Monday, November 30, 2009

SELF AGGRANDIZEMENT


In this country where we live, where having a "braggable" life seems to be high on most people's list, and that often being tied to money and career...the quest for significance and what it leads people to do has a way of sneaking up on you and biting you in the arse before you even know what has happened.

Allowing the things of this world to allure us with the promises of security, satisfaction, sense of worth, value and significance, will surely be the very thing that keeps us from "knowing" security and living aware of our worth, value and significance. Accepting the world's substitute will set us up to always be faked out and it always sets us against one another...always...while creating justifications that make us feel okay with the violations.

At times it all can still leave me so annoyed. I hate it and what it does to people I care deeply about and yet I understand how easy it is for us to find ourselves caught up in it, even myself, and unaware that we are caught up in it.

The excerpt from Richard Rohr's book, Hope Against Darkness struck me when I read it a few years ago and has stuck with me. The peace mentioned, I feel comes from the life in the Spirit...the annoyance seems to come from not being able to remain there completely yet.

"Saint Francis stepped out into a world being recast by the emerging market economy. He lived amid a decaying old order in which his father was greedily buying up small farms of debtors, moving quickly into the new entrepreneurial class. Francis stepped into a Church that seemed to have been largely out of touch with the masses. But he trusted a deeper voice and a bigger truth. He sought one clear center and moved out from there.

The one clear centerpiece was the Incarnate Jesus. He understood everything else from that personalized reference point. Like Archimedes, Francis found his one firm spot on which to stand and from which he could move his world. He did this in at least three clear ways.

First, he walked into the prayer depths of his own tradition, as opposed to mere religious repetition of old formulas. Second, he sought direction in the mirror of creation itself, as opposed to mental and fabricated ideas or ideals. And, most radically, he looked to the underside of his society, to the "community of those who have suffered," for an understanding of how God transforms us. In other words, he found depth and breadth---and a process to keep you there.

The depth was an inner life where all shadow, mystery and paradox were confronted, accepted and forgiven. Here he believed God could be met in fullness and truth. The breadth was the actual world itself, a sacramental universe. It was not the ideal, the churchy or the mental, but the-right-in-front-of-you-and-everywhere----the actual as opposed to the ideal.

And, finally, he showed us the process of staying there---the daring entrance into the world of human powerlessness."

Sunday, November 29, 2009

LEARNING TO SEE WHAT MIGHT NOT BE VISIBLE


While standing out on the deck this morning looking down on the garden I was reminded of something I have come to see as such a travesty in regards to what seems to be the status quo of religion and religious training. Environments focused on performance ("good" and "bad") have a way of producing something fake on one hand and something that is seen as rebellion on the other. It's the nature of "fear of punishment" and "promise of reward" performance environments. It's so problematic and yet religion leaves us in a place of not being able to see it.

While looking down on my garden I couldn't help but be aware of the reality, that regardless of how it looks today, it's the same garden I have enjoyed since it began displaying it's beauty in early spring. I'm not going to turn away in repulsion and reject or punish it simply because it's not outwardly reflecting the same beauty. Actually I'm going to go down there to care for it and do what it is in need of me doing as far as collaborating along with it so it can just continue to be what it already is. A garden that is alive and growing and maturing whether it is showing any signs on this day of that being true. I'm not the author of it nor the finisher, I'm just a gardener doing my part in caring for it, all the while knowing there is a much greater force at work here, who is very creative when it comes to knowing how to create beautiful things out of things that might not be all that beautiful today to the naked eye. It takes eyes to "see" beyond what I see today in this garden....and in my children and my wife and my friends and even those set on doing me harm. And even in myself.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

REST IS GOOD

It's November 28 and it's 70 degrees. Fall just keeps going and going. I can't remember two consecutive years (from start to finish) in the Midwest with as pleasant weather. I got the camera out this afternoon and took some pictures of a few of my favorite things. Often on a day like today I would take a nap in the garden on a bench. Today I took a nap beside Bailey where she had laid down in a sunny spot right inside from the deck.

Rest is good.








Friday, November 27, 2009

THE LATEST ADVENTURE (OF THE RELIGIOUS) IN MISSING THE POINT

The Manhatten Declaration. You can download it here and read it if you so desire.

Here is something I posted in a Facebook conversation in regards to it and a friend bringing up the encounter with Jesus and the "guilty-themselves-angry-judgemental-mob" feeling it was their duty to stone the one they had caught breaking the rules.

There are a lot of stones being thrown. It seems the point Jesus was trying to make in that moment is so easily lost with people malformed by religious training.

Religion is all about "group think" and every group I had ever been a part of when it comes to the pursuit of TRUTH, with then all other things playing second fiddle to that, is that people feel justified with this kind of exclusive thinking and tossing stone because they assume that their judgements are true. The driving force behind this adventure in missing Jesus' point is that this is how religion shapes people to see G-O-D. And this scary character's justice is all about setting things right by pouring out judgement/punishment on all the wrong doers PERFECTLY. This flawed thinking leads them to think God is the ultimate perfect stone thrower. The closer they think they are to this G-O-D's truth, the more confident they become in their own judgements of others.

All the while God's beautiful justice is completely missed.

This from from Penal Substitution vs Christus Victor by Dereck Flood and he draws a stark contrast, when put up against this declaration, between the justice Father has in mind and is/has accomplished and the justice religious people seem actually still be hungering for.

"Even if we are hostile to God, reacting destructively towards life, violently reacting to the authority images we struggle with - God's response as revealed in Jesus is not to crush us as we might expect, but to break the cycle of estrangement and rivalry with the transforming power of love. We see on the cross, in Richard Rohr's terms, "the naked God". ,God is made small, stripped naked, arms stretched out, so that our false image of a threatening judgmental God is taken away and God's heart of love for us is revealed. The threat is removed; we have nothing to fight against. God surrenders first so we can give up the fight too and come home. The cycle of rivalry and violence is broken through the weakness of God on the cross."

Monday, November 23, 2009

ALL THE SHAKING IS A GOOD THING


While in a conversation with a friend, a book I read three years ago came to mind. One angle of the book I really found profound and timely. Mind you, I read this book several months before the enormous economic crisis came to light for most of the world's population. Brian uses the term Suicide Machine to describe the systems our nation and most of the rest of the world are attempting to operate within. At the time, I was beginning to see the madness in much the same light myself. During that season it was like all of my friends would begin to have convulsions when they would see me approaching. Today they are no longer having seizures while around me, due to the revelations over the past couple years in regards to the systems many have been shaped to trust in that are now proving themselves untrustworthy. They always have been.

What I didn't like about the book was Brian's attempt to produce a blueprint that the world might follow in order to create more just systems. I want to believe that is possible but somehow I'm left thinking that systems will always fail us and placing our trust and hope in them will always leave us disappointed and in full fear mode simply due to the reality that whatever can be shaken will continue to be shaken. And systems will always call for the sacrifice of people when caring for people becomes too much of a drag on the systems. It's just their nature.

Out of curiosity I went through my blog archives to reread some of the posts I made regarding Brian McLaren's book Everything Must Change and I found something though that turns out, has been at the center of a beautiful change that began to happen inside me during the season I faced myself in the mirror and I stepped outside that familiar existence so as to take a critical look at what I believed that in turn dictated how I was living. This speaks of a life that cannot be shaken and a life that actually has the power to change everything....and it has nothing to do with shakable and failure prone systems.

"The phrase "kingdom of God" on Jesus' lips, then, means almost the opposite of what an American like me might assume, living in the richest, most powerful nation on earth. To the citizen of Western civilization like me, kingdom language suggest order, stability, government, policy, domination, control, maybe even vengeance on the rebels and threats of banishment for the uncooperative. But on Jesus' lips, those words describe Caesar's kingdom: God's kingdom turns all of those associations upside down. Order becomes opportunity, stability melts into movement and change, status-quo government gives way to revolution of community and neighborliness, policy bows to love, domination descends to service and sacrifice, control morphs into influence and inspiration, vengeance and threats are transformed into forgiveness and blessing.

In his message of the kingdom of God, then, Jesus proposes a radical new framing story, and he wanted people to trust him enough to give his way to peace a chance. How does he do so? In public, he teaches people (often using parables, which invite them to think rather than telling them what to think) and heals them (which is often described as freeing or liberating them from disease and demons)---rather than propagandizing them (telling them what to think while simultaneously keeping them from thinking for themselves) controlling them (oppressing them under sick and demonic systems of oppression). In private, he eats meals with people---all the wrong sorts of people---to demonstrate that the kingdom of God transforms by grace and acceptance rather than by fear or threats of exclusion. In the midst of Rome's empire, wherever Jesus goes, he creates a family meal where all are welcome.
Some will be quick to note that Jesus also used strong language of exclusion---being thrust into "outer darkness," for example where there is "weeping and gnashing of teeth." But in an irony that is so powerful it can hardly be overstated, Jesus applies that language to the typically exclusive (religious scholars, Pharisees,etc.), and asserts that the typically excluded (prostitutes, sinners, even Gentiles) will be included before them (Matthew 23:13, Luke 13:28-30, Luke 4:24-27) Clearly Jesus is deconstructing the dominant system of exclusion---not fortifying it.

No wonder Jesus mixes metaphors so freely: kingdom can be useful in confronting the kingdom of Herod and the empire of Caesar, but it also needs to be deconstructed and augmented by other more intimate and less violent metaphors. So Jesus habitually refers to God as Father rather than King. As the famous prodigal son parable profoundly communicates, the rebel and the upright are equally God's children, as (we could extrapolate) are the Jew and the Gentile, the free and the slave, the religious scholar and the prostitute, the female and the male. The Father's deep desire is to bring all the children home into his feast (Luke 15:11-32)."

Friday, November 20, 2009

BECAUSE I CARE MORE DEEPLY THAN EVER


I have three daughters, who I hope and pray have long and fulfilling lives, as I hope and pray also for your sons and daughters. For that to happen I get the sense that the community we all live in is in need of a dramatic transformation of values. For that to happen the myths and the dangerous delusions must be seen for what they are and how they are destroying us. What has been happening in my life now for over two decades and what I have gratefully come to see has been happening in many of your lives also, gives me renewed hope.

I've recently been introduced to someone who puts into words much better than I do a case that exposes many of the delusions I came face to face with in my life 4 years ago. These were the delusions I lived in regarding the political and economic systems of the nation I live in. Talk about a disorienting scary experience facing these things that had left me so dysfunctional, all the while thinking I was pretty functional due to the fact that it all was working out pretty well for myself and my family. Jesus got my attention in such a way that had me listening. A year of repentance had passed before I ever realized what was happening. To say nothing looks the same to day is an serious understatement. I've never been more full of hope and I have never been more aware of the challenges that we face. And I have never been more convinced that love and grace and understanding are the only way forward.

So here is former US Army Colonel Andrew J. Bacevich. Listen through to the end to hear the pain this man carries around due to this dysfunctional reality we all find ourselves in.




Monday, November 16, 2009

A DAY WHEN THINGS WERE MOVING AND SHAKING




Sometimes things just make no sense when looked upon outside the paradigm of love, because outside that, fear is still in place and is still the defining emotion.
"There are times when you choose to believe something that would normally be considered absolutely irrational. It doesn't mean that it is actually irrational, but it surely is not rational. Perhaps there is suprarationality: reason beyond the normal definitions of fact or data-based logic; something that only makes sense if you can see a bigger picture of reality. Maybe that is where faith fits in." The Shack

Friday, November 06, 2009

THE GARDEN IN REVERSE

Well, another growing season in the garden is coming to an end. Soon everything will be in rest/sleep mode until the temps begin to warm up next spring and things begin to awaken so to do it all once again. I love this process and part of that is sharing it with others. Thanks to all the encouragement through the kind words many have shared with me through this year when they have seen the garden either in person or through pictures. It's been a wonderful year of personal growth for myself, my wife and daughters along with many of you my friends. I look forward with great expectancy to what tomorrow holds for us all. So here are some highlights from the garden. I have left out the fall pictures since those have so recently been posted in other places. One place being here