Thursday, July 24, 2008
What makes a man...a man?
We will be hosting another Spokane Gentleman's Society meeting to delve into the subject. It should be interesting, more info here
He said that when he wakes up in the morning he asks himself that if he were going to die that day, would he still do what he is about to do? If the answer is ‘no’ for too many days in a row, then something needs to change.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Thursday, July 17, 2008
"I’m very concerned about the continual influence of consumerism Christianity and a Christianity that is very self-centered. Even in some of the social justice initiatives that I see, I wonder at times if it’s really about social change and kingdom advancement or if it’s about the sense of accomplishment and adventure one gets from the experience." -Efrem Smith
"Take care! Don't do your good deeds publicly, to be admired,
because then you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven.
There is a reality to the Christian life that is only found after you have drained through all the foamy filler at the top of the glass. Much of the first blush of life in God is an innocent, yet still self focused act of indulging self. Now granted it is a "religious self" but after all the tired churchy platitudes are scraped off your bumper and self righteous goody goodyness is finally exhausted...in the end you discover that "you" were still at the center. This is especially true with those of us who are drawn towards "ministry to the poor" in whatever form it takes. There is a genuine compassion that can fuel a madness to become Jesus incarnate, a danger of falling into the error trying to "Bring Jesus down" (Romans 10:6). It's a noble endeavor to want to help alleviate suffering of your neighbor as Jesus taught us to do in His parable of the Good Samaritan. But it becomes almost idolatry to move from simple charity to ending World Hunger, Sickness & Disease, Social Evils, War, Poverty, AIDS, Global Warming, Deforestation and whatever other sin is in the sights of the current Philanthropy Band Wagon.
The "Messiah-complex" is becoming so huge that at any moment I am sure we will come to realize that we don't need Jesus to ever return because we will soon discover that....we can save the planet!
How many teats can we grow until we realize there will always be one more greedy mouth sucking off the breast of charity?
And quite frankly most of us want it to be that way...because we "feel good" being that sow who's getting all the attention. In fact we secretly hope to be on the cover of "O", Rollingstone or Christianity Today as the newly christened and publicly worshipped, hot new multi-breasted goddess of the hour.
But the truth is, we soon discover that we are not called to change the world...as much as testify to a change in our world. Now granted that change is one that ushers love into the center of our lives but not in a self serving way. It's the whole point of doing works of service in secret...an act that unfortunately is not in vogue today. We have celebrity's of charity all over. You see their names in lights, on the covers of their books with their smiling faces and testimonies of how they are changing the world. They sit in plush couches on TV or in the Pulpits pontificating about their plans and strategies to turn the planet back into eden in less time than it takes to publish their next book.
The really lazy people are yearning to worship "Heros" and the more dysfunctional are trying to become the hero.
It's that motivation that is fueling so much of our works of mission today. I stop and wonder if the truth is just that we are really a bunch of empty people frantically trying to fill that inner void with our chronic do gooding.
It's seeming like more and more vanity and chasing after the wind.
Monday, July 14, 2008
Originally uploaded by ericblauer.
I am currently working on a new backyard fountain. I have been able to acquire a Japanese maple, various flowers and herbs for the fountain area all for fee, I just had to dig them up and replant them. My neighbor let me dig these rocks out of his back yard and Micah made the birdhouse. So now I am going to purchase the liners and pump and put it in, hopefully this week depending on the cash flow.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
This evening I had the privilege of hanging out on the upstairs deck of the apartments above the church to celebrate a birthday of one of the Cuban families daughters. There were games, fantastic cake and I'm not a big cake fan, but this stuff was stupendous, cold beer, shrimp with homemade garlic sauce and my favorite...mouth-watering, seasoned pork hot off the grill. Oh and there was a lot of Spanish flying around, loud clapping, dancing and shouting and lots of laughter. It was refreshing to say the least...I needed it.
I felt the press to just enjoy the people and hang out this evening even though most of the english speakers had left. So I entered in, pushed through the awkwardness of the cultural separation. I just planted myself down on the balcony and entered into the fun.
During the party one of the Cuban men came up to me and gave me some of the best complements I have ever gotten. He said in Cuba the Pastors are "closed" but I was "open". A friend interpreted further and told me that the man was impressed about how I was part of this community, at peoples homes, drank beer with them and out in the open and not just at home behind closed doors like the Pastors he was accustomed too. He said he felt the Pastors who lived "closed" were hypocritical. I have been wanting to connect with this guy since he came into our neighborhood but he has only visited our church once and seemed distant to me...I felt that wall come down this evening as we all danced on the veranda, celebrated the life of his girl and laughed together.
After times like that, I am so grateful that Jesus set me free from the law and ushered me into a life of freedom that has resulted in passing through cultural barriers and made me able to connect in a honest and non-religious way. I have been set free to enjoy life....with those who need a friend not judgment.
"We are divided between exploitation and nurture…a division not only between persons but also within persons…The standard of the exploiter is efficiency; the standard of the nurturer is care. The exploiter’s goal is money, profit; the nurturer’s is health – his land’s health, his own, his family’s, his community’s, his country’s. Whereas the exploiter asks of a piece of land only how much and how quickly it can be made to produce, the nurturer asks a question that is much more complex and difficult: What is its carrying capacity? That is: How much can be taken from it without diminishing it? The world we live in operates out of a spirit of exploitation of people, places and things. But you and I are called to live by a different spirit, one that seeks to blow a nurturing breath in us and through us. It's a narrow way filled with complex and difficult questions. It is not efficient." -Wendell Berry's The Unsettling of America
I think this quote pokes at something that is more and more clear the deeper into the pastoring rabbit hole I pass. It's the sometimes unseen building of a diminishing process that can move from life producing activity---to life draining activity. So much of the community life circles around us, be it, the labor/employment, relationships, families or church can mutate into "systems" that start exploiting the souls of those involved. They can start "diminishing" those that become enmeshed within something that has the potential to swallow you or consume you in ways that do not produce spiritual, mental or physical health. Jesus presented a kingdom reality that was mysteriously both all consuming and yet, didn't consume the one who it was consuming. Kind of like the burning bush that Moses was mesmerized by and heard the voice of God within. Jesus put it this way:
Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."
That is the spirit of gentleness that I long to walk out as a man, a husband, a father and a pastor. The ability to embrace the burden or yoke that doesn't kill you but presses you towards greater life without losing your soul in the process. It's a tricky path.
Many pastors slowly become petrified through the pastoring process. The "ministry" can become a hardening agent that week by week calcifies a protective shell over the heart and soon becomes more than a refuge of safety but instead, a hiding place. We can become unaccessible, talk less and less, close up instead of open up, knee jerk instead of listen, get angry, which is just a mask of greater and greater sadness. It's a slow burning fire that soon moves from giving light and warming frozen souls to consuming one's sense of self and burning you up until you are a smoldering wick...but it doesn't have to be that way.
That isn't the way of Christ...though it might be the gate to the real kingdom, through which one must enter to be truly free from the very barnacles of religion and man pleasing life that suffocate the souls longing to breath kingdom air.
We can become, as the Apostles said: "Living Stones". A term that is quite mysterious if you take it apart.
I find hope within it. I see the promise that one can be both stone...and living at the same time.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
"I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf."
-Paul to the Colossian believers in Colossians 2:1
Church planting and church life is a struggle for sure. The challenge of relationships and walking out the unity of the faith among people of diverse backgrounds, perspectives, dysfunction, religious traditions, temperaments, cultural backgrounds and all the while under the pressure of this world system that works hard at sowing non-kingdom values into peoples minds and hearts is quite an endeavor. One that Paul's admits can only happen according to God's power "mightily working within him" (Col. 1:29).
There are so many moments when I feel like just giving up. I love to watch the show "So You Think You Can Dance" and one of the reasons is I love watching the beauty, creativity and skill of a good dancer or couple. One of the things I think must be liberating is the fact that dance is just you and the art...artists just create...it's not about someone else necessarily. There is a freedom in just doing your craft, expressing your passion, embodying your dreams and honing your talents and skills. There's a certain holy narcism that is needed to produce art. If someone doesn't like it, critiques it, trashes it, picks at it, grumbles about it, gossips about it...you can just tell them to go make their own or brush it off because...you like it and mommy told you you're a star! I sometimes wish for that place.
Pastoring is an art that requires...a ton of grace, almost daily forgiveness, political like compromise, bite your tongue humility and a host of other "Don't rock the boat" type of character qualities; that are often more the fruit of wise, old age than red hot blooded American young manhood.
It's exhausting...but God's power seeps up from deep places and you find yourself able, in some way, to find what is needed to press on and not get submerged in the quagmire of negativity, attacks, nagging doubts, out of your depth realities, and whatever else faces you that seems more than you can gather wisdom to answer, grace to move through or love to endure.
I've made one major realization in these last two years of church planting:
I most likely will never, ever, ever, ever....criticize another pastor....ever.
This endeavor has humbled my inner "I can do it better" voice like nothing else could have. God has used the big gnarly steel vice-grip of people to squeeze out that "thorn' that was wedged deep in the tissue of my religious psyche and by God's grace granted me a perspective that has changed the way I view every leader before me that I have worked under. I now know why so many Pastor's wince underneath their smiles when someone say's they feel God is calling them to plant a church. I used to get ticked off at that look...now, I will try to not give it myself. It's kind of like the look your parents gave you when you tell them you are going to ask that special someone to marry you. As I remember it...my mother cried....oh the honesty of a mom.
Love from the center of who you are; don't fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. Don't burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don't quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality. Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they're happy; share tears when they're down. Get along with each other; don't be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don't be the great somebody. Don't hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you've got it in you, get along with everybody. Don't insist on getting even; that's not for you to do. "I'll do the judging," says God. "I'll take care of it." -Romans 12:9-18 (The Message)
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Monday, July 07, 2008
Saturday, July 05, 2008
Finally the curse was broken...last night under the looming booms of cascading fireworks, me and my friend Daniel, landed around 10 fish in the fading light on Diamond lake; you know that time of day, like in this picture, where heaven and earth bow and kiss one another good night. I caught 3 Perch, a nice brown trout and a rainbow, nothing to mount on some wall, but the joy of the catch returned. My fish drought was starting to get me down...thank the good Lord for fishing and...catching fish, it makes the whole experience divine. And then Daniel cooked up a couple on the fire as the family watched fireworks explode in the sky from the lake shore, making smores, wrapped in blankets and feeling very grateful for life in America. Good times, good times....
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
We are hosting Mustardseed Ministries,a ministry traveling across the USA focusing on the poor and the forgotten. The boy in front is Avery, he came over yesterday and hung out with Micah and this is what he looked like when they came downstairs to go play outside. Avery has two younger sisters with him on the road and it looks like he needed some good old boy time...leave it up to Micah to equip him for anything that the yard might throw at them.
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
School was let out on June 14th...so far, the Playstation 2 & the Nintendo DS have been broken, the brand new Indiana Jones Nintendo DS game that I rented for Micah was left out of the case and Kona chewed it up. The curtain and the rod have been torn out of the wall. The beautiful plants I dug up at another house and replanted in my yard were attacked by marauding orcs at play and there on the road lay my slain raspberry bush and chopped and hacked lie my little Lilac tree.
Yesterday my toilet over flowed for no reason, which happened last month but also flooded my basement which cost me hundreds of dollars. This time toilet overflowed but nothing else happened, we got the plumber out here and found out that my youngest son had filled one of the washout pipes with rocks, a large stick and dirt...so the plumbing problems were the result of saying "Go outside and Play!". So thanks to my friend who came over and helped me dig out all the crap in the pipe, we got the clog free....$200 later.
In the end...I guess, I will just tell my kids to sit down and watch tv...all summer...at least I wont go crazy, kill someone or end up in the poor house.