Sunday, June 29, 2008

NOTHING IS EVER QUITE WHAT IT SEEMS


I logged onto my favorite band's myspace site today and found they had added a new live recording of one of their many beautiful moving songs. It brought many things to my mind this afternoon. The first being this: "What may at first seem fragile becomes instead a journey towards a rendezvous with grace" which speaks to me about nothing ever being quite what it seems. The first line sets the stage for this song and I have found this to be such a perfect description for much of life. Unfortunately it seems most people miss the transformative power of it all and spend their lives fighting it, deny it or attempting to control it all. What a beautiful piece of heartache this has all turned out to be.

The line that struck me today in a way that I had never seen it before was this one: And if the music starts before I get there. Dance without me, you dance so gracefully....

What I saw in this today was how we can encourage others in things they might be experiencing even if we aren't yet and how seeing grace play out in other people's lives can bring us a bit of joy and give us hope to press on. Too often, with the competitive nature of the fallen mind, we don't want others to have what we don't have and that's really not helpful for anyone.

What I love about this song is it's redemptive message that includes every space we can find ourselves in this life of uncertainty. It's honest and it is hopeful in the face of what seems to be a difficult time. God's grace is at work at all times in every situation and nothing is ever quite what it seems...which leaves me (and hopefully others that might be reading this) with these words from Papa ringing our ears: You have no idea what I am doing right now... I have found that to be very true, but I also have grown to trust and know that it is most definitely redemptive.

Latter Days
What a beautiful piece of heartache this has all turned out to be.
Lord knows we’ve learned the hard way all about healthy apathy.
And I use these words pretty loosely.
There’s so much more to life than words.
There is a me you would not recognize, dear.
Call it the shadow of myself.
And if the music starts before I get there dance without me.
You dance so gracefully.
I really think I’ll be o.k. They’ve taken their toll these latter days.
Nothin’ like sleepin’ on a bed of nails.
Nothin’ much here but our broken dreams.
Ah, but baby if all else fails, nothin’ is ever quite what it seems.
And I’m dyin’ inside to leave you with more than just cliches.
There is a me you would not recognize, dear.
Call it the shadow of myself.
And if the music starts before I get there dance without me.
You dance so gracefully.
I really think I’ll be o.k. They’ve taken their toll these latter days.
But tell them it’s real.
Tell them it’s really real.
I just don’t have much left to say.
They’ve taken their toll these latter days.
They’ve taken their toll these latter days.
DON'T MISS THIS....THIS IS CERTAINLY A BEAUTIFUL PIECE OF HEARTACHE...these were just added to youtube

Saturday, June 28, 2008

THE SITUATION IN WHICH WE FIND OURSELVES


I've been a bit unsettled this afternoon and evening. Maybe it's been brought on by some interaction with some others and the struggles they seem to be caught in? I don't know? But what I do know is it's had a way of making me all that more aware of the importance of freedom. As I was pondering in the last post, without it all we have is law and that just leaves us stuck in a lifeless exercise of conforming in an attempt to just survive.

What is it that has to happen for people to even realize they aren't free? What is it that will reveal another part of me that still needs to be set free? So many things have been running through my mind this evening and some of it I was introduced to by Jacques Ellul. It's really been a wild ride having my previous way of thinking dismantled and beginning to see things from a different perspective. I'm so grateful that the former way was exposed and the process of it being broken set in motion. I so clearly today see the pain I was causing myself and others while governed by the former way of thinking.

I've posted this before but it's what's been on my mind tonight so I am going to link to one of those previous posts. Some people see Ellul difficult to grasp but for me there has been no one who has helped simplify things for me more that Jacques Ellul has. Well, the brother that introduced me to him has been a tremendous help also...patiently walking with me through the time when the rebuilding was beginning. I believe part of the process that is necessary is having our complicated existence exposed for what it is and for us to begin to understand why we do what we do. I think Ellul lays much of it out in this article. It is pretty thick stuff to read but once I became more comfortable with how he writes and the terms he uses and how he explains the predicament we all find ourselves in, a beautifully freeing simplicity began to come into view. If you feel so led to spend some time with this content I think you might find some things worth pondering.

Humanity seems to only know how to create more complications....I'm no longer interested.

You will find an excerpt here and a link to the entire article at the end. Technique and the Opening Chapters of Genesis.


HIGHER LAW


I love this picture so much I'm using it again in the same week.


Love has a way of opening ours eyes to things we have never seen or known before. There is no way that it fails in changing everything. It's more sure than gravity. And yet these two laws operate in totally different ways. Gravity works in a predictable way...Love does not. Love will make you do crazy things. Wonderful crazy things.

I had three clients this week that were working hard to avoid breaking down in tears while in conversations with them about the differences I have begun to see between Law and Love, and how we violate love when attempting to live by law. They all three began in the same place most of us, well all of us, have spent most of our lives...But we've got to have law because without law we will just have chaos. The cool thing that seemed different in these conversations was that it seemed to me that for a moment they were able to see something beyond what they had always believed. Or at least their longing for something more surfaced. I could tell that they were seeing and feeling how law had failed them (or how they fail to ever measure up enough to feel okay)and how they longed for love....don't we all?

It's interesting to me how these three specific conversations each dealt with at least one of the three systems that had held me captive most of my life and how it seems in my life that love really didn't begin to emerge in reality until I began to find freedom from these three powerful influences...each one expressions of LAW.

One conversation was how I began to see that the more I owned (stuff) the harder I had to work to maintain it and protect it and how this set me up to violate people and stood in the way of healthy relationships. This conversation about love exposed the economic system and the lie it feeds us continuously and how it determines how we live with others.

Another conversation was about how politics had controlled me through exploiting my fear. This dear Christian client of mine is so trapped in fear of what is going to happen if the candidates she supports gets beat by candidates she is convinced are evil. I've been through several election with her and she goes through this with every one of them. Dr. Dobson had exploited her fear this time.

The third conversation was with a client who was reading The Shack for a second time and she told me that the second reading had helped her get past the difficulty she had with the first reading and how the Trinity had been expressed but a new difficulty had surfaced. The new difficulty was with how the 10 Commandments had been handled. This conversation was so cool and I believe this is the place freedom begins to happen and without it the Higher Law can never even be seen.

Love has set in motion several drastic changes in my life over the past couple years and for people who still look to law and see it as an answer will most certainly see the changes I have made as being nothing but crazy and unwise. So many of these changes have come as I have continued to find more and more freedom from the controls and the fears perpetuated by the Political, Economic, and Religious systems. The Higher Law of Love just can't be seen for what it is while living in fear and continuing to put trust in the law to make things right.

In and through Jesus something so wonderful has happened. He fulfilled the requirements of the law and they are no longer commands but they are promised reality for those learning to live in Him. Once you taste Him and are captured by Father's love, going back to putting any hope in law seems to be what is crazy and unwise.

I love how Eugene Peterson takes the words of the apostle Paul and expresses it in The Message.

Gal 2:20-21 Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God's grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.

SET US FREE...........and help us remain free.



Friday, June 27, 2008

THE LIE THAT LAW KEEPS US BELIEVING

I hear people say it all the time. "If we don't have the law and we don't have rules all hell will break lose."

Well, the way I am seeing it is that most people know nothing else and law is where they have placed their hope. But for those who have encountered the love and the grace of God the Father and the wild freedom that exists in him, how can we not see that law will always warp everything it comes in contact with. How can we not see that where freedom is suppressed everything remains legalistic?

I think it is because we believe the lie and our hope remains placed in something other than the One who is the only hope for the world.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I COULDN'T RESIST LINKING TO THIS


This is the latest blog post by C. Baxter Kruger. God and Greens

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

WEIRD EXPERIENCE...SORRY TO THOSE WHO ENJOY TV


A couple years ago I felt it necessary that I turn off the TV. My basic TV viewing was Cable News (a lot of Cable News), Food TV, Discovery Channel and some weekend golf coverage. I know, many will think zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. But that's not the point. So, I turned it off and have only turned it on occasionally to catch Food TV and Golf, but every so often I will tune into a couple minutes of news to just see what's up. All that to say, I have watched so little TV I pretty much tell others that I don't watch it anymore. I can't tell you the last movie I watched.

I don't fully know if there is a connection with the fact that since I turned it off I have experienced a season like no other to this point in my life. There has been more peace and I have been more at rest over these past two years then I ever had been before.

So now to the weirdness. Last Sunday night I decided to go join my daughters, just to spend some time with them on their turf as they watched The Disney Channel Movie: Camp Rock. We were about 45 minutes into the movie when I became very aware of the fact that I was feeling very agitated and on edge. I haven't felt that way for a long time. As I sat there trying to figure out what was going on, some thoughts came to mind from Neil Postman's book
Amusing Ourselves To Death. I decided to get up and walk away from the TV and it was about two hours later before I was feeling myself again.

I have no way of being absolutely certain that what I am about to share was what I was experiencing. But my gut tells me this is exactly what was going on.

"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." Jacques Ellul

The Controlling Voices that I blogged about quite often many months ago and my constant request of; Explain All These Controls, which actually turned out to be a prayer, led me to turn off the TV.

I heard a TV News anchor once say that he was taught in Journalism School that tv news and regular programming (sitcoms, movies and such) was just filler for the real programming....the selling of products. Honesty can be really refreshing.......

Here's what I think has began to happen in my life over the past couple years. The constant unbroken flow of propaganda has been breached. I do not live under any illusions though that propaganda no longer has any effect on me. It's all around us, and living completely outside it's influence seems to be unlikely. But all we need is to find enough freedom for a little crack in the matrix to form and then the hope of breaking free/r becomes a possibility.


Here is a video that captures some of how propaganda works through TV. I have people ask me quite often why I think the news and so much of the tv programs and movies are full of disturbing images/content? Could it be that selling products and controlling our behavior becomes much easier when we are in a constant state of fear and agitation? I think that's very possibly what is going on.


It had been a long time since I had heard this old news slogan, which isn't used anymore as far as I know, until I read it in Amusing Ourselves To Death a couple years ago. Check it out in this video....NOW THIS

Monday, June 23, 2008

WATER FEATURE FINISHED


As promised. Here are some pictures from today once I finished this project. I think me and Julie might just have to spend some time on that swing later today once the cool evening temperatures arrive.



















A FAR WORSE BONDAGE


We are very interesting creatures. The things we do and the reasons we do them have been pretty well defined for us in scripture and it really is pretty simple. The way out of the mess has been spelled out also, but certainly not as a formula. But everything we do seems to scream...THERE NEEDS TO BE A FORMULA. The world that refuses to take seriously the story of the mess that is described in scripture, goes about trying to come up with all kinds of formulas and systems to bring order and to make things better. It's a futile process but at least people recognize that something is terribly out of sorts. Even if they don't know what it is they can feel it. There is suppose to be a propose at work in that feeling of unsettledness. They are trapped in bondage.
But there is something worse. There is a bondage that becomes even more difficult to break free from because this bondage sets us on a path that is no more a path to freedom then the path the world is on. But we hear over and over and over that it is different. It becomes a worse bondage because we come to believe that this path is the path God has designed for us. For those who had begun to awaken to the reality that something was seriously wrong and began to feel the nudgings of the Spirit, too often are led headlong into this far worse bondage. Religious performance.

Jesus came to give us Life, God's Life, and it has nothing to do with our ability to work a formula. It's the exact opposite. It has to do with us learning to stop the game and to simply enter his rest and watch the freedom from the mess begin to unfold.

Last night in a conversation with my daughter I was acutely aware of the tangled mess that resides inside of us all that we all are in need of having untangled. But I know enough to not use religious thinking and religious formulas, formulas that are all created from a perspective of fear...shame...and guilt which leaves us with the nagging voices in our heads screaming Get it right...Try harder...or else. I simply told her that I loved her and there is nothing she could ever do, no mess big enough that can ever change that. I told her that the things that look like they are the fun things in life usually are the things that leave us stuck in the ditch by creating baggage that we were never intended to carry and that my desire for her is for her to be free. I know that the only thing that makes this real for her, myself or anyone else is God's life...not Religions rules and formulas. Not fear, shame or guilt. They just create a far worse bondage.
"Falsehood has an infinity of combinations, but truth has only one mode of being." Jean Jacques Rousseau

Sunday, June 22, 2008

GREG BOYD'S REVIEW OF THE SHACK

I had an email conversation with Greg a year ago about The Shack, Paul Young, Jacques Ellul, and Theodicy. He seemed very intrigued with the book but by his review it seems that he has just recently got around to reading it.

Greg's book
Myth of a Christian Nation was a very timely read for me during the time my Americanized Christian World View began to fall like a house of cards. I encourage anyone that hasn't read it to read it. I am just so thrilled by the conversation that is happening around the message in this book and it's good to now have Greg a part of that conversation.

Here's Greg's review

SMALLER WATER FEATURE

It was 10 years ago that my daughters (with their mom's help) bought me a pond liner for Father's Day and this is what it looked like once I installed it and then a few years later once the plants became established and filled in. Well, sometime over the winter the liner cracked and the water began to leak out and I had put off addressing it until today. I really didn't want to spend $150.00 on a new 55 gallon pond liner so instead I went out this morning to look for something smaller and less costly. I found just what I was looking for. One of the three 20 gallon sets on hand at Home Depot was without the pump and fountain (which I did not need) so I asked them how much they would sell the tub for. After paying them the $10.00 they agreed upon I was on my way home. A few hours later here is what I had accomplished.

Once I had the tub in place and back filled the soil, I began to place the rocks around the pond to conceal the top on the tub and make it look more natural. I hadn't used the bamboo spout in a few years so I retrieved it from the garage and hooked up the pump. I'm pleased with how it turned out and it is so nice to hear the relaxing sounds of running water in the garden again.


Once I get some plants moved in to fill in around it and I get a layer of mulch down, I will post some more pictures of it completely finished. This is the biggest (not that big though) project I have done in the garden in a few years...I really do enjoy doing this and creating inviting garden spaces.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

PUZZLED? HMMMM...NOT REALLY


With enough content in the text to make a case for an angry God and a beyond-all-comprehension gracious Father...along with enough content to make a case for us holding people accountable for every wrong doing and also enough to make a case for encouraging us to extend unmerited grace to even the worst offenders...why does most of Christianity opt for the angry God and what seems to be the use of law on people?


And then some will say we need to balance the two which leads me to ask: Can mean, angry and exacting mix well with loving and gracious?


It seems to me that 1 Corinthians 13 says no to that question and it seems that for grace to really be grace it has to be free or it is just law with a New Covenant spin to it.


I feel like another phase of shaking off some residual stuff is taking place as I emerge out from under some more of the confusion that had been created by trying to mix things that don't mix.

IS IT ABOUT BEING BOLD AND MAKING A STAND?


Is there a difference between
Making a stand for biblical principles and what we percieve as truth......and.....Learning to respond to the Spirit's promptings?

Friday, June 20, 2008

THE PROBLEM WITH HYPOTHETICAL QUESTIONS


This could be applied to about anything, but today it comes about because I've been thinking about the problem of violence (again) the last couple days due to a conversation over on The God Journey Forum. One of the things that seems to always come up with difficult issues like this is people always bring up hypothetical questions of what they would do if such and such was to happen. This morning something seemed to become clearer to me as I thought about why the Christian community remains so supportive of war and the use of violence and why we as individuals remain so confused about the things Jesus said about loving others...even our enemies. Hypotheticals are a form of future tripping and Jesus doesn't exist in those imagined futures. So we are left all alone there with our fear, and then all that makes sense is self-preservation. The hound of heaven just doesn't seem to let me off that easily anymore. And what I mean by that is, his love for me and the love I know he has for every other human being just won't allow me to live in peace while I keep violence as an option, stuffed in my back pocket, ready to use at moments notice. His gentle loving of me and his wooing of my heart and mind into a new space over the past few years has silenced my "YES, BUT". It has taken some time, but back at the beginning of myself feeling challenged in my heart and mind on these things, he did promise me that he could take me there.

Here is where it has left me. I don't know how I would react in a moment of threat to my life or the life of someone I care for. All I can go by is what I know Jesus is speaking to me right now in this moment and that has nothing to do with hypotheticals. And as I learn to stay in the moment with Jesus, I know this very thing...the actions of self giving, of love, of sacrifice, of dying are of Him...violence is not and never will be.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

FOR JENNIFER




Weeping Norway Spruce can grow into all kinds of different shapes and can be trained to do crazy things. This one has done this all on it's own. They named it Angel and it over looks the Conifer Garden at Hidden Lakes Garden.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

SUMMER HAS ARRIVED





























Well, early summer is here and the past two days have been wonderful. The temps have cooled again to 80 degrees for the highs and in the 50's during the evenings and nighttime. The air con has been turned off and the windows are open. I don't like it when we have to close the house up due to the heat/humidity. I want to be as connected to the outdoors as I possibly can be. I just love all the sounds and the cool breeze.


The garden continues to explode with growth and the daily surprise of new flowers coming into bloom continues. This has been the absolute best spring for gardens in our area since I began to garden 20 yeas ago. I hand spread hundreds of columbine seeds today that had been produced by those already in the garden. With warming summer temps I have had to begin the regular watering routine and keeping on top of the weeds that just love the warm weather.


We were suppose to have guests for the night. Amy Young, Paul's daughter and a friend of hers are on their way to Tennessee and were going to get some sleep here tonight and some breakfast in the morning before heading on to their destination, but with the flooding going on in Missouri they were afraid that they might get caught with roads being closed so they decided to take a more southerly route. We were all looking forward to meeting her and her friend...but that meeting will have to wait for now. On the phone yesterday we talked about us heading out to Oregon sometime soon and meeting up with them. There are two trips my family is wanting to take again as soon as we can swing it. We all want a re-do of our Disney World Grace Trip from the fall of 05 and I want to take the family with me to re-do the Oregon trip I did in the spring of that year. 05 turned out to be a year that set in motion many changes that made way for some unimaginable joy and beauty but was birthed out of much adversity and pain. I get the feeling the family would benefit greatly by doing these trips together. And how this blog post about the early summer garden took that turn I am unsure, but there it is, and since the temps have cooled down today I can't blame it on being disoriented from the heat and humidity. It must just be my wandering mind? :)











Tuesday, June 17, 2008

WE MIGHT NEED TO BACK THE TRAIN UP A BIT?


It is really amazing how the complication we humans bring to this life begin to be untangled as fear begins to be displaced in our lives. A client told me today that God and life with him can't be as complicated as our religious training has made it out to be. I told her I completely agreed.

Since she and I have had many conversations around some of the things expressed in The Shack, her statement made me think of one of the many things that just struck me as being so profound the first time I read it. This flips most people's thinking on it's head. Mack has just spent some time with Sophia, the manifestation of God's wisdom and says that he doubts if anything with her is normal.


"Actually," Jesus started to speak but paused to throw one last skipping stone, "with her, everything is normal and elegantly simple. Because you are so lost and independent you bring to her many complications, and as a result you find even her simplicity profound."


Humans attempting to do it on their own have created quite a tangled web and religion just complicates it even more because it ultimately keeps the focus all screwed up. It keeps people in a pattern of self effort attempting to untangle something we can't untangle and in the process the confusion just gets deeper. Or for some it makes them feel like they have it under control and figured out. Both situations create complicated relational difficulties and the proof is all around us. Loving one another, really loving one another, remains illusive. And this creates a big problem in light of Jesus saying that the world will know we are his because of the love we have for one another.


The news of a Christian book store chain deciding to pull The Shack from their shelves got me to thinking about all of this. In their explanation as to why they have done this they said it was based on the concerns of several people about 'parts of the book lack sufficient doctrinal clarity or could even be misleading' to which my response is: Maybe on this criteria they should pull the Bible from the shelves also? And why not? It seems for years and years there has been countless examples of people being misled due to things not being made clear in it? I tend to believe the difficulty is created by the problems we have with our processors, the filters through which we attempt to understand the message the Spirit is at work to reveal to us, and this difficulty has been created by the fact that we bring many complications to something that is really simple. But the fallen mind can't comprehend these things and the fearful religious mind is no help with this dilemma.

Hopefully one of these days we'll realize that loving one another as He loves us is the expression of truth that sets us all free?...and that fighting other's in the name of defending truth is what keeps it from happening?
********************************************************************
UPDATE
The Christian Book Store chain has decided to put the book back out on the shelfs after they spent some time reviewing it.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

FATHER'S DAY

I just saw this for the first time a little while ago. Ellie and Sammie had made this for Amie in celebration of her and her graduation. We had a graduation party last night here at the house and probably had 40-50 high school and college age kids through here. It was such a fun evening with her and her friends.

Amie works at a local breakfast and lunch establishment and had to work this morning so the rest of us went there this morning for breakfast and sat at one of her tables. This girl is a gem...well all three of them are and I am a very proud father.

Friday, June 13, 2008

THE LAND IN BETWEEN


I've mentioned a number of times recently the absolute futility of attempting to live by law and the devastating effects such attempts have on our personal lives and relationships. Sue has asked me to try to describe (as if I can? hmmm) what it is like when we are caught in between, moving from law to grace.

It's funny I get asked this today because just yesterday I asked a friend, who has been such a help to me in this process, this question. "Can grace be seen, let alone understood, while someone is still being governed by law?" This was his answer: "Only by those that are free to extend it in the process...."

That is what I have come to understand also from experience. While grace is yet just a concept, it is something we want so badly for ourselves from others but are mostly unable to extend it to another. They get law mostly. We might be able to at times to extend grace but it is a fleeting thing and it is always hit & miss.

When grace really begins to become a reality, it has a way of changing what we are focused on. It's no longer first about the grace we desire from others, it's about the grace we have become so aware of God the Father extending toward us, that you can't but help extend it to everyone around you. When we come face to face with His boundless grace, we begin to be healed and freed from things we have longed to be free of and you become so aware of the fact that you haven't done anything other than entered a rest like you have never known before.

But it is a process of incremental change and that process has often been happening without yourself really even being aware of it and all of the sudden you realize something is very different. I think when that moment happens change begins to happen rather rapidly. But my oh my, the process of getting there usually involves much pain, disappointment, frustration and confusion.

But once there looking back, law is seen for all it is and always has been and you just can't waste any time putting any hope in ever getting anything else out of it. And on the other side, Grace is there in full view as being the transforming power that it is and always has been, and you just can't imagine trusting in any thing else.

Law is about me...grace is about the other. One must die for the other to spring forth in fullness.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

WANT TO WATCH?


Here is the Over The Rhine appearance on Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour.

and hang on even after it seems as if the show is over because they come back for an encore. You've got to suffer through some boring stuff that seems like it will never end but they end with their song Born and Drunkard's Prayer and their funky Don't Wait For Tom...it's worth the wait.
I was born to laugh...I learned to laugh through my tears
I was born to love...I'm gonna learn to love without fear.

MY MEMORY WILL NOT FAIL ME NOW




The title of this post is a line from an Over The Rhine song and this morning it is such a wonderful thought joined to what was on my mind as I woke up and began my day. Linford said this about this line: That he loves the idea of learning something so deeply that it is now impossible to ever forget it. I like that.

The unmerited favor of God towards us is his Justice.

It's so stunning how things seem to happen in such an incremental process. Turns out that during the past few years the incremental process has been full of surprises for me. Things I wasn't even aware I was looking for just dropped in my lap. This morning I was reminded again of one of those surprises. I woke up with Mishpat on my mind. I know that probably sounds strange but for me it is such a beautiful thing.

I found out a year or so ago that Mishpat, the Hebrew word for Justice, really paints a picture of justice that is much different/better than the legal word most people think of when they think of justice. It describes Honorable Relations. This is a God the Father thing. It's the very thing we were created for. His unmerited favor is the beginning of honorable relations...this is the JUSTICE of God. He stepped into the mess we created and changed the game humanity thought up for itself.

Reconciliation from Father's side has been accomplished and when we awaken to the reality that we are safe at home with Father Son and Spirit because of what they have done, living justly with each other becomes possible.

It's a great reminder to begin this day.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

COLLABORATION

My wind chime has gone silent, but only for a short period of time having been over-run by this clematis. A collaborative effort between the two that makes something beautiful. In a few weeks the chime will be making beautiful harmonious sounds once again in another collaborative effort with something else. The wind.

This makes me think of something from The Shack in regards to how Jesus wants to be the center of our lives and not set up on some priority scale which is a set up for failure from the beginning. I love how Paul expresses this.

"Jesus now spoke up again. "Mack, I don't want to be first among a list of values; I want to be the center of everything. When I live in you, then together we can live through everything that happens to you. Rather than a pyramid, I want to be the center of a mobile, where everything in your life---your friends, family, occupation, thoughts, activities---is connected to me but moves with the wind, in and out and back and forth, in an incredible dance of being."



Tuesday, June 10, 2008

ENFORCING THE RULES...OR SHOWING OTHERS A BETTER WAY

Living by law is a really tricky thing. I've become so aware of the problems caused in society as the result of a system that discriminates and measures out judgements and punishments with great irregularity. Law was suppose to be applied to everyone with the same measure and there probably hasn't been a time that this was even the case. People looking to the law and then attempting to live under the law are set up from the beginning to create a mess. And in this case I'm talking about the laws of man/laws of the land. Humanity has created a very tangled mess.

But I believe within the community of those learning to live by grace, following the Spirit into the freedom that is ours through faith in Jesus and the message of love, forgiveness and grace, law begins to be seen for the real problem it is. A weak impotent substitute that actually stands in the way.

The thing that has been on my mind today has been how it causes people to become very skilled at hiding things deep inside. The focus becomes how one looks to those around them regardless of what is going on inside. Law has no power to set anyone free but it does have the ability to shape some into becoming great pretenders.

If we are people that put our trust in law and the threat of punishment to mold other people's behavior, children or adults, that seems to me to indicate that we would be people who are also governed by an attempt to live by law? If we are not applying the same to ourselves, than that seems to indicate to me that we would be phonies which seems very problematic.

Beginning to see this drastic difference between law and the absolute wastefulness of the measure of grace extended to everyone on a moment to moment basis by God the Father has a way of disturbing the waters in one's life...and did it ever in mine. But I love the change that is happening and I love how law and the fear of punishment that travels with it continues to be put to death in my mind and heart. I feel for the first time a gracious space having been created for people to be real with me with what is going on inside them. In a space like that, things begin to be brought out into the light where wonderfully freeing things begin to happen as the internal mess begins to get healed. People begin to see that there is no reason or need to hide anymore...and isn't that how it seems people were learning to act around Jesus? Well, except for the religious folk. He showed us a better way and he has come to live inside us to make the transition possible from a life based in law and governed by fear to the glorious life of grace and peace and rest found only in Him.

Monday, June 09, 2008

THE VEIL OF FEAR HAS BEEN REMOVED


It is true...fear has been removed from the equation but many just don't believe it. That's the insidious nature stamped upon the mind alienated from our loving Creator/Father that keeps us from seeing him as he truly is. It's the very thing that distorts the Son, our brother who revealed to us the Father whom we are safe with. What will it take to see this fear and distortion removed when there is a religious establishment (religious mindset) set on keeping it in place today just as there was a religious establishment in Jesus' day set on keeping it in place? Well, I'm not worried about it too much because I am convinced if the thick/tangled view I had lived with can be unraveled by the Spirit, there is a power at work set on doing this very thing in other's minds also. It feels like such a privilege to collaborate with Father, Son and Spirit in this process.

It feels like a page has been torn from the story of my life. The concept of an angry god, more concerned about us getting it right, has been exposed and a loving Father has been revealed through Jesus, and when this happened, repentance began to happen in my heart and mind before I was even aware of what was going on. What years of living with the angry god who was busy keeping a record could not accomplish began to be accomplished. The angry god concept of religion keeps us preoccupied with the flesh/sin and scripture is clear about what the outcome is of a mind set on the flesh...It is death.

When fear is removed and we feel safe to come home, the focus moves from our performance and law (flesh/sin) and a shift takes place. And I found out that this shift just happens when we become immersed in the the beauty and safety of the relationship with Father, Son, and Spirit. What the alienated mind has always been in need of happens, it shifts from a preoccupation on sin and the feelings of unworthiness created by it, to a mind immersed in the Spirit. Life just appears.

What a wonderful day it is when the power of the accusing gaze of another is removed and we can begin to feel comfortable in our human skin because our identity is found/grounded in what Jesus accomplished. In the season of our lives when the lies begin to be exposed and removed and Jesus begins to come into focus is the day Eternal Life begins.

To know him is Eternal Life and fear has no place here.

In a conversation just last week with my wife while we were discussing the changes that have happened in our relationship with our daughter's, I jokingly alluded to my tough approach (wink wink) to them as their father. Her response brought tears of joy to my eyes. She said..."Your daughters don't have one ounce of fear in them when it comes to you." Today I wouldn't want it any other way and this only began to happen in me once the twisted view created by attempting to fuse the angry god kept in place by religion with the Father revealed to us by Jesus was sorted out. The veil has been torn from top to bottom to reveal something so beautiful and so free of fear, and when seen, it can't help but leave us changed. Do you dare believe it?


Sunday, June 08, 2008

WOODSONGS OLD TIME RADIO HOUR


For those who are interested in listening to it live and you are around on Monday June 9 Over The Rhine will be performing for the entire Woodsongs Show beginning at 6:59 eastern time.




Here is a performance from a previous appearance on this show. They have turned into a favotite of this program over the years and just like the performance of Hallelujah they always seem to do something so special when they perform here. A couple years ago Karin was asked by the host to perform their song Cast Me Away a cappella. Simply beautiful.


Cast Me Away

cast me away
from yesterday's things
in deed and in my memory
sweeten the taste
of the past
and borrow just a little more time for me

MORE ON SIMPLICITY

Ever since the time, that old exhausting game had led me to a place of crash and burn-out, this idea of simplify my life has been in play. Mark 4:19 comes to mind. Where in the past this was just a biblical principle to attempt to remain mindful of and follow (which never happened) it began to be a reality that was playing out in my experience.

"But the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful."

Trying harder to acquire temporal things and spiritual things flow from a place of fear. While caught up in that game, simplicity had remained a distant unattainable dream. Like trying to wrap my arms around the wind. It's just mind blowing what happens when grace and love begin to push out the fear that we often aren't even aware of being there, and in turn the things we have chased after are seen for what they are. Cheap empty substitutes when compared to what has been freely given and is ours to just slip into if we can just stop the scrambling we have become so accustomed to.








Saturday, June 07, 2008

THE SIMPLE THINGS











I just love the restfulness that is whispered so clearly from the simple things in life. Whether it's a walk through my garden, or meeting a friend for coffee, or a conversation at work, or sitting in an adjoining room and listening to my daughters laughing together. I just love it.

I met a friend yesterday for coffee and we talked for over two hours. She had worked behind me in the salon for 12 years and for 12 years I watched a gradual transformation happen in her that always inspired me. She asked me yesterday if I was aware that a year had passed since she had left our salon. It didn't seem possible. I'm glad she mentioned it though because it reminded me of something I had forgotten about. On her last day of working with us, I went home and sat at this computer and wrote a message for her with the intentions of giving it to her at the year anniversary of her departure. I had totally forgot about it. When I arrived back home yesterday I pulled up the document and sent it to her. It was just a simple message of what her friendship means to me and how I saw the Spirit at work in her and the freedom that was available for us all to walk in. It really was about continuing to simplify our lives and to slow down.
Her response back to me this morning made the simple act of writing that message a year ago seem seem pretty significant....turns out it actually was.
You just never know what can happen from such simple acts of love towards others.

Friday, June 06, 2008

HOW FEAR HIDES


I've been in many conversations recently that have caused me to spend some time thinking about how fear can easily hide. I have come to find out that everything I did in my life up to the spring of 06 was done out of fear...and I mean everything. Even all the things I would have considered and most other people would consider to be positive things were motivated by fear.


Today I am so aware of the reality of fear being pushed from my life by the ever growing reality of myself being loved and being accepted and being safe with Father Son and Spirit. The beginning of this transition was certainly painful and scary, but fear is losing any space to hide inside my mind because of this realization. The world looks much differently.

THE TRICKS NATURE CAN PULL ON US

Just imagine the entire floor of my garden being full of these little sprouting seedlings. My neighbor's 50' River Birch decided this would be a good year to procreate as if she is never going to get another chance.

Maybe I should just leave them there and let the garden turn into a River Birch forest...hmmm?

If I choose not to do that it seems I'm going to have to come up with a strategy of how to get rid of these unwelcome visitors.

And to think that things had been moving along so smoothly this spring in the garden. The day the tree began to drop millions of these little seeds and the wind was gently blowing my direction I thought to myself (with a laugh)....I'm screwed. Two days ago that thought became the reality you see in the pictures. Oh, and I forgot to mention all the pots are full of them also. Sweet............................

Thursday, June 05, 2008

WHY IT DOESN'T WORK


Fear and love are incompatible.


The same is true for Law and Grace..


and belief and faith.


This is why religion is a dead end road and has never helped in setting people free.
Fear will never produce love.
Law doesn't allow grace.
And mere beliefs stand in the way of faith.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

LIFE IS TOO FUNNY


Today I had one of those encounters that make ya go HUH?????....or maybe...You've got to be kidding!!!!!!!

Yesterday a friend that attended the same fellowship that I left 20 years ago, when we stepped away from an organized expression of Church, called the salon to set up an appointment. A 2 1/2 hour service which would give us some time to talk. I thought, well how cool is that? After all these years she is coming back to me to take care of her hair and hopefully because she thinks hooking up might be a cool thing to do. See, I never saw her again once we left that fellowship and she stopped coming into the salon also. I left work Yesterday very much looking forward to connecting with her again.

What happened this morning when I went to greet her was some what of a shock for both of us.

She had no idea she was going to see me today. She had called the salon because she had heard such good things about Michael Isaiah Designs For Hair. She had called up and asked for anyone that was available and that just turned out to be me. Now, what are the chances of that happening?

She's been working for the Ron Paul for President Campaign for the past 9 months. Did she and I ever have an interesting conversation. Towards the end of our time together and due to the content of our conversation..politics and religion and war...I mentioned The Shack and since I had the latest USA today article in my drawer about Paul and some of what the critics are saying, I handed it to her. She reads this: But critics call book 'scripturally incorrect' and 'subversive' and then she said something like this to me. You involved with something that is considered subversive by the establishment? What a shock!!!!!

I guess her memory is pretty good from 20 years ago :)

She told me as she left she would see me in 5 weeks. Papa sets up some pretty cool adventures and encounters.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

OBSESSIONS WITH SELF-PRESERVATION

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

While listening to Over The Rhine this morning while driving to work I was reminded of some of the changes in thinking that I was walking through when Drunkard's Prayer arrived in my mailbox back in the Spring of 05. I had no idea what was coming. I loved this song musically but a few of the lyrics ticked me off. See, I was fighting something the Spirit had begun haunting me with. I was in a fight internally with a Christian World View that I just couldn't defend any longer but every other option I could think of just seemed naive. The chorus had that ring of naivety to me at the time.

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

Well, it turns out that the hound of heaven won me over during the next several months and this song was a part of that process. Today standing where I stand makes the old world view seem naive. Personally I found out that there is no peace to be found in relationships when that old world view is in place. The old world view is shaped by fear and self-preservation. There are a lot of scapegoats wandering around there also. I had been caught up in fighting everybody in one way or another. My sleep through those years wasn't very restful. I'm sleeping much more soundly these days. It turns out that the hound of heaven had already got to Over The Rhine regarding these realities. They helped me by pestering me with this profound song.

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

LISTEN TO Spark Here (and much more) This is a live version and I think this is beautiful.

Monday, June 02, 2008

MORE THINGS COMING INTO BLOOM

Summer temperatures are suppose to pay us a visit this week. It's suppose to be 95 degrees in a couple days. I think my PNW weather is over now. We are beginning to see strong afternoon storms build with the heat and humidity. Hopefully we won't see any Supercells form. Much of the Midwest has already had a tough Spring as far a Tornado activity goes.
























RELIGION IS RELIGION IS RELIGION


Just as the more subtle forms of oppression can end up being the most enslaving so can the same be said of a religion that contains more of the truth. Just because Christianity is built around the Bible doesn't keep it from being just another expression of religion. Jesus came to free us from all attempts of freeing ourselves which has never been possible to do. And everything we do that falls outside of what Jesus has accomplished keeps us on the exhausting road that perpetuates the mess. Christianity just seems to miss this point. It took me awhile to begin to see through it all, but what a glorious day it was when my ears began to hear clearly Jesus' invitation out of my chosen form of religion so he could begin to unwind the religious thinking that had shaped me from the outside in.

I know this is scary and confusing for many people shaped by Christian religion...it was for the Pharisees in Jesus' day also who were shaped by the greatest religion of their day, the one that they thought God had endorsed. As difficult as it was for them to accept, it is the same for us in our time, but the Good News is as much Good News today as it was back then. It is finished and all that is left for us to do is to come home.

On a day not so long ago, a wonderful day indeed, I saw through the veil that Christianity had keep between myself and my home and all in that same moment I felt exposed, undone, and defenseless ( residual effects of the religious mind) and at the same time so acutely aware of the fact that I needed no defense ( the renewing of a mind by the wastefulness of Father's grace). In that moment for the first time I saw our Father and he wasn't accusing me of anything, he was loving me instead and had been all along. The yoke has never felt so easy and the burden has never felt so light.

There is no need to fear the One who loves us and longs for us to feel safe with him at home. And if the religious voice whispering in your ear is saying something different...it's a lie.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

A SPECIAL BROTHER


Here is a link to a blog of a brother that I am so with in spirit. He is in the middle of a painful yet beautiful transition/transformation. He posted this song that speaks so clearly of the process and what it often feels like when in the middle of the process.


*
I know it is painful, believe me I know. Here are some words of encouragement (believe it or not) but I think it takes someone being nearer the end of the transition as opposed to being nearer the beginning to really be able to see this and know deep down inside what it is speaking of. This is real and I am confident Father will see you through.
Musicians have such a way of speaking things that are somewhat hidden yet are so profound they can speak to us and they become clearer and clearer as we begin to receive new eyes on the other side. This is from Over The Rhine
*
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
*************************************
and something else from another powerful song about the process. This is from U2
*
You're taking steps that make you feel dizzy
Then you learn to like the way it feels.

DIVERSITY


We had last night such a wonderful evening as a family. Julie and I went to the St. Louis Dance Festival Showcase to watch our three girls dance together with the Arts in Motion Company Ensemble for the very last time. We thought we had seen their last dance in the beginning of May until they were invited to perform at this very prestigious annual dance festival held at Washington University last night. There were dancers that ranged from accomplished high school level on up to professionals, even MADCO the group that Amie has dreamed of dancing with for many years were there. Lindsey and Gavin from MADCO did a piece later in the show that was just stunningly moving and beautiful. My girl's group was the second to dance and they performed a dance created by Lindsey from MADCO who has been an instructor of theirs. They all performed this dance at a level none of us parents had seen all year. I think it might have been the adrenalin rush of being on a stage with such a large group of very talented people from very diverse backgrounds and in front of a large audience?

But as I sat there watching 12 different groups expressing themselves through dance and music, I got to thinking about diversity and how we as people look at diversity. It got me to thinking about my experience for most of my life and how very little diversity had been a part of it. And then I got to thinking about how that had even become more the case when as an adult I put aside my prodigal wanderings and re-entered the Christian sub-culture I had been raised in.

To say I love music is such an understatement and the diversity of music last night was just stunning. It's sad that the religious mind ever created the division of Secular and Sacred and in that division, diversity has suffered and in many cases began to be looked at as evil.

I sat there last night so enjoying the musical diversity and how it was expressed through such diverse dance influences from Flamenco, to Hip Hop, to the Classical music of Ballet, to Modern Dance, to the music and dance of India, the Middle East, South America, and Western culture, just to name a few. And then I had this thought: How does Father Son and Spirit relate to people from all these diverse cultures and influences and what might that look like? I at least know this, the diversity would remain intact and that diversity would turn into a beautiful tapestry.

It all made me think of the beautiful expression of freedom I used to end the previous post. Do we dare explore outside the narrow confines of what we have been shaped by? Or do we allow the division between Secular and Sacred and all the fear created there, keep us in a small box, looking out thinking everything outside of our expression is evil and might corrupt us and is in need of being converted or destroyed?