Tuesday, September 29, 2009

STEPPING OUT OF THE MADNESS


"Muir was tender and devoted to his wife and daughters. But his health deteriorated from the ceaseless dawn to dusk farm work and from his isolation from the mountains forests and glaciers that had always seemed to replenish him. He lost weight, he had become nerve shaken and lean as a crow he wrote his brother. Loaded with care, work, and worry."

This so resonated with me last night as I watched Ken Burns new film The National Parks. In all honesty, most of the first night's 2 hour installment resonated with something so alive to me. It brought to mind a passage of scripture that has been at the center of the process the Spirit has been walking me through...setting me free of the things that work against freedom. Things that had been distractions to me and had left me frustrated, exhausted, and pissed off and soul diminished and pacing the cage.

Mark 4:19 The seed cast in the weeds represents the ones who hear the kingdom news but are overwhelmed with worries about all the things they have to do and all the things they want to get. The stress strangles what they heard, and nothing comes of it.

Turns out I had been living in the weeds. Weeds that were well over my head and it kept me from seeing the bigger picture. Responsibility in regards to what the world defines as necessary was a big one for me. I was so responsible it was making me sick in body and spirit. Yep, being Mr Responsible was one of my big problems. It had made me incredibly obnoxious and a pain to live with. It was a pain for me to live with me.

Nature, whether it be the wild examples as seen in the film I mentioned or whether it be my garden, is one of the things that restores my soul and mind and spirit. It just brings things into perspective. It is something I have always enjoyed but for years my enjoyment of these things had even been tempered by the weight of the world and the responsibilities it had successfully piled on me. The process of walking out of the mess continues and the enjoyment of what Father has given and invited all of us into has opened up in front of me. It's wonderfully restoring.

Monday, September 28, 2009

EXPECTATIONS AND FREEDOM

A few years ago felt like a new beginning for me. To say the rug that I had been standing on for 42 years got pulled out from under me seems to be a perfect description of what happened. It set in motion an experience that was both painful and healing all at once due to paradigms shifting. Paradigms that are worlds apart.

Expectations and freedom were very much at the center of the transformation that began to take place and still continues to this day. I had lived my entire life up to that season in the realm of expectation. I had also lived my entire life up to that season having no idea what freedom was nor had I ever experienced it.

Expectations seem to me to be something of this realm we find ourselves in and they seem to be sworn enemies of freedom. Expectations have to do with feeling a sense entitlement...being owed something. The freedom I speak of has to do with a life that resides inside me...a life that doesn't seem to play the entitled game at all. This life also seems to not be all that interested in "winning" according to how the world defines winning.

Expectations set us up to defend turf that we have claimed as ours and that to me seems to be an activity of this world of chaos we find ourselves in. The examples are all around us and we experience the decay and pain and what seems to be a deadendedness of that world everyday. I see nothing in Jesus (the life that is in me) that makes him look like a defender of turf...Except for LOVE that is, if we can call love turf. It might not be considered turf in this world, but in his it is.

Jesus is not a good gamble if it is success in this world we are after. His gig doesn't seem to position us well for the world's game of power and manipulation. A game that will leave us selling out our neighbors, our friends, even family, whether of blood or of spirit, when the cost of loving them becomes too high.

I have people tell me all the time in conversations, that what I have just described to them about living expectation free is not possible. They say if we don't place expectations on people and hold them accountable to those expectations people will just run all over us. Which always makes me think of Jesus saying "Turn the other cheek." Turning the other cheek isn't a good strategy to keep from getting hit again, but it speaks loudly of something I long for...the person who can do that is free....JESUS FREE.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

I LOVE THIS

It's been awhile since I have listened to this song. I love this Dan Fogelberg song from his bluegrass recording High Country Snow. I also love the images used for this video.

COME TO THE QUIET

All I will say is I snapped these photos this morning shortly after the heavy fog had been burned off by the new day's sun. These plants just do something to me.






AND YOUR BLESSING IS TO BE A BLESSING FOR ALL

God the Father's ways are so different.

I'm so tried of the battle that naturally flows from the human activities that are a result of independence...ie. thinking we are bright enough and just enough while blinded by fear shame and guilt to organize society in a way that is actually just.

As I have said before, I live with no illusions that there is a political solution, but what is more alive in me than ever is a longing for a people that are being set free from the distorting/malforming effects of fear shame and guilt so they themselves might at least stop promoting the very things that perpetuate the nightmare people are living in.

I love the heart of what Dr. King is getting at in these words he uttered many years ago...during a time that he and many that he loved were suffering under a system controlled by people whom I guess just thought it was okay to keep people in a place below them. Fear does that to people.

In a world being organized by people who are still being controlled by fear shame and guilt I want to stay awake to what is the status quo and stay as far away from it as possible so as to not find myself colluding with it...because you can rest assured that it's oppressing someone. Jesus seemed to not be so keen on such human activity. All the world systems are oppressive and are a beast. I've found it to be a very important realization to stay in touch with. I've also found it very important to come to grips with the reality that one's eschatology significately shapes how one live with others in the world and what one believes about Jesus and his Father drives it.

Is the world system having an effect on us or are we a part of something that is having an effect on the world system as Jesus did...refusing to use the world's methods? One big difference was that Jesus seemed to be completely people oriented regardless of who they were or where they came from.

Many will write Dr. King's words off as a pipe dream and based upon fallen human nature they might be right...but if I'm going to have to live in this fallen world I would rather live on this side than the one shaped by the "power-over" paradigm that always by nature is okay with leaving people out while also being okay with using them in the process. To me Dr. King's words just seems to be a part of the redemptive process/story that the Creator has set in motion. Think of me as misguided and naive if you must.

"I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person- oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness of justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life's roadside, but that will only be an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin at a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs reconstructing.

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the sea and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: "This is not Just." It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say:"This is not just." The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just."

Sunday, September 20, 2009

PROUD TO BE A TREE HUGGER



Metaphorically speaking, I am a happy tree hugger. I love nature (ya know, the thing God created) and I see it as having a deep profound purpose. It even sounds strange having to state something so obvious but unfortunately much of humanity seems to think that raping it is necessary for our survival. When in reality it's the opposite that is true.

The sky has opened up here today, so my metaphorical tree hugging will have to be done from inside. Enjoy all that the natural world provides you today and try to remain gracious even to the humans that don't seem to appreciate it like you do. I get the sense that it's graciousness that is missing from the present public debate which insures for at least now that all of God's creation will continue to be brutalized...people and nature.

WORSHIP


What a morning of worship it has been, walking around after the morning's rain. What can I say...such things leave me in awe.




Tuesday, September 15, 2009

THE POLITICAL DISTRACTION


Being one who doesn't watch much TV to speak of anymore, I must say that it's nice to be free of most of the political distractions. Even so, today I turned on one of the programs that is getting much attention these days. The whole program was basically dedicated to the corruption of the systems in this nation and the loss of decency in our culture. All I could think was...Does it take Sherlock Holmes to figure that one out? What is stunning to me is how corruption has been ignored and accepted by the population for so long with it in full view for our eyes to see. (I could have added something about that one in the last post IGNORING THE OBVIOUS)

People have spoken of corruption in the realm of government and the private sector for as long as I can remember...and yet people still praise and look to governement and the private sector for leadership. Seems to me that there is a complete void in leadership in both. What's more stunning than that reality is how long I allowed myself to be duped by it all, thinking the clubs I ran in had the answers and everyone else had it wrong. Turns out that the "To be a good citizen you must....." and the "To be a good Christian you must....."mantras are rather effective ones in keeping us in the space of ignoring the obvious and playing along.

The TV program sent me to a book that actually turned out to be very timely read for me when it dropped into my life a couple years ago. I had never even heard of Jacques Ellul before. This was written 21 years ago.


"The unions, the labor halls, decentralization, the federative system---all are gone. The perverse use that has been made of them has destroyed them. The matter is all the more urgent because all our political forms are exhausted and practically nonexistent. Our parliamentary and electoral system and political parties are just as futile as dictatorships are intolerable. Nothing is left. And this nothing is increasingly aggressive, totalitarian, and omnipresent. Our experience today is the strange one of empty political institutions in which no one has any confidence any more, of a system of government which functions only in the interests of a political class, and at the same time of the almost infinite growth of power, authority, and social control which makes any one of our democracies a more authoritarian mechanism than the Napoleonic state." from the book Anarchy and Christianity

Monday, September 14, 2009

IGNORING WHAT SEEMS TO BE THE OBVIOUS

"You'd think we were blind
the things we can see through
the things we look past
when embolden inside."

Those are lyrics from the song It's Alright by Ellery and I just think it's a profound mouth full that seems many just have a hard time facing.

In the present climate we find ourselves, in this nation, the lyrics are words we would be well served by if we would slow down and let them sink in. Something needs to get our attention...Right now, I don't have any idea how it is going to happen, but if it doesn't...we very well could find ourselves in as difficult a situation as we have ever found ourselves. Actually, I get the sense we are already there and because we have become so embolden in what we believe...we can't see the obvious.

If we have been lucky enough to be amongst the more fortunate ones that have done at least fairly well within the present systems, we often are the ones that ignore the deep problems of the system and at the same time defend it and even praise it. By nature we then set ourselves up against those that have not been as lucky as we have been. We are left paying lip service to loving our neighbors as ourselves and by our actions doing the opposite and ignoring it.

If we still think our Legal System is the best humanity has ever come up with and we are okay with it in it's present state...we more than likely haven't had someone we care about caught up in it's tentacles. And it's not getting better...it's getting worse.

If we still think our present health care and health insurance systems are the best humanity has ever come up with and we keep going around the same old mountain with the same old arguments that has for decades kept us from addressing all the problems that exist there...we more than likely haven't had someone we care about caught up in it when it actually instead of helping them just deepens their struggles. And if we have and still defend it--I don't know what to call that?

If we really still think the private sector is the answer to all things when it comes to organizing society and the government is always the problem, we are living in one of the grandest illusions humanity has ever dreamed up. And please don't misunderstand me. That's not my endorsement for government...BIG or SMALL. Neither is it my dismissal of the private sector. It's just facing up to the on-the-ground reality.

If we are still at a place where we see Capitalism (with all we have seen from it) as being 'good" and all other economies as being "evil" and we have become so emboldened in that stance, we might want to take a closer look and ask ourselves how an economic system of the world has risen to having sacred meaning and power over our lives?

And for us who come from any of the religious Christian traditions, it just seems to me that we have some serious facing up to some things that are long past due. Maybe the Judeo-Christian concept is one of this nation's and the Church's biggest problems? Maybe even the world's? I seem to remember a man named Jesus coming along and basically saying that they all had his Father completely wrong. Yes I know, he was speaking to those of the Jewish tradition at that time but today I am convinced he is saying the same thing to us who have been shaped by the Christian religion. If it doesn't reflect Jesus ...it doesn't reflect his Father and it's not what Jesus has established. The God and the Son that this nation presents to the world is not the Father and the Son that created us and the cosmos and set this whole thing in motion. It's a god of our own making that works at defending our version of the world's systems at the expense of everybody else if they cross us.

American in many ways might have built herself and attempted to build her systems on Judeo-Christain values and ideas, and she is free to do that if she so desires...but if I am interpreting the voice of the Spirit correctly and viewing the history set in motion by Jesus and those who responded to his invitation, it's not the selling and promoting of America or Judeo-Christian values the Spirit is focused on accomplishing. The Spirit is all about a person, who is all about a Father, who came into our space, not taking into account the dopey oppressive systems humans have been preoccupied with forever. They are no match for him nor can they ever bring about or accomplish what we humans are in need of. The Spirit is all about setting us free so we can be a part of bringing the madness to a close...by not participating out of ignorance in the activities that keep the cycle going.

And I get the sense that if that was to happen, maybe the systems would become a bit kinder and gentler simply because people...all people...would become the focus of those who are being set free, instead of the focus remaining on fighting to preserve systems that are always going to create or at least exacerbate suffering for someone.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A REVIEW OF BO'S CAFE


Even though we humans are very unique and each and every one of us carrying around very unique personal damage due to the many experiences of hurt, disappointment and failure...whether self induced or brought on by the hands of others, the games we play are not unique at all. They are universal. As the reader enters the life of Steven Kerner, the husband, the father, and the "successful" high powered businessman at the center of the new novel Bo's Cafe, the reader will be able to relate to his mess and to the games he plays in hopes of fixing his mess so as to survive. His games, like our own, are really just a way of dancing around the mess. And Steven again, just like the rest of us, doesn't come to that realization easily.

But through the help of some new friends who have already begun to face up to their games by allowing others to help them, and have made the transition into a new way of living in the grace and love Steven is in desperate need of (even though he is clueless about this when they first meet) something begins to move inside him he doesn't quite understand. And frankly doesn't like all that much either. But like all of us...Steven is in the middle of the story of his life. Change is inevitable. The kind of change we are open to becomes the most important question of our lives.

Bo's Cafe captures the heart of a Father that loves us more than we can ever fully imagine and the kind culture that fosters real healing through love and grace and forgiveness and genuineness. That culture will always be very unique due to the unique individuals that are a part of it. And by it's nature, that culture cannot be patented and franchised. It has to remain completely free. This story captures that freedom.


Friday, September 11, 2009

BO'S CAFE


I'm a little over half way through Bo's Cafe. This is another one of those stories that gets to the heart of the matter. But as Steven finds out...one must be open and ready to let go of the games before those games that sabotage all that we long for can begin to be unwound.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

ARE WE LISTENING?

"Grace...whispers of
relentless affection
singing us all into healing!"
WPY




All that's left to do is for people to start listening.

Monday, September 07, 2009

TO ALLOW THE HEART TO OVERWHELM THE HEAD

Our hearts are much better guides than our heads much of the time, but it seems the head wins out most of the time. But often we even our found even denying the evidence. This practice of denying the evidence so as to allow ourselves to hang onto our mistaken notions about how we have come to believe things are, will always keep in place the very things that keep the possibility of harmonious relationships from happening.

"Dissonance theory also exploded the self-flattering idea that we humans…process information logically. On the contrary: If the new information is consonant with our beliefs, we think it is well founded and useful: “Just what I always said!” But if the new information is dissonant, then we consider it biased or foolish: “What a dumb argument!” "So powerful is the need for consonance that when people are forced to look at disconfirming evidence, they will find a way to criticize, distort, or dismiss it so that they can maintain or even strengthen their existing belief. This mental contortion is called the “confirmation bias.” "

Sunday, September 06, 2009

THOUGHTS WORTH CONTINUALLY REVISITING


"Although every human being is a universe within their very being...some hardly dare explore outside the bare house they grew up in. A few travel to the edge of their inner town, fewer still to other cities. But is rare to find one that has lifted from the ground to set sail for places undiscovered."

This beautifully written thought/parable wonderfully paints a picture for me of how easy it is for we humans to stay stuck in our thinking which is always incomplete and too often simply incorrect due to our narrow experience. I think it's also an accurate observation in regards to what seems is the experience of most people...they rarely are able to break free of the confining paradigms they were born into and have grown up being shaped by. They perpetuate an existence we all grow weary of and long to be free of....an existance defined by conflict.

The Shack so gently and so effectively delves into these things that hold most of us captive for far too long. So much of my personal life over the past several years has been about the Spirit gently assisting me in dismantling those that have held me captive...and sometimes not so gently. It's about the disabusing process. I've become very aware of the reality of how much I am in need of this on going necessary process.

"Most emotions are responses to perception---what you think is true about a given situation. If your perception is false, then your emotional response to it will be false too. So, check your perceptions, and beyond that check the truthfulness of your paradigms---what you believe. Just because you believe something firmly doesn't make it true. Be willing to reexamine what you believe. The more you live in the truth, the more your emotions will help you see clearly. But even then, you don't want to trust them more than me." The Shack

Saturday, September 05, 2009

IT'S SUCH A DANGEROUS THING


America has this in a bad way. The illusion of freedom very might well be the most dangerous thing humans face. And the illusion of freedom that is a part of religion being the most dangerous of them all. Jesus' telling of the story of the rebellious prodigal and his conformist religious bother paints this very picture. This is from Jacques Ellul's book The Ethics of Freedom and he describes it very well.

"Innumerable works of sociology are based on the uncritical and undemonstrated and irrational assumption of human freedom. The incurable tendency should warn us that of all the factors in human life freedom needs the most cautious handling and is the most illusory.

This is the more true because, as we have seen, man does not want to live as free man. He fears freedom but wants to say that he is free. Freedom in Christ comes under this rules too. Since the illusion of freedom constantly recurs, Christians as men continually interpret the feeblest conformity as Christian freedom, but are unable to see it in and of themselves. Indeed they are the first to fall victim to the illusion just because they know that there is a liberating love of God.

When the non-Christian accepts the illusion of being free he has no firm basis for this and so his belief is fragile and can easily be overturned. But Christians have the assurance that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. Obeying human nature they quickly change this solid reference into intolerable vanity. Their fall is even greater. Since freedom leads them to this illusion shared by all, they are more effectively alienated than before they knew they were freed, for their alienation rests now on the conviction that they are free in Christ and it is thus a perversion of freedom. They are also doubly alienated, falling back under the common determinations and yet imagining that they are free in Christ. Confusion of the freedom given by God with a freedom native to man; confusion of the act of grace with nature, brings them under the bondage of an illusion of freedom."

Friday, September 04, 2009

A POST CHRISTIAN USA


Having left what many refer to as the Church here in America over 20 years ago, I have to be honest and say that I have thought about this possibility of a more secular society and a dwindling of the influence on that society of what I would instead call Civil Religion. The desperate actions of that civil religion as expressed in the Evangelical Religious Right seem to me to be an attempt to make something make sense and seem relevant that no longer makes sense nor is relevant.

It feels as if there is a big "wake up" call coming and it is needed. The message of Jesus is not represented well by a people that feel superior to everyone else and stand aloof. And in turn what they reflect into the culture (and the world, due to America's reach) that they call Christian, turns out to not be very Christ like at all.

The message of "Do Not Be Afraid" has become very relevant, but it's a hard sell in a country that has been so shaped by a religion that has peddled fear as it's foundation. Jesus is the only foundation and he is not afraid.

I have a hunch that Christians are some of the most fear filled people in the American culture. They are afraid of the culture itself...they are afraid of sin...they are afraid of atheists, they are afraid of the religious "other", they are afraid of agnostics, they are afraid of people who have broken away from the established civil religion, and they are even afraid of God himself. And instead they protect the small little superior world view that keeps them from seeing that the liberating message of Jesus has been subverted by a system that can't contain nor was it ever established by God to contain Him and his people. It's just become another confining prison that keeps people from being able to see the wonderfully beautiful liberating Good News.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

OUR SELF-SABOTAGING WAYS


The greatest enemies to freedom are our choices that keep us enslaved. And we've lived in this enslaving behavior for so long we don't even recognize it as such...and when the Spirit comes to set us free we mistake it as an offense, an attack...a violation. And as a result fight the one who has come to set us free.