. I left behind the life I had built myself that revolved around a religious belief system. A belief system that I just couldn't defend any longer. Principles....formulas....ethics....morality....fear....shame....control....in a sense the illusion.....the Matrix. The system or systems that we have created in an attempt to bring certainty and security to life. Humans want answers. We feel like we have to have it all figured out. Figuring it all out would leave us with fixed rules to follow. I'm not interested.....I want to follow Jesus.
I found out through it all that the opposite of faith is not doubt. The opposite of faith is certainty. I heard it said like this before: 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. The things the religious belief system I grew up with told me to never question....I began to question at the Spirit's leading. I had been told to never question these things because it would put my faith in danger. Guess what? The opposite ended up happening. Leaving the old behind and allowing the questions to grow created a space inside me that caused my trust in God to expanded in a way that today still blows my mind. It was very dangerous to that belief system, but it was the breath of life to my faith in God through Jesus.
How can it be? Religious beliefs standing in the way? Yes they were. This isn't about beliefs....it's about faith.
So for me looking back on this change brought on by struggle, is a beautiful thing. This doesn't mean I live in the past because that is not where God is. He is in the moment with me. Right here right now. Not in the past and certainly not in any imagined uncertain futures. You know the tomorrows Jesus told us not to worry about? But looking back reminds me of our ever present traveling companion.....he was there with me and my family in WDW....he was there in the car on the drive home from work....he was there with my daughter and her friend in their time of confusion. Remembering that is a good thing.
Over The Rhine
Walking out in the freezing rain
I feel nothing 'cause I numbed the pain
I'm lookin' forward to lookin' back
On this day
Prayed last night
Dear God please no
But I was never good at letting go
I'm lookin' forward to lookin' back
On this day
Good news can be so unkind
When it's everything you have to
I'm lookin' forward to lookin' back
On this day
In the taillights
So much hindsight
Telling me what I already know
I look forward with great expectancy to the appointed time when it is revealed to me, what it is he is setting me free from today that I am unaware of.
Sunday, August 05, 2007
Taken from The Ethics of Freedom by Jacques Ellul.
"After forty years in the desert, we are not to believe that Israel has learned the meaning of freedom or chosen it in preference to it's imagined happiness in Egypt. When it comes near to Canaan, it learns that the inhabitants of the land are very strong and now it begins to regret not only the food it had in Egypt but also the security. "And the people wept that night....would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in the wilderness. And wherefore hath the Lord brought us into this land....were it not better for us to return unto Egypt?" (Number 14:2ff.) They preferred the security of bondage, which they regarded as happiness, to the risks of freedom."
How often are we operating in the same manner and not even aware of it? Or don't want to face it and own up to it? Do we trust more in the things that God has spoken to us, to the degree that we would take the risk to live in the freedom offered in Christ? Or do we live like we trust in the things this world offers us and the imagined security it promises but can never deliver?
It seems to me that the Church so often finds itself in a place so willing to trade this reliance on God for freedom to worldly systems and those system's leaders?
Ellul continues, here, speaking of Israel looking to earthly kings and kingdoms for that which can only come from God:
"The search for security will dictate the policies of the kings of both Judah and Israel after rupture. The Second Book of Kings illustrates the same mechanism again and again. The kings play politics like everyone else. They want to ensure the security and tranquillity of the people by alliances and organizations, by strengthening the power of the state, by cleaver shifts and maneuvers."
He continues on to show that these alliances and misplaced trust lead to disastrous results.....always. It makes me think of the statement often heard but rarely ever heeded.......History continues to repeat itself because the lessons are never learned. We trade the freedom of Christ with it's acceptance of risk, for the lie that freedom can come through man and all his attempts to produce certainty and security.
Saturday, August 04, 2007
This fear then leads to uncountable attempts at CONTROL.....try to imagine, so as to recognize how much you attempt to control people and environments and all your IMAGINED UNCERTAIN FUTURES.
An attempt to stop living in fear and controlling others is just another form of control. It's based in self-effort. The religious man can live with this and feel justified because it is possible to accomplish a level of conformity. Conformity does not indicate freedom in Christ though.
The religious man is still alienated and is not free. The danger in this condition is even worse than that of the one who thinks there is freedom outside of Christ. The non-Christian has nothing to base his assumption of freedom in so his false assumption so easily crumbles as he deals with the realities of everyday life. He is tossed here and there and he knows it and he lives in fear.
Many Christians find themselves in the same condition, obeying human nature but clinging to a belief that they are free in Christ. This is a much worse condition than the non-Christian is in and the alienation goes so often undetected or ignored. With this being the case should we be surprised that the grace, mercy, forgiveness, and unconditional love of God is exchanged so easily for law? It is only the one who is still in a condition of alienation that falls for the illusion that laws and rules make them safe and more secure.
The one who is finding freedom in Christ through a loving relationship with God, has eyes that are being opened and is being awakened so they can see past these illusions religion in all it's forms construct.
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
I'm finding freedom from my cage......are you?
Pacing The Cage
Sunset is an angel weeping
Holding out a bloody sword
No matter how I squint I cannot
Make out what it's pointing toward
Sometimes you feel like you live too long
Days drip slowly on the page
You catch yourself
Pacing the cage
I've proven who I am so many times
The magnetic strip's worn thin
And each time I was someone else
And every one was taken in
Powers chatter in high places
Stir up eddies in the dust of rage
Set me to pacing the cage
I never knew what you all wanted
So I gave you everything
All that I could pillage
All the spells that I could sing
It's as if the thing were written
In the constitution of the age
Sooner or later you'll wind up
Pacing the cage
Sometimes the best map will not guide you
You can't see what's round the bend
Sometimes the road leads through dark places
Sometimes the darkness is your friend
Today these eyes scan bleached-out land
For the coming of the outbound stage
Pacing the cage
Pacing the cage
I pray that we all find freedom from the cage.
You can hear the song here: http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=174247359