Tuesday, September 30, 2008

HOW TO BREAK THE SPELL?

I grew up hearing this statement made on a fairly regular basis:

"To be a good citizen you must vote."

To which today I say...."Oh really?" and maybe even "Whatever"

It brings another statement to mind also:

"If you keep doing all the same things that you have always done, don't be surprised when you continue to get the same results."
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After posting this something else came to mind that I wanted to add here:

FREEDOM AND NECESSITY

and this once again:

"There is a Wind… that wraps itself around the edges of necessity, tugging and pulling until those boundaries become torn and begin to move to the motion of that which is not visible."

Monday, September 29, 2008

TO THE PURE ALL THINGS ARE PURE

"There has never been found anything better in the eyes of men/women than the fruit of the tree in Genesis 3. As verse 6 puts it so well, "She saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise." What more could be wanted? Good, pleasant, and useful, offering food, aesthetic pleasure, and intellectual profit, serving both the economy and the culture. What better?---and yet we know the outcome. The moment Eve listens to the serpent and is ready to hearken what he says, all is lost. From this moment on she has a defiled mind and conscience. She can no longer see things straight. She has lost everything. Nothing is pure for her any longer. Things are impure for the impure. But man cannot accept this and so he imposes his own classification on the world. He says that one thing is good and another bad. He speaks of noble professions and base professions, of valid acts and invalid acts. In his decree he obeys what we define as the knowledge of good and evil. From now on he lives in this divided universe and even when he says that all things are neutral and everything depends on their use, he is simply extending the division to the use, which changes nothing. Man is still not free and the world has not been made one again." Jacques Ellul from The Ethics of Freedom

Sunday, September 28, 2008

JUST SOME LIGHT SUBJECT MATTER TO PONDER THIS SUNDAY MORNING


In a conversation elsewhere there has emerged some rumbling over our ability to know/determine between good and evil and what loving the "other" is really all about, and what God the father is really up to at any given moment and all the while "standing up for truth" (as if we have that one nailed down? hmmmmm.....)

Here's what makes me nervous about humans...and yes, even well intentioned Christians, thinking they are capable of distinguishing between good and evil...perfectly. I haven't met many people who aren't governed by SELF-PRESERVATION. I get the strong sense that people who are being governed by self-preservation mode are people who are still operating under the blinding power of fear.....and as my brother Gregg Boyd says it, when that is the case, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil will always be bent in the direction to favor the one attempting to make such judgements about other people and circumstances.
Think about it. It all sounds so noble...Humans fighting for what is just and right and true. And by all means Christians are the ones that are in charge of these things, aren't we? Well, I don't think so. How confident are you in your ability to get such judgements right? Which leads me back to the fact that maybe this is why Love is central and what seems to be FIRST, MIDDLE and LAST in all of what Jesus came to show us and is here with us to make a reality? Jesus actually himself said that he didn't come into the world to judge the world...but to save it. Oh, and he also had some things to say about self-preservation and the problems it creates for us.



Saturday, September 27, 2008

BEAUTIFUL BUT DEADLY IN THE WRONG HANDS


How true a statement the title of this post is. We humans can take the most beautiful things and use them to harm others. This plant is just now coming into bloom in my garden. It's common name is Monk's Hood in light of the shape of the flower. I think it is stunning. In medieval times soldiers would take this plant, roots and all, and crush it to extract the liquid from the plant and would then dip the tips of their arrows in it. Monk's Hood is highly toxic and once that arrow would pierce the skin of an enemy soldier, death would be almost certain...and agonizing.

That our eyes would be opened to all the ways we violate others, God the Father would rather we learn to love.

Friday, September 26, 2008

NOT UNTIL 2009

Well, it sounds like U2's new recording won't be out this fall but more likely will be early 2009. Here's a little from Bono

‘We’ve hit a rich songwriting vein,’ he explains. ‘It gets a bit dark down here but looks like we've found diamonds not coal. I thought a while back we might have the album wrapped by now, but why come up above ground now if there's more priceless stuff to be found?

The last two records were very personal, with a kind of three piece at their heart, the primary colours of rock - bass, guitars and drum. But what we’re about now is of the same order as the transition that took us from The Joshua Tree to Achtung Baby.’

It's been awile since I listened to Achtung Baby...I think I will go do that. Achtung Baby kicks

CONVERTING TO OR FREEING FROM?

Was Jesus really opening up a door way into a new improved religion for us to be converted to that would trump all other religions?

Or is he really at work freeing us from something in order to restore something that was lost?

It just seems that how one sees this will determine how one lives in the world and maybe this could explain why Christian evangelism is what it is? Brutal, condescending, and not very reflective of Jesus.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

QUESTIONS


Okay, here are some question about how it seems that organized religion has subverted the message of Jesus. Since leaving organized religion some 20 years ago I have been accused of many things from people who see me as being anti-Church (which I am not) and outside the will of God (which I don't believe I am)because I no longer gather with others in the way organized religion insists gathering must be done. Well, to be fare I guess I need to say that it is also the message of love and acceptance they object to. I truly think organized religion would have a harder time defending with scripture what they do then many of the people I have come to know that could no longer defend organized religion as being an expression of the New Covenant.

Why does it seem that organized religion (and in this case the expression of Christianity that has at her center a message of love and acceptance) produces such strident, mean spirited, divisive people that often seem to perpetuate fear, shame, guilt, and an atmosphere of manipulation and control that drives people farther into hiding within their illusions, when walking in the light is a central part of the message of Jesus?

Why is it that when one begins to see that many of the ideologies of Conservative politics fly in the face of Jesus' message are they then accused of defecting to the dark side, liberal politics? (Which I did not do) And I am sure believers in liberal circles face the same criticism when they begin to see they can no longer defend liberal ideologies and liberal politics.

One of the things that has happened in my life as I began to allow myself to question the things I had been told by organized religion was I began to see that many things actually began to be understood in ways that were the absolute opposite of what the ideologies of organized religion had left me with. What follows here is one of those things.

What still leaves me puzzled and actually dumbfounded is how the people who are being awakened to the love and acceptance that God the Father has for us are always accused of watering the gospel down to make it easier for folks to accept. When I see it as the exact opposite. Leaning to allow Father Son and Spirit to love us as they do and in turn learning to love them and everyone we are surrounded by is the most difficult transition for us humans to make. And in all actuality it's much more difficult then what seems to have become the central message of organized religion. Telling everyone who won't conform or at least convey to everyone through their message that they are going to burn in hell if they don't come and join their religion. Jesus' message of love mentioned about is a far more difficult move (actually an impossible move apart from Jesus' being allowed to live through us and transform us) for people to make then is the move to organized religion, simply out of fear, to save one's hind end from suffering such a fate as eternity in hell. One move keeps the ego in place and Self the center of it all....when the other actually dismantles all of that.

Organized religion and all her doctrines and systematic theologies and ideologies and methodologies really does look like the exact opposite of Jesus and his revolution of love and reconciliation that is the only hope for the world.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

WHEN MERE BELIEFS ARE MISTAKEN FOR FAITH

"Belief provides answers to people's questions while faith never does. People believe so as to find assurance, a solution, an answer to their questions to fashion for themselves a system of beliefs. Faith (biblical faith) is completely different. The purpose of revelation is not to supply us with explanations, but to get us to listen to questions.

Faith is, as Barth so often reminds us, in the first instance, hearing. Belief talks and talks, it wallows in words, it interpolates the gods, it takes the initiative. Faith takes an entirely opposite stance: it waits, remains on guard, picks up signs, knows what to make of the most delicate parables; it listens patiently to the silence until that silence is filled up with what it takes to be the indisputable word of God." Jacques Ellul

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

ANOTHER LITTLE TREASURE

These little Toad Lillies are some of the many little gems in the plant world that I would list among my favorites.










DEAD END ROADS AND FAILED SCRIPTS


Earlier this morning I was thinking about an Internet conversation I was in elsewhere and it got me to thinking about something else that I would place under the banner of "Failed Script." The religious understanding of Repentance.

How many times around the mountain are people going to make living under that one? I don't think I need to to list or give expression to all the self-flagellation that goes on in people that have been shaped by the religious understanding of repentance that rarely if ever produces freedom in the ones doing the "repentance" dirge.

Repentance is a response I make to the realization that the road I am on or the script I am living by is a destructive one....destructive to myself and to those around me and to the life of the Spirit inside me. I've come to see that self-flagellation in response to such realizations is just a waste of precious time. All I want to do is say "Okay Jesus I'm seeing what you are showing me so please help me get off this road and free me from this failed script and show how to go the way that leads to life." And as that happens I begin to look around me and I begin to take responsibility for the former ways I had lived and the crap I dumped on others. Repentance is just a move to the other road Jesus is on, and the other script that God the Father has authored and invited me to join them in. It begins a new process of healing for myself and for others and can restore hope to those still stuck on dead end roads and stuck in failed scripts and helps them see and understand what real repentance is and what it can do in changing their lives and the lives of others.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

ALL THINGS ARE NOT PROFITABLE


While sitting at Starbucks this morning enjoying the beautiful morning and a Latte, my mind was full of thoughts of freedom. What is freedom? We humans seems constantly stuck in an exercise of making real things seem to be something they are not. Freedom seems to be such an important thing to understand and might very well be the thing humans have so distorted the most, to the point that it actually gets expressed in ways that are it's exact opposite.

In the thoughts I posted yesterday from Walter Brueggemann, he exposes some of the problems that work against the freedom that is only found in Father Son and Spirit and yet most people see those things as an expression of freedom and a defense of freedom. Most people would interpret independence as freedom when it is human independence that has conjured up all the things Brueggemann exposes as being a failed script. We humans tend to think God is complicated when it is actually we who have complicated what He created to be simple, beautiful, and I get the sense, a place of rest. The human script produces many things but rest isn't one of them.

So what is freedom? What does it mean for us to enter God's rest? I've come to believe that understanding that "All things are lawful but all things are not profitable" plays a big part in this transition out of the failed script and into a life of freedom and rest. And when I came to that realization one of the most important questions that I have lived with now for awhile pondering and working through, formed in my mind. What is profitable? In my experience,the more I come to see and understand that, the more the old script loses it's ability to distract me. And the more that happens, there remains less of a chance that the life hidden with Christ in God and all the fruit of that life lived in the Spirit getting choked out of me.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

THE SCRIPT HAS NEVER REALLY WORKED ANYWAY...NOT REALLY

It's almost impossible these days at work to keep the conversations from gravitating to the fear most people are experiencing due to the woes of the economy and war and a political process that doesn't look much different than kids throwing sand at each other in the sandbox. Most people, at least in my experience, even though they are freaking out about what is happening still hang on to the script praising it and cursing it all at the same time. How strange is that? Scripts that have shaped us have that kind of effect on us.

I love these conversations these days and how people are responding today compared to how the same people responded 2 1/2 years ago when it became clear to me that the script I had always lived by wasn't working and really never had. 2 1/2 years ago many people looked at me as if something had snapped in my brain and I had lost my mind. Today I'm finding people are interested in the conversation like never before.

A couple conversation at work this morning reminded me of something I read about 2 1/2 years ago that was a part of me losing my mind. hehe. It felt like my mind during that season was being ran through a meat grinder....turns out (at least as far as I can tell) it was the Potter's wheel.


"I HAVE BEEN thinking about the ways in which the Bible is a critical alternative to the enmeshments in which we find ourselves in the church and in society. I have not, of course, escaped these enmeshments myself, but in any case I offer a series of 19 theses about the Bible in the church.

1. Everybody has a script. People live their lives by a script that is sometimes explicit but often implicit. That script may be one of the great meta-narratives created by Karl Marx or Adam Smith or it may be an unrecognized tribal mantra like, "My dad always said ..." The practice of the script evokes a self, yields a sense of purpose and provides security. When one engages in psychotherapy, the therapy often has to do with reexamining the script--or completely scuttling the script in favor of a new one, a process that we call conversion.

As the self is organized by a script, so are communities. And leaders of a community are skilled in appealing to that script.

2. We are scripted by a process of nurture, formation and socialization that might go under the rubric of liturgy. Some of the liturgy is intentional work, much of it is incidental; but all of it, especially for the young and especially for the family, involves modeling the way the world "really is." The script is inhaled along with every utterance and every gesture, because the script-bestowing community is engaged in the social construction of a distinct reality. A case in point is the observation of Mark Douglas that regular table prayers of thanksgiving are a primal way in which to challenge the market view of the supply and movement of valuable goods (see his book Confessing Christ in the 21st Century).

3. The dominant script of both selves and communities in our society, for both liberals and conservatives, is the script of therapeutic, technological, consumerist militarism that permeates every dimension of our common life.

* I use the term therapeutic to refer to the assumption that there is a product or a treatment or a process to counteract every ache and pain and discomfort and trouble, so that life may be lived without inconvenience.

* I use the term technological, following Jacques Ellul, to refer to the assumption that everything can be fixed and made right through human ingenuity; there is no issue so complex or so remote that it cannot be solved.

* I say consumerist, because we live in a culture that believes that the whole world and all its resources are available to us without regard to the neighbor, that assumes more is better and that "if you want it, you need it." Thus there is now an advertisement that says: "It is not something you don't need; it is just that you haven't thought of it."

* The militarism that pervades our society exists to protect and maintain the system and to deliver and guarantee all that is needed for therapeutic technological consumerism. This militarism occupies much of the church, much of the national budget and much of the research program of universities.It is difficult to imagine life in our society outside the reach of this script; it is everywhere reiterated and legitimated.

4. This script--enacted through advertising, propaganda and ideology, especially in the several liturgies of television--promises to make us safe and happy. Therapeutic, technological, consumerist militarism pervades our public life and promises us security and immunity from every threat. And if we shall be safe, then we shall be happy, for who could watch the ads for cars and beers and deodorants and give thought to such matters as the trade deficit or homelessness or the residue of anger and insanity left by the war or by destruction of the environment? This script, with its illusion of safety and happiness, invites life in a bubble that is absent of critical reflection.

5. That script has failed. I know this is not the conclusion that all would draw. It is, however, a lesson that is learned by the nations over and over again. It is clear to all but the right-wing radio talk people and the sponsoring neoconservatives that the reach of the American military in global ambition has served only to destabilize and to produce new and deep threats to our society. The charade of a national security state has left us completely vulnerable to the whim of the very enemies that our security posture has itself evoked. A by-product of such attempts at security, moreover, has served in astonishing ways to evoke acrimony in the body politic that makes our democratic decisionmaking processes nearly unworkable.

We are not safe, and we are not happy. The script is guaranteed to produce new depths of insecurity and new waves of unhappiness. And in response to new depths of insecurity and new waves of unhappiness, a greater resolve arises to close the deal according to the script, which produces ever new waves and new depths.

6. Health depends, for society and for its members, on disengaging from and relinquishing the failed script. This is a truth that is exceedingly difficult to utter, and even more difficult to imagine acting upon across the sociopolitical spectrum. And besides that, we are ambivalent about disengaging and relinquishing, because we are indeed well-off, comfortable, and by any standards better off than most of the world can imagine." Walter Brueggemann

Friday, September 19, 2008

SYSTEMS ON "LIFE" SUPPORT


Watching the frantic measures taken by the political, economic, and religious systems to stay afloat these days seem at least to me to indicate a big problem. And who pays the price? People do. And as long as the systems and the survival of the systems remain the "end all" people will continue to pay a heavy price.

God's creations (People and the natural world) will continue to be devalued as long as money, power, systems, and all the "promises" offered by the systems remain more important to people then their neighbors are. Create the best systems the "brightest" minds can conjure up and the outcome will still be the same because systems can't set enslaved hearts and minds free. I hate what these distraction do to us. Remember the revolution I mentioned a few days ago? You can read it again here it's at the end of the post.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

THE VACATION CONTINUES






It has felt like I have been on vacation since early spring because we have been having vacation resort type weather right here in the Midwest. Stunning.
Okay, maybe it's not my garden but it is my brother's and he lives right across the street from us and since he allowed me to design his garden, it actually is just an extension of mine, having been planted with more of the plants that just excite me and leave me in awe.
I know that might make it sound like it's all about me :) but he agreed to what I was planting...it just turns out that we have the same likes when it comes to gardens and the beauty of the natural world that surrounds us. Walking through our properties is like a walk through wild places.
So these beauties are Japanese Anemone.
Here's another Shack connection. (Sorry for those who are tired of it) In the early rewrite sessions with Wayne Jacobsen, Wayne told Paul that he was surprised that the garden in the chapter A Long Time Ago In A Garden Far Far Away was an orderly English Garden and he pictured it more as a wild garden. In a conversation with Wayne shortly after that he told me that Paul had changed the garden to be a wild place and it made him think of my garden and that he knew I was going to love it. That chapter to this day is still one of my favorite chapters for many reasons...the garden only being one of them.
If you haven't done it yet, get outside and take a walk through some gardens....it's good for the heart, mind and soul.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

BECAUSE IT WAS ON MY MIND TODAY


The excerpt below has been on my mind for many reasons the past few days. One being because I have listened to stories of people being burdened by sin and their struggle against it, always seeming to fail. But yet I have also heard from some others who are finding freedom from things that in the past had kept them from finding and living with joy and peace of mind. One group is made up of people caught up in religion and all the judgement and performance (ours and others) they find there. The other group is made up of people that are beginning to question what religion has taught them about judgement and performance (ours and others)and in the questioning finding a safe home that has always been there within a reconciled relationship with Father Son and Spirit. The beautiful thing I am noticing is that the second group I mentioned seems to be learning to live in this world in a much different way. For those who are coming to understand and live in the "grip of grace" they can't help but extend that same grace to others that has been shown to them

I'm not fond of what religion and politics do to us.

This is from Greg Boyd's book Myth of a Christian Nation.

"When people assume the position of moral guardians of the culture, they invite---they earn!---the charge of hypocrisy. For all judgement, save the judgement of the omniscient and holy God, involves hypocrisy. Whenever we "eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil"---this is, whenever we find some element of worth, significance, and purpose in contrasting ourselves as "good" with the others we deem "evil"--we do so in a self-serving and selective manner. We always bend the tree, as it were, to our own advantage and, as a result, we do the exact opposite of what Jesus taught us to do. Instead of seeing our own sins as worse than others, we invariably set up a list of sins in which our sins are deemed minor while the other people's sins are deemed major. We may have dust particles in our eyes, we reason, but at least we don't have tree trunks like "those people." Unlike the tax collector who made no moral claims for himself, we thank the Lord we are not like other people just as the Pharisee did (Luke 18:9-14)."

Monday, September 15, 2008

NOT ABLE TO SEE THE FOREST FOR THE TREES


The ability of religion to distract people with details and convince the masses that it is these details that are of importance just saddens me. The only foundation that has been laid (Jesus) gets lost in the chaos of the adventure in missing the point...well, at least it's lost to those that get caught up in it. This isn't rocket science, it's actually a message that was hidden from the "wise" and revealed to the simple. While the "wise" fight over "sound doctrine" and "sound theology" while shut up in their empires they have built, there has been a constant, unbroken, never distracted revolution going on that stretches all the way back to the moment Jesus began his ministry. I lived too much of my life as one of the distracted.

My simple prayer today is this: Jesus, keep me awake and from distractions, and continue to awaken me/reveal to me more and more so I don't ever miss what it is you are doing.

While reading some today on The Shack forum I noticed a familiar pattern that just struck me as being very odd. Several times I heard people say that it was good fiction but people need to remember that it's not good theology. Which leads me to this observation....If what organized religion has is good theology, I think I will pass and live the rest of my life in good fiction. This is how The Shack ends and from what I am learning these days in this less distracted life I am now living....what more is there that is closer to Jesus than this and what Father has set us free to be in the world. I'm not interested in the theology of self interest and power and empire building and anger directed at all the people that don't fall in line with such theology. This might be fiction but this is what it is about.

"If you ever get a chance to hang out with Mack, you will soon learn that he's hoping for a new revolution, one of love and kindness---a revolution that revolves around Jesus and what he did for us all and what he continues to do in anyone who has a hunger for reconciliation and a place to call home. This is not a revolution that will overthrow anything, or if it does, it will do it in ways we could never contrive in advance. Instead it will be the quiet daily powers of dying and serving and loving and laughing, of simple tenderness and unseen kindness, because if anything matters, everything matters. And one day, when all is revealed, every one of us will bow our knee and confess in the power of Sarayu that Jesus is the Lord of all creation, to the glory of Papa."

Sunday, September 14, 2008

DOES GOD'S CHARACTER EVER CHANGE?

What if much of the OT account after the fall is the account of the mess created by people who really can't see who God/Creator really is but attribute most of what they are doing to God? Jesus comes on the scene and says that no one has seen the Father but him. No one before him had the ability to know the true character of the Creator. History seems to bare some truth to what I am asking about here. The world is still full of people that use God as a scapegoat to justify their wars and hatreds. Jesus says things to them when addressing some of this in the sermon on the mount that make me wonder. He says this: "You have heard that the ancients were told...but I say to you...." or "You have heard that it was said...but I say to you...."

Scripture says that God never changes, which leads people to say the anger and violence in the OT has to still be a part of his character. I think to make this argument about God never changing, we need to go back farther than religion has taught us to go. Let's go all the way back to the garden before the fall. Who was the Creator then...what was he like? Were they afraid of him? Should they have been? Who and what did the fall change? Humans and what they believed to be true? Or the Creator and his charcter?

I think the fall changed us and the Creator remained the same and Jesus came to help us see him for who he is.

ANOTHER SHACK RELATED POST


Here is something else interesting to think about. Why do we believe what we believe? Most often people never wander outside of the walls of the house they have grown up in. Taking a critical look at what one believes is rarely ever encouraged because of the fear of those beliefs falling apart. I venture to guess that the masses don't even know what they believe and a lot of times have taken on beliefs that aren't even grounded (in this case) even in the religions they adhere to.

And more often than not when one settles into one of the many camps/tribes/sects (religious or social or political or racial or gender) they are then told all kinds of things (mostly fearful things) about all the other camps and many of those things aren't even close to being based in reality. And all of this leads to people living in illusions and fear of people who are different. In The Shack this is one of the ongoing conversation.....Papa Jesus Sarayu and Sophia were helping Mack see the paralyzing effects that fear had on him so that his many false notions/illusions could be dissed. The dissing of these illusions blows the doors wide open and exposes fear for what it is....more shadow than reality. Fear will always keep us from being able to love our neighbor as our self....well it also keeps us from the first part of those words of Jesus also.

I love how The Shack so gently goes after this so as to help set in motion in our lives the freedom many people are longing for in hopes of seeing these destructive illusions/lies exposed.

To begin to see things for what they are is the beginning of being able to walk out of the prisons that more than likely have been created from a place of fear...prisons so often we live unaware of.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS

It's so interesting standing on the sidelines of this present political season as an observer. Talk about a lot of future tripping driven by fear and also hope for something better. I can certainly appreciate the hope-for-something-better focus but the manipulation of people's fear just saddens me. One glaring reason being this....it's makes people goofy and locks people into a space where they can neither hear nor see and leads them to be so strident about what they think they are hearing and seeing.

What does the future hold for us all? I don't have a flipping clue but I trust that a loving gracious redeeming God who has set in motion a plan of redemption, sees it perfectly and he has never been surprised by anything and he has promised to go with us along the way teaching us his ways....the very things that are the power to set things right that aren't right. Staying with him in the moment placing my hope and trust in him seems to be one of those things that needs to be set right and the entire political conversation is the exact opposite of that.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

HOW ARE YOU FEELING THIS MORNING?

While sitting here this morning, moved along from moment to moment by a number of different things, a constant theme seems to be very present on my mind. AMBIGUITY. Yesterday was a day that it remained front and center due to the conversations that filled my day. Interaction with other people seem to always remind me of this reality. The post about ideologies certainly plays into this. When we are able to begin to recognize all the ambiguity that seems to be worked into our very existence (as human beings and in the natural world) it has a way of humbling us.

Due to some of the conversations yesterday, I reread a blog post that deals with this very thing of ambiguity, and while reading it something jumped out at me that I don't remember from my first couple readings of this friends post. I love thinking of the perfect timing of the Spirit and I think it applies here. My post yesterday was just an expression of something that is happening in my life when it comes to living loved and in turn learning to love others. Here is what I was referring to from yesterday:

“Not everything is ambiguous or a mystery. There is much that is clear and evident. I even wrote it down for you. Very clear, very unambiguous. It is all over the scriptures. Start with I Corinthians 13…clear as the nose on your face. The question is why have you turned the clarity of love into something ambiguous?” (my emphasis)

This morning I was reminded of another brother and something he wrote about ambiguity and here it is:

"When I was young, I couldn't tolerate such ambiguity. My education had trained me to have a lust for answers and explanations. Now, at age 63, it's all quite different. I no longer believe this is a quid pro quo universe -- I've counseled too many prisoners, worked with too many failed marriages, faced my own dilemmas too many times and been loved gratuitously after too many failures.

Whenever I think there's a perfect pattern, further reading and study reveal an exception. Whenever I want to say "only" or "always," someone or something proves me wrong."

Let's just say that coming to terms with these things has allowed me to take a deep breath and exhale...and another deep breath and exhale....and learn to rest in the midst of it all.

For those interested as to where these quotes were taken from...the first one came from this:

The Beauty of Ambiguity (mystery)

The second one came from this:

Utterly Humbled By Mystery

Monday, September 08, 2008

THE CURE FOR DESTRUCTIVE/INTOLERANT IDEOLOGIES

In religious circles (actually most of the world's religions) their religious texts include some sort of spin on this message which is the central message of Jesus. Jesus says that on these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets. " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' "

In Luke 10:30-37 Jesus follows this up with the parable of the Good Samaritan when he is asked "Who is our neighbor?"

I'm coming to see how the ideologies humanity has been shaped by might allow some people to pay lips service to this statement of Jesus but rarely allow for it to become a reality in our lives.

How do we work through this central all encompassing expression of love for all people (tribes and nations) that Jesus emphasised, when it seems all the ideologies of the world (religious, political, economic, and social) most definitely seem to be opposed to it?

It seems to even be a dangerous question to ask and ponder in many circle because the person who asks such a question ends up being accused of many things that become hard to stand against.

Fear once again seems to be at the center of it all.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

THE PROCESS OF FREEING US

Just thinking out loud a bit.....

Is this mostly about the problems created by sin or is this mostly about the problems created by independence?

I spent most of my life in Christian circles hearing that it was about sin and the devil and I don't remember really ever spending much time at all hearing or thinking about the problems created by independence/autonomy.

If the cross was an act of God the Father through the Son and the Spirit to take care of the dilemma we were trapped in/state of death created by sin....and they together declared that it was finished it just leaves me believing that our problem is something other than sin.

The parable of the prodigal son seems to reveal something very similar. If sin was the problem why does the father willingly let the boy go knowing what he was going to do? What I am coming to see is this all was about broken relationship due to a loss of trust in what the Creator/Father has spoken and instead choosing to believe we could do it better going our own way. Sin is a product of this break, this state of independence and it encompasses every choice we make from this place of autonomy. Religion is the worst of all the expressions of independence because those trapped in it have been convinced they are free and yet religion leaves the problem of independence untouched. It actually strengthens it. All through the New Testament this is exposed as being the case. According to what Jesus said it turns out the older brother/who represents the religious crowd was in a worse place than the younger one that went off in his independence "sinning" it up.

Sin was dealt with and that problem was solved....the process of this life is about freeing us from the life of independence and restoring the relationship that was broken by us choosing to go our own way, be it the religious route or the non-religious route. Everybody is in the same boat.

Now to the hyper focus/blame shifting on Satan. When Jesus said to Peter "Get behind me Satan." What was Jesus saying? What had Peter said or done that was so bad? Was Jesus talking to Satan or was he getting at something else? "You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's." Wasn't this simply a rebuke of Peter's independence? He had no idea what was going on within the circle of Father Son and Spirit because he was still thinking of his own interests.

It's really stunning that as men and women begin to trust the words spoken by God the Father (faith comes by hearing, hearing the word of God) and they begin to put aside their independence (simply by going home like the prodigal)they begin to experience a new life...the one hidden with Christ in God....sin just loses it's grip/appeal when we find ourselves secure within the grip of grace. This is the process of setting us free that this life is about. The crazy focus-on-sin game/religion---self-effort, is a part of the condition of independence and that is where all the problems originated. Religion is a distraction from the basic problem of independence. Maybe this is why Jesus' anger was always directed at the religious system and those running it?

Friday, September 05, 2008

CHOOSING NOT TO USE POWER

Today I had a 45 minute phone conversation with someone I had never met. He wanted to talk with me about some of the ways The Shack along with how Paul Young, Wayne Jacobsen, and Brad Cummings had effected my life. It was a wonderful conversation. Thinking back on it this evening I have come to the conclusion that most of what I said to him revolved around this change in how I live: Choosing not to use power.

Our conversation covered a lot of ground in an attempt to describe the changes in my world view. We started with how it has changed me as a father and how none of my relationships have gone untouched. We also talked about the dangerous use of power by religion, and economics, and politics and how patriotism blended with religious ideology creates many problems for us all. Being in a political season it seems the heating up of the "culture wars" is going to be unavoidable. And we discussed how fear more often than not is what leads people to the use of power in an attempt to control what they fear. He seemed to be very fascinated with all of the interest (positive and negative) this book has generated. Especially being someone that hasn't grown up in any religious setting. In the past few days he has begun the work of putting together a story for the Portland Monthly and had already talked to Paul, Wayne, and Brad earlier this week and had really enjoyed his conversations with them. He found Paul to be a very interesting man with a very interesting perspective. Hopefully it will be a helpful story he puts together for the magazine. When I get word that the story has been published I will link to it here.

And speaking of choosing not to use power, here is some more from the same article I pulled the quotes by Jacques Ellul from that I used in yesterday's post. The entire article is linked at the bottom.

"What constantly marked the life of Jesus was not nonviolence but in every situation the choice not to use power. This is infinitely different. Not using power is not weakness. Weakness means inability to do what I would like to do or ought to do. Not using power is a choice. I can, but I will not. It is renunciation. This general and specific decision not to use power does not rule out occasional acts of violence. But this violence is an expression of brutal conflict, whereas the non use of power is a permanent orientation in every choice and circumstance. Power is there, but one refuses to use it. This is the example set by Jesus. The consideration that the omnipotent God, in coming among us, decides not to use power, is one of the most revolutionary imaginable. We do not yet see it at the moment of Jesus' birth, for then the child that God has chosen to be the Messiah is weak. At this moment God strips himself of power and presents himself to us as a little child delivered up to us. . . . The non use of power as a way of life may be seen in his messianic career from its beginning to its end. It may be seen when he asks John the Baptist to baptize him, renouncing the possibility of a baptism of fire. It may be seen when he is three times tempted to manifest his divine power and three times refuses. . . . The temptation is ongoing."

This happens to be one of the many challenging messages explored in The Shack. Not only are we called to love and serve and to choose not to resort to violence...it seems to me the gospel reveals to us that Father Son and Spirit go along with us/before us in the same manner.

Selection from What I Believe.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

WHAT A FLIPPIN MESS...AND PEOPLE ACTUALLY LIKE IT

Politics standing on it's own is bad enough. Religion standing on it's own ranks right up there with politics. Join the power and dirty business of politics to the control and manipulation of religion and things get really ugly.

When I began this post, that above was all I had in mind, but I than had an idea to google Jacques Ellul politics and religion and I came up with this. I love this brother.

"Another important factor in this whole process is what the gods have made of people. In the name of religion people have waged cruel wars. Convinced of the truth of their religion, they have tried to impose it on others and overcome their errors. Religion has always caused division, hatred, and misunderstanding. People of one religion cannot stand those of another religion. This intolerance is not all in the past. In the name of the communist religion millions of people are reduced to slavery and wars are waged (Afghanistan, Vietnam, and Ethiopia). In the name of the Muslim religion other wars are shedding blood across the world (Iraq and Iran, Lebanon, the Sudan) . . . Who can deny all this when the Christian religion, the religion of love, has been as bad as the rest with its own wars and conquests, its own suppression of heresy by force, its own intolerance and lack of understanding? There can be no denying all this. And finally there is the terrible impact that Christianity has had on the Western psyche. Westerners have lived under terror of judgment by a terrifying God. They have been made guilty by an idea of sin. They have wandered through a world filled with prohibitions. They have run up against sexual taboos. All this has brought disasters in its train, for they have sought overcompensation in a drive to dominate, to conquer, and to expand."

"But this permanent orientation of Jesus, this express choice not to use power, places us Christians in a very delicate situation. For we ought to make the same choice, but we are set in a society whose only orientation and objective criterion of truth is power. Science is no longer a search for truth but a search for power. Technology is wholly and utterly an insturment of power; there is nothing in technology other than power. Politics is not concerned about well-being or justice or humanity but simply aims at achieving or preserving power. Economics, being dedicated to a frenzied search for national wealth, is also very definately consecrated to power. Our society is the very spirit of power. The main difference from previous societies is that they also undoubtedly sought power but did not have the means to achieve it. Our society now has the means to achieve unlimited power. Thus we Christians today are placed in the most difficult of all situations. We have to repudiate both the spirit of the age and the means that it employs. If we do not, if we yield even a fraction to these forces, we will betray Jesus Christ just as surely as if we committed some individual and limited sin. For this is a choice for life (nonviolence being part of it), and no other is possible. Pretending that we can express the Christian faith in works of love (aid to the poor and sorrowing, etc.), or in revolutionary acts to achieve justice, is treason if we engage thereby in the use of power. For the last word of love is that never in any circumstance will it express or indicate power in relation to others. Today only a nonuse of power has a chance of saving the world."

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

LIVING WITH LESS BUT LIVING MORE


Probably the best way of explaining the title of this post would simply be... learning to live with fewer expectations. It's been a very successful transition as far as the things that I have always longed for deep down inside but had always alluded me. It's also been such a wonderful lesson to me to stick with wrestling with things/new ideas that I might be having difficulty wrapping my brain around. Having pushed through the season of wrestling with Expectations vs Expectancy and Responsibility vs The Ability to Respond has produced one of the most freeing changes in my life and in the way our family functions. The uncertainty this life presents has become possible to respond to instead of living in reaction to it and scrambling in a fit all the time.

Here's a snapshot into the craziness the Burgess family has had to deal with in the past few weeks.

As I mentioned on my blog a few weeks ago, my youngest (8th grade) was stressing about entering Public School for the first time. My oldest was a bit tense about entering college. My 14 year old was just going along rather smoothly and was going to be doing part of her schooling at home and part of it at a Christian School.

All within the past three weeks this has happened. The youngest who was the most apprehensive about her new gig is having more fun than ever with school. The oldest had a humiliating first day in college (too much to go into...but I will say it involved a male dance instructor who's personal body image problems bled over onto the students) so she came home saying she would not dance for him and wanted to withdraw. Our middle one that had been just cruising along can't stomach the christian school and as of yesterday began asking if she could do all of her schooling at home.

None of this has freaked me out or produced any stress. And I have been so grateful for the ability to respond in love and gentleness to my daughters and the situations as they have been unfolding. This is life, and it's not unhealthy, it just is what it is, and we have more options than our cultural shaping has ever allowed us to believe or that we could ever see while in a panic. What's unhealthy is forcing people to fit into preset molds where they don't fit and that is what I would have been left doing three years ago. I would have been pissed off and freaking out and scrambling in my head and with my mouth running over everyone in the process.

My youngest is as happy as a lark. My oldest withdrew from Webster and contacted the Dance Department at another University to see about entering their program second semester and the director (who knows her and her ability) was insistent that she join them immediately because he had a spot for her in the fall program. My middle one more than likely next week will be home as a full time home schooler once again. She is my most artistically wired child and I personally and painfully understand her difficulty of not fitting into any of the predetermined holes. We all are learning to respond to life as it comes....yep you could say it is a wild approach but whoever said God created us to submit to the ways of the world?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

FREEDOM FROM BEING "BIBLICAL"

Now now, don't get worried. I'm not throwing my bible away. But day by day the confining nature that religion has created by making it about something other than what it is about is falling away. When "biblical" has become a cover for law/principles/rules and their enforcement, that actually becomes "non-biblical" in the New Covenant sense and that seems to be where much of christianity finds itself these days.

Sue, Zion, Amy, and Zinger, and Over The Rhine got me to thinking this morning on my drive to work. I love how all of this works together. Part of it is due to the reality that I'm seeing better because I find myself less distracted than I have ever been in my life. Sue mentioned OTR's cd Ohio on her blog and that led me to put the cd in on my drive to the salon this morning, and when the song Jesus In New Orleans came on these thoughts began to swirl around in my head.

The Bible is a story, not a rule book. It's about people like you and I going along in life being dragged by a world that is adrift with no compass and false hope if they can find any hope at all. That is, unless the Spirit breaks through and opens eyes so the dead end road is exposed for being what it is. The scriptures are a picture of some people coming to understand that God (Father Son and Spirit) have entered our space to give us hope that the world can never give. And it's not just about finding an escape pod to leave this world and fly off to something in the sky when we die and to finally not have to deal anymore with the poor suckers who don't get it. We're all suckers in one way or another having bought into the lies that then create the many illusions we often are living in. Some of the illusions being "biblical" ones.

I see in scripture today, people I can so relate to. And I am seeing the on going work of reconciliation of Father Son and Spirit that has a way of getting past all the "less-than-bright" things we all do from time to time. I'm trying to be generous there with the reference of time to time. hehe. "Biblical" is just a word I don't use anymore and I am not moved by it anymore when I hear others using it because it is a catch phrase for "We/I have the corner on truth". Which leads me into the OTR song that I will end this with. Being "biblical" seems to keep causing folks to kill those that we need the most...or at least marginalize them. It seems to me I remember it being those the religious systems had marginalized that Jesus hung out with. Go figure.



I don't know about you but this sounds like a story very similar to the type of stories contained in scripture.

Jesus In New Orleans

The last time I saw Jesus
I was drinking bloody mary’s in the South
In a barroom in New Orleans
Rinsin’ out the bad taste in my mouth

She wore a dark and faded blazer
With a little of the lining hanging out
When the jukebox played Miss Dorothy Moore
I knew that it was him without a doubt

I said the road is my redeemer
I never know just what on earth I’ll find
In the faces of a stranger
In the dark and weary corners of a mind

She said, The last highway is only
As far away as you are from yourself
And no matter just how bad it gets
It does no good to blame somebody else

Ain’t it crazy
What’s revealed when you’re not looking all that close
Ain’t it crazy
How we put to death the ones we need the most

I know I’m not a martyr
I’ve never died for anyone but me
The last frontier is only
The stranger in the mirror that I see

But when I least expect it
Here and there I see my savior’s face
He’s still my favorite loser
Falling for the entire human race

DISTRACTIONS

There is too much wonder and beauty to miss in life and unfortunately I get the sense that most people miss it? People are so uptight. We are surrounded by two created worlds. The one we humans have created is where all the distraction find full expression and from what we are told the other one groans under the weight of the mess...and yet it is still breath-taking. Oh, I can't wait to see it fully liberated.

I got to thinking about this as I headed out the door this morning to walk the dogs. By time I got home to get this picture of the morning sky much of the color and contrast had faded. So often these things that have the ability to create such moments of awe come and go so quickly and if we are so caught up in the cares of this world and the striving that comes with it we just miss it. Life becomes dull and overwhelming.

I know many people are suffering under the weight of very serious life situations and I'm not trying to brush that off. That actually is another working part of my thoughts this morning. Along with the stunning natural world and it's beauty our fellow human beings are another part of the wonder and beauty I was thinking about and how too often we miss that also. The preoccupation with the cares of the world make it almost inevitable that we aren't going to be available for each other for a myriad of reason. One of which just leaves me angry.

I heard this morning that another big name religious leader has put a disparaging review about The Shack on his website that would serve as discouragement to people who might be considering reading it. You know that little book that has sold over three million copies and has produced more conversation in my life the past two years about our awesome Creator/Father and more wonderful testimonies from people that are returning/renewing/or for the first time beginning a relationship with him and experiencing healing of their hearts, minds and souls not to mention their relationships. His argument is that it is not biblical. I am so sick of hearing those words come from people in the religious establishment that can't even come to an agreement as to what is biblical about the bible. I think the distractions in the religious world are worse than anywhere else.....because they can't imagine that they might be distracted and in their distraction are distracting other from the pure and simple devotion to Christ.

Monday, September 01, 2008

BOTH RIGHT AND WRONG ALL AT THE SAME TIME

This seems to be such a glaring reality for us humans and one of the most difficult things for us to accept....so we divide, attempt to control, manipulate, dominate, and end up violating everyone and are left resorting to all kinds of violence. It's that old worn out adventure of missing the point while acting like we have it figured out...."If just everyone would listen to me!!!!" is the operating paradigm and yet that also is a blind spot and it can't even be seen for what it is.

Upon two commandments the law is fulfilled and the focus changes from who's right and who's wrong to Some One else and something else. And I get the sneaking suspicion that for those who's eye are opened to this unbelievable good news, Truth changes the conversation which then would lead people to begin to lay down their weapons of which the fallen human race has fashioned many, and I'm not just talking about cold steel.

There are many strongholds that stand in the way, and there is one I believe to be the most problematic and that is the mistaken notion that God, the one who created us, is a bean counter and a legalist and is hell bent on making people pay, which leaves an indelible mark on our hearts and minds that he is not relational at all or if he is we are left wondering if we want a relationship with someone like that.

It just seems to me that the gridlock and polarization created by the right and wrong paradigm, flies in the face of what Jesus tells us, which to me seems to be a direct response to the mistaken notion that God is a legalist or if he was at one time (even if that just existed in the fallen mind) it has been fulfilled and we find ourselves in a drastically new situation. Loving God and neighbor is about grace and relationship and it only becomes a reality to us as we come to see that He first loved and accepted us, which also is about relationship. Come on.....this is really good news. Let us shake free of the legal religious construct that has kept us locked up in that scary room of confusion not being able to see Father for who he really is. This is so far beyond our wildest most wonderful dreams.