Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Experiment....

I'm trying out a new blog format....not sure if I will switch, but for awhile I will be blogging at: http://fcb4.tumblr.com/

Monday, March 15, 2010

Religion's 3 Problems with Jesus....

Problem #3: The Partying

"And they said to Him, "The disciples of John often fast and offer prayers, the disciples of the Pharisees also do the same, but Yours eat and drink." -Luke 5:33

Religion has little place for feasting...it's more interested in fasting.

Often it's because someone with a religion based relationship with God thinks that "what they do or don't do" is what makes them acceptable to God. They live in a perpetual sense of displeasure and are motivated to earn God's approval instead of living from a place of peace and pleasure based on what Christ has already accomplished for them.

They have a hard time with this "new wine" and try to pour it into the old wineskins of performance based righteousness. They are imprisoned in a mindset of corruption, sin and forbiddeness. They see all of life through a curse not a cleansing. They are ruined not restored, sick not healed, slaves not sons and daughters. They are defiled not delivered...and that bleeds over into a posture towards life in God and the world that they live within. They see only One Forbidden Tree in the garden of pleasure...instead of the hundreds of hundreds of other trees to eat freely from. To these types of religionists it's not what you know that frees you to live but all of life is determined by what you do. To them the Kingdom of God is all about what we do or do not put into our bellies or do with our bodies. They see humanity, our bodies, our appetites, or sexuality as dirty, evil, fallen and leprous. They can preach against anything...but have little light on how to live. They proclaim purity but can't articulate it's purpose.

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit -Rom 14:17

Religious minded people are rarely at parties....because most people know that they are the worst folks to invite to parties. They don't know how to laugh, how to enjoy life, how to celebrate and feast. Their God is a dark and pessimistic scrooge that would never provide alcohol to a wedding but instead would be checking if the bride was a virgin or if the man had been married before.

"Jesus did not begin a reform movement within Judaism, working with the rabbinical schools and such. Jesus says, "I haven’t come to patch up your old practices. I come with a whole new set of clothes."

The change Jesus brought about had been prophesied by the prophets (Jeremiah 31:31)...and it was good news, much like the wine symbolism used in this passage...but it's not often popular among the crusty and cranky...but to the thirsty...its good news.

I think the Kingdom of God is a good place to live within...not just visit or anticipate...and its doors have been thrown wide open and the warmth from inside is spilling out into the cold, dark night. The laughter and festivities are luring the lonely and heavy laden inside. The music makes you want to dance not be buried.

And the wine isn't watered down...He has saved the best for last.

Religion's 3 Problems with Jesus....

Problem #2: The People

"The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?" -Luke 5:30

Grumbling...that about sums it up. Religiously minded people have a problem with the type of people Jesus attracts, hangs around and chooses as His disciples. The church is the only group in the world where you have to be unqualified before you can join.

"After that Jesus went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi (Matthew) and Jesus said to him, "Follow Me". -Luke 5:27

Jesus chooses people that others do not "notice"...we overlook, pass by, step over, determine as unqualified; the very ones that God has determined to pick.

We look for the rich...not the poor.
We want the positive, cheerful and extroverts...not those who mourn.
We choose the strong, the quick, the powerful...not the gentle.
We gather those who appear to have it all together...not those who admit that they are empty, hungry and in need.
We love the line drawers, clarifiers, the excluders...not the ones who draw big inclusive circles and often let others in.
We love the Pugilists...not the reconcilers.
We love our stars, our succeeders, the triumphant ones...not the ones who get a lot of flack, criticism or got a bad reputation.
We look for the ones that will make us feel better about ourselves...not the ones that will lower our public image.

Jesus chooses Matthews.

People with a present and a past. These kind are the ones who get surprised by the choice...people are usually not surprised by our choices. We need more "scandal" in our wake as followers of Jesus. We have lost the amazement and perplexity of grace and love. We don't have enough stories that move our cold, religiously ridged hearts. We need to see more sinners coming to repentance...so that we can hear more heavenly songs of joy...our Angels haven't sung in quite a long time (Luke 15:7 & Rev 1:20)

I think we can recognize the signs of a Jesus community emerging; when the ones being chosen for the "inner circle" provoke "grumbling" from the Religionists.

Religion's 3 Problems with Jesus....

Problem #1: The Preaching
"One day Jesus was preaching...and the power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing..."-Luke 5:17 (Read all of Luke: 17-26)

Religion is only concerned about Text & Time...generally, a future time. The Pharisees, the teachers of the Law, the Scribes were gathered to "catch" Jesus in some scripture based conundrum, some law breaking snare, a possible cataclysmic religious faux pas. Hopefully finding enough evidence to convict him in their own private traditional and theological courts. These fundamentalist "bibliodolaters" were not concerned about the suffering people around them...particularly the paralyzed man that had just been lowered through poor old Caleb's, recently renovated tile roof! They were concerned not about people...but words.
These kind of people are known as the Bible book worms...the "Scribes"...everything to them is about "translating, copying, interpreting, splicing and dicing greek verbs, Aramaic, Greek and Hebrew tenses and nuances. They also gather enormous libraries of "commentaries"...they love to talk about what the famous rabbi, teacher, preacher or professor has said about this or that verse. Soon they find themselves seeing all scripture through the lens or interpretation of the commentaries of the last person they learned from and that person learned his commentary from his "scribe" and on and on it goes...until soon, you're not sure if you are preaching or teaching "commentary about the Scripture or the scriptures themselves...but to these folks...they are ultimately, one and the same.

These Pharisees are as their name means, the "separated ones". They live with their noses both up and down. They live with a nose up at the unwashed, unreached,undereducated, pagan or unclean neighbors. They would rather go in their closets and talk to God about men...then go outside and talk to men about God. They live with their noses down in the spine of their books. They think of themselves as the cutting edge or the latest and the greatest, restorers, reformers, the faithful, pure, the undefiled, the truth bearers, the defenders of the faith, the fundies and conservatives. These folks get mad not at injustice or suffering of lives...but at mishandling words.

They are sure that "how you live" isn't and issue of eternity...but what you Know and it was these kind of people that had Jesus nailed to a chunk of bloody wood, on a garbage dump...far enough outside their beloved...'Holy City'.

Yes, the Lord of the Word...was rejected in favor of the Word of the Lord. They would rather have a God they could put in their rucksack...then a Word made flesh.

As in this story...they are especially enraged at anyone who lives a life of scandalous forgiveness and grace. Jesus was passing out forgiveness, like it was a key to the kingdom that he possessed. He was a sin forgiver...and they had an extreme problem with that. He had no papers, no degree from their seminary, He wasn't a priest, a scribe, a Pharisee or even one of those liberal "Sadduceess". He could draw crowds that they never were able to gather. He was outside their establish order. He was a rebel that wasn't conforming to the natural religious order of protocol and tradition. He wasn't qualified in their minds...and yet, He felt perfectly comfortable doing God's job!!! To them...it was Blasphemy.

Grace ticks people off...and too much grace will get you crucified. Religious people want judgment...not forgiveness. Justice...not mercy. They revel in suffering...especially if it is among "those" people. They can step over a broken person...in order to argue a theological point about the possible navel of Adam. Crippled people are of no consequence...the human condition doesn't matter...what matters is eternity. Your'e body doesn't matter to them..unless you are doing something sexual with it...then they get real religious about it. But in general...it's all going to burn in God's final judgment anyway...so let the people starve...they don't need a good physician...just a Soul doctor...and only one from their universities.

In the end...they don't really have room for the word "Friend" (Luke 5:20)

Because they are some of the most "unfriendly" people around...the world knows it and most people who have stumbled along this Jesus path have come to know it. Until we as followers of Jesus reject this unbalanced head congested faith and begin to "see" the very least of these people, in front of us as "Christ disguised"...we will continue the long religious tradition of being only known as a people of a book...instead of the Followers of Jesus.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Friday, March 12, 2010

I've got a burden of love...for a people who became my enemy

"If our convictions lead us to believe there is no hope for those outside our own faith or with no faith..." there is a danger of "treating others as if they know nothing, and we have nothing to learn". "Belief in the uniqueness and finality of Christ allows us a generous desire to share and a humble desire to learn".-Archbishop Rowan Williams , in his address at the Guildford Cathedral titled The Finality of Christ in a Pluralist World

About 12 years ago, I had a burden laid on my heart by the Spirit of God for Muslim people. It manifested itself in a ethos of prayer and study and was leading to thoughts of mission. I genuinely found love growing in my heart for a people I didn't even really know. I knew character both Christians and Culture...but not personhood. God breathed in a tenderness and a vision to see a people not simply a project.

Then 9-11 happened.

That event has messed up this little love affair. Now my internal Christian reality has become at odds with my civil religion.
I have been wrestling with this tension for awhile...and honestly a lot of my war talk, has emerged out of this sifting between love and mission and war and patriotism.

When I read this story below...I resonated deeply with the example of Christ shown by this little Friar.

In 1219 St. Francis and Brother Illuminato accompanied the armies of western Europe to Damietta, Egypt, during the Fifth Crusade. His desire was to speak peacefully with Muslim people about Christianity, even if it mean dying as a martyr. He tried to stop the Crusaders from attacking the Muslims at the Battle of Damietta, but failed. After the defeat of the western armies, he crossed the battle line with Brother Illuminato, was arrested and beaten by Arab soldiers, and eventually was taken to the sultan, Malek al-Kamil. 

Al-Kamil was known as a kind, generous, fair ruler. He was nephew to the great Salah al-Din. At Damietta alone he offered peace to the Crusaders five times, and, according to western accounts, treated defeated Crusaders humanely. His goal was to establish a peaceful coexistence with Christians. 

After an initial attempt by Francis and the sultan to convert the other, both quickly realized that the other already knew and loved God. Francis and Illuminato remained with al-Kamil and his Sufi teacher Fakhr ad-din al-Farisi for as many as twenty days, discussing prayer and the mystical life. When Francis left, al-Kamil gave him an ivory trumpet, which is still preserved in the crypt of the Basilica of San Francesco in Assisi. 

"This encounter, which occurred between September 1 and 26, is a paradigm for interfaith dialog in our time. Despite differences in religion, people of prayer can find common ground in their experiences of God. Dialog demands that we truly listen to the other; but, before we can listen, we must see the other as a precious human being, loved by God. There is no other path to peace in this bloody 21st century. 

Francis and his brothers did not make this trip as part of the battle to regain the Holy Land. Rather, they went in opposition to the mainstream theological and political orthodoxies of the time, to meet the Muslim people, and to live among them as “lesser brothers.” 

Francis and his brothers went to be present among this people who were being portrayed as evil enemies of Christ, and, in his evangelism of presence, Francis found the spirit of God to be alive and at work within the Muslim people, then called “the Saracens”. Francis admired their public, repeated acknowledgment of God and call to prayer, and he appreciated the deep reverence they showed to their holy book, the Qur’an. 

While the main trend of the time was for Christian preachers to deliver strident, inflammatory sermons against Islam, Francis forbade his brothers to take part in these exercises. He demanded that his brothers be present first and foremost, living with and among the Saracens. They were to preach only if they felt that it would “please the Lord.” Francis worked to prevent the brotherhood from becoming embroiled in the grasp for civil and ecclesiastical offices and power, and kept the community’s focus on serving their neighbors for the glory of God only."

The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
true from start to finish.
-John 1:14

Thursday, March 11, 2010

INFUSE Event Cancelled...

INFUSE Missional Training Event is Cancelled.

Due to situations outside my control or knowledge, the event was cancelled. I found out about this change, this morning. I apologize for the last minute notice. INFUSE is here-by postponed until a new administrative team can put together that can execute the event.

Theo-ology or Theo-poetics?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Seattle Trip Highlights: WWE Smack Down

For Micah's birthday present this year, we bought him and a friend and I, tickets to WWE Smack Down Wrestling Event that took place yesterday in Seattle. We only bought him this for his birthday, so we could go all out and make it a trip to remember....WWE did not disappoint! It's great having kids that have different interests, and Micah is all alone in his Wrestling Mania...so this trip was perfect for just him....and boy was he was in heaven.
This is the line....yes, the Key Arena is that little red sign way in the distance...and we were not even the end of the line...
Inside we discovered we had nailed perfect seats...just above the floor, so the boys could see over heads when people stood and situated between the main Show entrance and the ring...so you got all the action, drama, lights and exploding pyrotechnics!
Micah and Chevy saw a ton of their favorite Superstars....this was "Big Show" and needless to say...He's Big...and he kinda looks like me...at least that's what Micah kept quipping.
The Explosions...were deafening...I kept cowering like a little girl...Im not sure Micah was to cool with that....but he kept warning me when he thought there was something that was going to make Dad pee himself.
We had a great view...but the screen captured everything you couldn't see. Over all...an amazing event and trip...one that Micah, Chevy and I, will always remember.

Seattle Trip Highlights: Candy at Pike's St. Market

What's a Pike's St Market trip without going into the bowels of the building...down through corridors of mumbling odd people, dens of middle eastern fortunetellers, exotic wafts of incense and of course...candy stores. (Geek Side Note: Pike's feels like the Mos Eisley Cantina in Starwars...minus the droids.)

Seattle Trip Highlights: Ye' Old Curiosity Shop

If you have never been to the "Ye' Old Curiosity Shop" in Seattle...you must go...especially if you got some young kids. It's an amazing shop with all kinds of old artifacts, oddities and oooooh's & ahhhh's and even a few shrieks...Micah let out a gasp and knee jerk at a clownish figure he bumped into...not to mention this Mummy.

Viking Helmet

Shrunken Heads

Two Headed Lamb

Seattle Trip Highlights: Wall of Gum

Yes...a whole wall of people's gum...kinda like an Elementary School kid's desk turned inside out.
If you take the stairs down to the alley, right by the pig and the throwing fish market in Pike's Place and hang an immediate right when you come to the bottom of the stairs, you will walk right by it.
Of, course I had to check it out...what else am I going to do with two 10 year old boys?

Monday, March 08, 2010

SmackDown in Seattle Tomorrow....

Getting ready to head to Seattle tomorrow with Micah, for WWE SmackDown...now where did I pack my red and gold, spandex singlet?

Ya...this is pretty much our house...minus mom in the lap of Cena

Ought too....

The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. -1 John 2:6

I used this verse Sunday in my message on Jesus, healing the man who had leprosy...I thought Mr. Chan, handled it in a particularly poignant way.

Right Belief...or....Believing in the right way?


Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day. 
-Letters to a Young Poet...Rainer Maria Rilke 

I think questions birth the kind of mind that can sustain and live in Faith. An unquestioning mind is an unhealthy mind in my opinion. It prevents learning. Light is needed and light travels fast and rarely sits still. Capturing light is an art that requires asking questions in all spheres of life. Light is also fire..and many people are have a lot of trepidation about the destructive nature or possibilities of fire. But they who learn to rightly fear fire...can learn to be illuminated...or illuminate. Fear is often at the root of control, tradition and religion. Fear can breathe wonder or cripple the soul. So whenever I see fear...I try to examine it if is the fear of God, which is a holy mystery...or the ignorance of the intelligence that breeds subservience, privilege and dominance. Humility isn’t afraid. Love can be killed but not conquered. So, in our journey together...let's let go of the fear of questions...they are allowed and wanted.

I’ve been mulling over some recent conversations I've had with some good people and have been trying to articulate a sticking point to me that is problematic in some of what were wrestling through. After re-reading a section from Peter Rollin’s book “How (Not) to Speak of God”...I was able to name what I was concerned about. 

It has to do with the issue of “Right belief vs Believing in the right way” 

It reminds me of a conversation the early American pilgrims heard from their pastor before they boarded the Mayflower to head off into the great unknown, which I read in Brian McLaren's new book:

“I charge you before God and His blessed angels that you follow me no further than you have seen me follow Christ. If God reveal anything to you by any other instrument of His, be as ready to receive it as you were to receive any truth from my ministry for I am verily persuaded the Lord hath more truth and light yet to break forth from His holy word. The Lutherans cannot be drawn to go beyond what Luther saw. Whatever part of His will our God has revealed to Calvin, they (Lutherans) will rather die than embrace it; and the Calvinists, you see, stick fast where they were left by that great man of God, who yet saw not all things. This is a mystery much to be lamented. For thought they were precious shinning lights in their time, yet, God has not revealed his whole will to them. And were they now living, they would be as ready and willing to embrace further light, as they had received.” 
-Pastor, John Robinson

As I reflect on that, I couldn’t help but think that is so true of this spiritual journey we are on together. Below is the main chunk of Rollins statement about “Right belief vs Believing in a right way”. I am not sure if everyone is going to be able to understand the nuance he is getting at...but Im still going to put this stuff out there. Part of me that is concerned with moving people too fast in reorienting theological conversation. I think the quote above by Rainer Maria Rilke best expresses the manner in which I think is most healthy to move through this season. It's good to be hungry...but don't gorge yourself so much that you end up hemorrhaging your soul. 

In contrast to this, I argue here that those involved in the emerging conversation exhibit the conceptual tools that are necessary to move beyond these modernistic and problematic positions. Here I picture the emerging community as a significant part of a wider religious movement which rejects both absolutism and relativism as idolatrous positions which hide their human origins in the modern myth of pure reason. Instead of following the Greek-influenced idea of orthodoxy as right belief, these chapters show that the emerging community is helping us to rediscover the more Hebraic and mystical notion of the orthodox Christian as one who believes in the right way--that is believing in a loving, sacrificial and Christlike manner. The reversal from 'right belief' to 'believing in the right way' is in no way a move to some binary opposite of the first (for the opposite of right belief is simply wrong belief); rather, it is a way transcending the binary altogether. Thus orthodoxy is no longer (mis)understood as the opposite of heresy but rather is understood as a term that signals a way of being in the world rather than a means of believing thing about the world. 
-Peter Rollins "How (Not) To Speak of God"

I am committed to finding solid ground to stand on or walk upon, scripturally...but, sometimes answers don't satisfy such minds...and questions are all we are left with. Emerging involves gaining new wings to lift the transformed life...there is that which is the same and that which is new. Some is simply a reforming of the old or a reconfiguring it to enable life at a new stage. How to live this stuff out in this emerging new season of our life is going to be where the rubber meets the road. I think love is the only “way” through this transition season...but that doesn’t mean it won’t be rough in spots. But if the manner in which we all travel gets us crucified...so be it...because God didnt tell us to understand all things....He has commanded us to love. It’s both the liberator...and the clarifier...in this emerging life.

Below are some chucks of writing that I think many of you will resonate with...drink deeply, savor and be ok with the moment. 


Paradigms and dogma can be defended and enforced with guns and prisons, bullets and bonfires, threats and humiliation, fatwas and excommunications. But paradigms and dogma remain profoundly vulnerable when anomalies are present. They can be undone by something as simple as a question.
-Brian McLaren, A New Kind of Christianity

For a doctrine which is able to maintain itself not in clear light but only in the dark, will of necessity lose its effect on mankind, with incalculable harm to human progress. The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge. 
-Albert Einstein, from an address presented at The Conference on Science, Philosophy and Religion in 1940 

O LORD, … It’s hard to admit, even to myself, that there are no easy answers to life’s hard questions. Help me to see things as you see them. In wrestling with you, my imperfect faith is made stronger. In wrestling with you, I discover a deeper truth: that my questions usher me right back to you.
-Missy Buchanan “Talking with God in Old Age: Meditations and Psalms”

Instead, Jesus asks questions, good questions, unnerving questions, re-aligning questions, transforming questions.  He leads us into liminal, and therefore transformative space, much more than taking us into any moral high ground of immediate certitude or ego superiority. He subverts up front the cultural or theological assumptions that we are eventually going to have to face anyway.  He leaves us betwixt and between, where God and grace can get at us, and where we are not at all in control. It probably does not work for a large majority of people, at least in my experience.  They merely ignore you or fight you.  Maybe this is why we have paid so little attention to Jesus questions and emphasized instead his seeming answers. They give us more a feeling of success and closure. We made of Jesus a systematic theologian, who walked around teaching dogmas, instead of a peripatetic and engaging transformer of the soul.  Easy answers instead of hard questions allow us to try to change others instead of allowing God to change us.  At least, I know that is true in my life.
-Richard Rohr

There is no such thing as a worthless conversation, provided you know what to listen for. And questions are the breath of life for a conversation.
-James Nathan Miller

“There are four questions of value in life... What is sacred? Of what is the spirit made? What is worth living for, and what is worth dying for? The answer to each is the same. Only love.” 
-Don Juan deMarco 

“Confidence, like art, never comes from having all the answers; it comes from being open to all the questions.”

A shout out to "The Weary Pilgrim" where I lifted some of these quotes.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Hanging in the Karen church service with 75 refugees. I remember when there was just on family in Spokane. http://ping.fm/41wZh

Just go...

This young woman's story of obeying the call to go serve the least of these in Uganda; is both inspirational and a realistic wake up call to the Joy & Cost of following Jesus. It's worth a read...and it might mess up your life. Read her blog here: http://kissesfromkatie.blogspot.com/

Friday, March 05, 2010

Holy Spirit or....complete deception...

Yes, the...Jesters of Jesus Juice...are hitting the streets of the 3rd world...see thier Leper kissing action here

My favorite under the influence of "holy ghost" Quotes:

"Shoobie Doobie Boobie Juice" -John Crowder

"Shangy Bangy...Shing Ding Ding...Shucka"
-Ben Dunn

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Dew & Oil...

How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil that was poured over Aaron’s head, that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe. Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon that falls on the mountains of Zion. And there the Lord has pronounced his blessing, even life everlasting. -Psalms 133

Dew and Oil....refreshment and empowerment...newness and anointing...something coming down and settling upon. All these images come together in my mind when I reflect upon my fellow friends and partners in the gospel in Ecclesia Spokane. There are many different groups and initiatives in Spokane for ministry leaders, more than I can fit into my calendar. Every pastor or person, has to find places and people that they can do life with...finding colleagues is one thing...finding friends is another.

ES for me, is the first gathering of pastors that I have had the privilege to shoulder up with that works faithfully at building authenticity into the mix. Among ES, professionalism has a hard time taking root or squeezing out the grace of becoming real...here we are people, instead of mere project supporters. So often in the past, most of my involvement in the pastoral networking world has left me feeling like I was continually being hit up for some Amway meeting. It was about product instead of people....what can you do for me instead of how can I serve you.

I often got lost in the rush to do something important for the city or the Kingdom or the network. Soul-care was low on the list of priorities...friendship was streamlined into partnership related to possibilities. Events instead of unfolding, projects instead of pondering, doing instead of being, output instead of input....goals instead of gratitude....gifts instead of grace....consumptions instead of contemplation.

It was often painfully lonely...I would participate but hardly ever felt personal. A relational ache would often backwash on me, like a bad hangover. I grew weary at my many attempts at doing the pastoral life with others. I became disillusioned at always being forced to nibble on Divine community instead of being able to gorge my relationally starved soul....it was often a painfully anemic endeavor.

I have been graced to participate in an unfolding "Mission Shaped Network" that for me....chimes in soft harmonies, that help undergird a sense of pastoral belonging and becoming. ES is a space where I can do the work of theological reflection in the mindset of greater hearts and minds. Where I can hear truth from multiple journeys and generations. It's been a space to laugh, hurt, share and despair....as well as dream, reengage, think, pray and co-taste and nurture the life and ministry of some amazing leaders.

It's a table and meals are planned but everyone's able to bring a dish. It's a place where answers are allowed but questions are required and welcome, holy tension is expected both theologically and philosophically. Doubt and struggle is not anathema. At the end of the day, I don't feel like I have to be the best pastor...just a better one...in time.

Among us...sin is expected and holiness is found...it's a refreshingly unashamed embodiment of "Simul Justus Et Peccator". Persnickety piousness...will be quickly driven out, like a pastel wearing Yanni fan...at an Iron Maiden concert.

I guess what I am trying to say...is thank you.

Thanks to all the folks that have thrown in together, work hard at forming and flowing and keep at it...despite the many reasons life and personalities often derail such endeavors.

My soul is more large because of the feast found among us.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Her morning elegance....

Prophetic imagination....

I'm wrestling with the issues of Prophetic imagination, calling and faithfulness.

God plants talents in us at birth. Those have to be discovered, mined and fashioned to become all that they should be. That takes time , hard work and patience. Then God adds gifts through his Spirit. Those must also be uncovered and nurtured for the body to grow into maturity of life, ministry and mission.

All this work requires prayerful faith. We have gifts and talents and add to those desires and dreams and then by faith we launch out to bring what was inside...outside.

It's a work of prophetic imagination.

It often required us to dailey uphold that work of vision to visibility. We never get there alone...we need many parts to make up the whole...even when it comes to our personal journey.

Together, we watch, listen and prayerfully carry these unfolding elements of our lives and ministries day by day, year by year.

As we work at providing for our families, tending our passions and outworking the purposes of God in our lives...there is often a tension between the present and the not yet...a place of metamorphosis that is full of unfinished longings. Our inner lives and outer works are not fully developed, not what they could be, should be or will be. Much of that fruition, lies in the potency of our prophetic imagination, faith and willingness to work those dreams into fullness. We are tempted to stumbling in our faith, because the work is going to demand that we grow, be stretched, improve and remain faithful.

None of these seeds, small plants or medium plants will grow into the provision and satisfaction we long for, unless we rise to the challenge in greater and greater ways. Who we are...must grow into who we need to be...to see the reality that we see within, emerge. It's not going to be given to us...we must create it through the work and means that God has given us.

The harvest comes to the worker. We have got to plant and wait, and reimagine what can be with what we have. Real faith sees stones and then begins to see ladders that connect heaven and earth. This is the mystery of Jacobs ladder. Many people are asleep on stones and can't see ladders. They never discover that the very place they are at...is the gate to heaven.

The hard truth is....life and possibilities are not about people, place or position...it's about prophetic perspective and patience. Sometimes we move...externally...but most of the time we need to be moved...internally. If we are awake and aware...we probably have all the possibilites around us needed, to create the realities we long for...in time...but it won't come easy.

It will cost us everything...but that will be true, here, there or anywhere. We must choose where we have the most spiritual continuity, capital, support, opportunity, connection and partners. Are there times to start over, yes. But, lives take a long time to build a meaningful base of synergy. I'm where I'm, at because I served lives, a church and a city for almost a decade. That relational capital was in the bank when I launched out. I couldn't have done this without it. It's one of the reasons we have had the history we have had at Jacob's Well. Many folks don't get to walk into such spiritual capital, they start from relational scratch and that's why there is so much ministry turnover, burnout and failure.

Our future hold church plants, expanded services, added staff and many more surprises. I'm creating an inheritance to pass on, it will open doors for some, launch others, meet the needs of some and ignite new realities for dreamers and doers. It is here in this fashioning crux of pressure that we must not let worry or work prevent us from tasting that future.

This is where those who are talkers....are separated from those who are "walkers".

"I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. "Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." -Jesus (Matt 18:18-20)

The Practice of play....

“Reclaiming an appropriate practice of play is one of the challenges of adulthood . . . playfulness is the fruit of the Spirit, since as a quality of being and a habit of mind and speech, it is inseparable from so many other virtues—receptivity, openness of heart, trust, confidence, grace, even love.”
—Marilyn Chandler McEntyre (Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies)

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Because....

Good words for new Pastors....


Pastors aren’t Prophets...advice for those about to assume the pastoral life

2009 Thailand Missions Trip

For he has not ignored or belittled the suffering of the needy.
He has not turned his back on them,
but has listened to their cries for help.
-Psalm 22:24

In December 2009, our church sent a team of folks to the refugee camps on the Thailand/Burma border. As an expression of our continuing journey with the Karen people of Burma. Our relationship with these wonderful people began 5 months after we started our church in June 2006. Little did we know the plans and purposes of God for some Karen people and us; when we moved into East Central to pursue mission and ministry in a working poor neighborhood. Over the years we have witnessed a beautiful work of compassion, mutuality and service unfold. This missions trip is part of our vision to build a relational bridge that extends from our lives here...to their lives there. We anticipate many more "crossings" as we seek to be faithful to a call and a people.

This short video shows the team visiting various refugee camps, people and missions works in Thailand. Our team took video of families here to relatives in the camps....helping soothe the pain of separation and to help families reconnect. Hopefully you can catch a glimpse of the people we have grown to love.

The Burmese military considers the Karen people...their enemies.
Thailand considers the refugees...a problem.
NGO's consider them...a project.
But, God calls them...His people.
We consider them...our brothers and sisters...and friends.

2009 Thailand Mission Trip

Monday, March 01, 2010

Prayer as mission....

Everyday as prayer....

Beauty is the creator of the universe...

"For the world is not painted, or adorned, but is from the beginning beautiful; and God has not made some beautiful things, but Beauty is the creator of the universe." -Ralph W. Emerson

With the teasings of Spring being felt around here, I thought I would spark some fresh imaginings of gardening. We have a wonderful church community garden that is going to burst with life this year. Here are a few resources to get the enthusiasm flowing.

To Garden with God Manual

Spirituality of Gardening Seminar

And here is one of my favorite little books on how a garden can help nurture community in urban life.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Three cups of tea...please

What an amazing man and mission....one of the best and most hopeful things I have heard about Afghanistan. May his tribe increase. My favorite moment: The Taliban playing on the school playground swing set....violence is truly the fruit of a failed imagination.

http://castroller.com/podcasts/BillMoyersJournal/1415219

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Conscientious Objector review

Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him. With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation. -Psalm 91:14-16

I'm not a big fan of quoting scripture in war...but, if ever it seemed appropriate, this verse fits the story retold above. I watched this documentary last night and have to say, it was one of the most moving stories of faith and war, I've seen. The story of a courageous Seventh Day Adventist man who chooses to serve his country in WW2 without a gun.

It's an inspiring story that shows the cost and the witness of one man's attempt to reconcile his faith and duty to country. It's full of miracles and moving testimony from WW2 veterans who served together with Desmond Doss. This is a must see film, if the issues of faith, violence, patriotism and duty matter to you.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Your Kingdom....come

Hallelujah....

"What is a saint?

A saint is someone who has achieved a very remote human possibility. It is impossible to say what that possibility is because it is beyond our imagination. I think it has something to do with the energy of boundless love. Contact with this energy results in the exercise and experience of a strange kind of balance in the chaos of existence. A saint does not dissolve the chaos; if he did the world would have changed long ago.

I do not think that a saint dissolves the chaos even for himself, for there is something arrogant and warlike in the notion of a man even attempting to set the universe in order by himself. It is a kind of tortured balance that is his glory. He rides the snow drifts like an escaped ski. His course is the caress of the hill. His track is a drawing of the snow in a moment of its particular arrangement with wind and rock. Something in him so loves the world (because he was instructed to do so) that he gives himself completely to the laws of gravity and chance.

Far from flying with the angels, he traces with the fidelity of a seismograph needle the state of the solid bloody landscape. His house is dangerous and finite, but he is totally at home in the world. He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of their hearts. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love."

- Leonard Cohen, in the intro to the novel, Beautiful Losers (1966)

"Christian" music...?

Can a tree be a "Christian" tree?

Listen and ponder...here

...Till we are made the joyful partakers

Ecstasy and delight are essential to the believer's soul and they promote sanctification. We were not meant to live without spiritual exhilaration, and the Christian who goes for a long time without the experience of heart-warming will soon find himself tempted to have his emotions satisfied from earthly things and not, as he ought, from the Spirit of God.

The soul is so constituted that it craves fulfillment from things outside itself and will embrace earthly joys for satisfaction when it cannot reach spiritual ones. The believer is in spiritual danger if he allows himself to go for any length of time without tasting the love of Christ and savoring the felt comforts of a Savior's presence. When Christ ceases to fill the heart with satisfaction, our souls will go in silent search of other lovers.

By the enjoyment of the love of Christ in the heart of a believer, we mean an experience of the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given to us (Rom. 5:5) because the Lord has made himself accessible to us in the means of grace, it is our duty and privilege to seek this experience from Him in these means till we are made the joyful partakers of it.

John Flavel (1630-1691)

Some straight talk from a man who drank too much...

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Alone...in the desert

"Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert..." -Luke 4:1

Being in the desert alone.

We as people need to experience the fasting of relationships. We need seasons, moments or days to just be alone. People can become familiar and often can be taken for granted. In our daily lives, we are constantly immersed in a public life and if we are not conscious, a private life, a truly contemplative and prayerful life; can be squeezed to the margins if we don't fight to maintain healthy rhythms of togetherness and separateness.

Sin constantly works at eroding healthy boundaries...we allow people too much place in our souls (mind, will or emotions) or we barricade them out as we nourish bitterness, anger or unforgiving resentment. We can choose to examine our relationships in the desert because we have a pause to think, to pray and to breathe. The absence of them...can enlighten us to our true feelings and sins...and we can choose to respond appropriately to that revelation.

The above song, captures the heart of what it means to live out the gospel. May it's message, though in a style that might not be everyone's cup of tea...it's message, if lived....would bring healing to many.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Devils...in the church?

"Jesus ministry' to the oppressed is two-fold: truth and power.
Power without truth does not bring lasting deliverance.
And truth without power doesn't reach within the soul,
to bring about change."

This Sunday we will continue our teaching through Luke. Interesting observation about the first two "church services" Jesus preached in:

-First one: religious racists try to throw him off a cliff after He says God loves the whole world, not just them.
-Second: A church attendee manifests a demon, resulting in an exorcisim.

Wow...religious communities are tough places to do kingdom ministry. I can see why Jesus started cleaning house there first...if this is the condition of Gods people, imagine what outside the doors is like? You got to heal the body before it can save the world. Do you want to see God move in His church in Truth & Power?

Then be prepared to face...stones & satan.

This is a subject that many folks don't want to broach...it seems too spooky or voodooish for good old working class people to address. But...as we make our way into the ministry of Jesus in Luke...we've already encountered Satan himself and how demons and those who are possessed by devils by chapter 5. It appears we don't get the choice...you want Jesus...you must deal with devils....and those who are victims of possession and oppression.

It adds new light on the almost 12 different passages in the same chapters that speak of being "full or filled" with the Holy Spirit. In light of the demonic powers and possessions described....I can see why Jesus said His disciples should wait for "Power from on High" before entering a life of mission.

So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." -Jesus (Acts 1:6+)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Soldiers of Conscience

I watched this last night. I thought it was one of the best, balanced and brutal dialogues about war and killing, pacifism and patriotism that I have seen. I am thinking about showing it as part of our Christ & Culture nights.

Pastoral Shells....

The contemporary pastor is little more than “a quivering mass of availability" -Stanley Hauerwas

A friend gave these me these two little Turtles to remind me of the challenge to live a healthy life of vulnerability and protection. To balance the danger of being too exposed or too withdrawn. A visual icon of the dance of this dangerous pastoral life....wounded and wounding...healed and healing...Word and wordless...truthful and mystery...loving and hating...death and life.

Finding the rhythms...in the tensions is a spiritual work of nuance...like a guitar string that needs to be taunt to be in tune...but not to tight, as to snap.

Pastoral life, is a call and a choice, to embedded oneself into the lives of many people...and yet, one has to always keep oneself rooted first and foremost...God-ward in-order to be faithful and fruitful...man-ward.

Learning to respond to the Spirit and not always to the need is a tough discipline to learn. I was reminded and relived to see this delicate but profound discipline exhibited in the ministry life of Jesus.
When Lazarus was sick and Jesus after hearing the news...stayed a few days longer, instead of rushing off to "be present"...and poor 'Rus died. The repercussions and relational sting of that action can be heard in the voice of Jesus's friend, who didn't understand Jesus' seeming lack of concern and care. He didn't appear to be performing His pastoral duties.

“Lord, if you had been here...my brother would not have died” ( John 11:21, 32)

I find a measure of reprieve in the fact that Jesus didn't feel the need to react...He chose to respond...when it was time. Jesus was not to interested in being thrust into the role of "fixer dude" like when the wine ran out at the wedding in Cana:

"On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus' mother said to him, "They have no more wine." "Dear woman, why do you involve me?" Jesus replied, "My time has not yet come." -John 2:1-4

Ministry life is packed full of folks telling you what is wrong with this or that...the multitude of needs is always being presented to you as if you should be doing something about everything.

Rarely do people recognize that the very fact that they "see a need" probably means they are being prompted by the Spirit to "meet" that need...or simply pray. I often find myself in the soul draining crush that comes between the confusion of actual ministry and the messiah complex. I often want to...but can't...I may need to but for whatever reason...I am unable to.

There are many moments when the need has overreached the means....both internally and externally and I am forced to retreat into the shell, either for self protection or regeneration. This process is most facilitated for me by leaving; I just have to get away to disengage and breathe. Restoration of soul is usually renewed by finding a place of solitude or isolation either literally or relationally.

In the morning he went to a place where he could be alone.
The crowds searched for him.
When they came to him, they tried to keep him from leaving.
-Luke 4:42

The tension in life isn't about leaving...it's about reprieving...because "they" will always find you....which isn't a bad thing, what is bad...is how you handle those encounters, day in and day out.

"I never want people to say he/she was always there for me....because if they can say that, it means I wasn't living a balanced life."-T. Levert


Are you tired?
Worn out?
Burned out on religion?
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."
-Jesus (Matthew 11:28-30)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Join me in a Journey through Lent: http://ping.fm/hFVWw

Monday, February 15, 2010

Celebrity Rehab....

This is a show that caught me by surprise...it's been a deeply moving show to me. Seeing the hell of drugs and the brokenness of those fighting and failing and getting back up in recovery is powerful stuff. In this behind the scenes, you get a bit of critical info on one of the meanest chicks you are going to see on tv. She is a mess but here, you get glimpse at the horror in her soul.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Another drug death....

"The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. -Psalms 18:4

"Cimmeron is dead...she overdosed." said the slightly red eyed, grieving fiancé.

I was stunned. Good morning, how are you's usually don't get followed with such a thud of a statement. Inwardly, I stumbled emotionally, I was in a bit of limbo and my tongue instantly grew fat and unresponsive. I didn't know what to say or how to process that this woman, who had been to our church a number of times and had recently requested me to marry them...was dead.

She had a history of mental illness and was a mother of five children...and now she was gone.

The irony of the moment was thick...I had just come from the coffee bar where I had been discussing with a friend my latest pondering, related to possibly going back to school and finishing my degree in Alcohol and Drug counseling. I had expressed how this month a growing burden had descended on my mind and arisen in my heart for the prisoner and the addict. I've been a chaplain in the local justice system and have always had a heart for the chemically dependent and those in recovery. That burden was part of the reason I felt led to start our church in this neighborhood.

As I stood there, fumbling with the news...that mission gripped me on a deeper level that it has before.

"And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh." -Jude 1:22-23

Friday, February 12, 2010

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Paint your faith...

The Temptations of Christ....


I've had a number of really good conversations with people after the message I preached on Sunday about "Temptation" and particularly the issues surrounding "sexual temptation". An issue that is extremely practical...just since Sunday, i've talked to Christians that are wrestling with pornography addiction, temptations to cheat on their spouses and this issue: Just How tempted was Jesus, in the area of sexuality?

The movie, "The Last Temptation of Christ" tried to deal with this theological conundrum..."Just how human was He"....and the cultural melee that ensued reflects the deep issues we have with this mystery.

The early church formulated it's theological understanding of this mystery in the Chalcedonian Creed, A.D. 451...based on its own times wrestling with the issue. It produced one of the most complete statements of this doctrine. It reads:

Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the fathers has handed down to us.


It's an issue that many people have a hard time working through....what do verses like this really mean?

This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.-Heb 4:15

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
-2 Corinthians 5:21

Some honestly ask: "Can someone be tempted in the same way we are if you do not have a sinful nature?" Seems like saying that someone could be tempted to eat who has no appetite or stomach.

The bible seems to describe sin as something that is outside us:

Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it." -Genesis 4:6-7

James 1:14-15 “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”

And from within us:

And He said, "What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. "For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, "thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. "All these evil things come from within and defile a man." -Mark 7:20-23

How does this relate to the experience of the temptations of Jesus...was it within or without or both?

The bible doesn't seem to address the issue of Jesus and sexuality. He was surrounded by women, served with them, empowered them, had women disciples. John 11: 5 says: "Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus."...but obviously, that love was a type of love that could be expressed to both man and woman. So...in the cannon there isnt much to point us to in understanding our own sexuality and temptations as it relates to Jesus as man.

But in the Gnostic gospels, the alternative papers of the time period; there was a bit of speculation and story telling going on, like in the Gospel of Philip:

"And the companion of [the saviour was Mar]y Ma[gda]lene. [Christ loved] M[ary] more than [all] the disci[ples, and used to] kiss her [often] on her [mouth]. The rest of [the disciples were offended by it and expressed disapproval]. They said to him "Why do you love her more than all of us?" The Saviour answered and said to them, "Why do I not love you like her?"

And in the Gospel of Mary which is usually dated to about the same period as that of the Gospel of Philip. The Gospel was first discovered in 1896, the Gospel is missing six pages from the beginning and four in the middle.

The identity of "Mary" appearing as the main character in the Gospel is sometimes disputed, but she is generally regarded to be Mary Magdalene. In the Gospel, Mary, presented here as one of the disciples, has seen a private vision from the resurrected Jesus and describes it to other disciples.

Peter said to Mary, "Sister we know that the Savior loved you more than the rest of woman. Tell us the words of the Savior which you remember which you know, but we do not, nor have we heard them." Mary answered and said, "What is hidden from you I will proclaim to you." And she began to speak to them these words: "I, she said, I saw the Lord in a vision and I said to Him, Lord I saw you today in a vision." Unfortunately, almost all of Mary's vision is within the lost pages.

Mary is then confronted by Andrew and Peter, who do not want to take it for granted what she says, because she is a woman:
"Did he then speak secretly with a woman, in preference to us, and not openly? Are we to turn back and all listen to her? Did he prefer her to us?" Then Mary grieved and said to Peter, "My brother Peter, what do you think? Do you think that I thought this up myself in my heart or that I am lying concerning the Savior?"

Mary is however defended by Levi:
"But if the Savior made her worthy, who are you to reject her? Surely the Savior knew her very well. For this reason he loved her more than us."

The repeated reference in the Gnostic texts of Mary as being loved by Jesus more than the others has been seen supporting the theory that the Beloved Disciple in the canonical Gospel of John was originally Mary Magdalene, before a later redactor made changes in the Gospel." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Magdalene)

So you can see, there have been Christians speculating on the issue for centuries. Is it a sin for Jesus to have potentially kissed Mary? Personally, I dont think so...it makes the above verses about Jesus knowing my struggles, seem more substantive, than hollow....but the Bible doesn't actually say much on the subject.

In the end, the Bible does say:

"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." -1 Corinthians 10:13

and

"The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation..."-2 Peter 2:9

So, no matter what we are struggling with...God is able and willing to help us...in any temptation we face...which is comforting to me and provides a promise of hope for any struggling with temptations to sin.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Big....Hard Sun....indeed.

Great song...great book/movie.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Why I left the UFC/MMA....

"If you've got a problem with blood then get a tampon." -MMA fan

I used to be a pretty big fan of the UFC...I would host the pay per view events, blog about the matches and revel in the high octane, testosterone mayhem. It was a chance to cheer for your own favorite Braveheart, Maximus or Aragorn in a 21st century way. Being born and raised playing guns & war....I have nursed at the breast of blood for decades. UFC was simply a step up in the food chain from the fat gut, masked men of late night wrestling to...men kicking each other in bath robes in the Martial Arts fights....and then to the puffy gloved days of fall asleep boxing. MMA was the natural evolution of this fighting thirst...just a few weapons short of a gladiator battle...but with chicks.

Being a pastor, and one with an aversion to "Pastels and Piety"...I was in lock step with the "Wild At Heart" message and the recovery of the 70's men's movement. But, even still, I could never get myself to attend a Promise Keepers rally...it just seemed like "imitation men's movement" to me, a bunch of "wannabe's" trying to steal the fire from Sam Keen and Robert Bly's glory days....all that crying, singing and hugging and potty talk gave me the quivers. I know God did some great things through it...but it seemed to wimpy to me.

Now...I wasn't going all buck nutty with the machismo ministry angle that some were; like those trying to insert manly worship tunes, like the brutha's at GodMen:

"We've been beaten down,
Feminized by the culture crowd
No more nice guy, timid and ashamed …
Grab a sword, don't be scared
Be a man, grow a pair!"

I felt there was some real legitimacy of the message..but some extremes were emerging....some were wacky and weepy and others were growing more and more in tune with baser instincts and carnal cravings in my opinion. I was awash in the swords and Spirit lingo, the art of capturing the imagery of the masculine soul...it resonated with me but looking back there was a warping influence that hit me like a pail of cold ice water one evening last year.

I recorded the season opener of UFC reality show "The Ultimate Fighter: Heavy Weights" and gathered my kiddies for a episode. As we got to the fight part...there came a moment when one of the dudes got his noggin clocked and hit the ground and the other dude was unleashing a furious assault of "ground and pound". Suddenly the bro on the mat started bleeding...and bleeding and soon it was gushing. The kids started squirming, the octagon started pooling up with blood and a slow horror gripped my soul and conscience as my daughter and younger son left the room in disgust. A deep shame gripped me like a cold blanket wrapped around my heart. I turned off the TV and sat in the crux of a parental failure for quite awhile. I haven't watched a match since.



After that confrontation with violence, I began to study, observe and prayerfully do some work of reexamining the men's message and the glorification of violence, war and brutality that seemed to be everywhere, now that I had been sensitized to it. It reminded me of some early church father's comments, paticularly Augustine:

In "Confessions" Augustine describes what happened to his friend Alypius when he let his friends drag him to the arena: "He was overcome by curiosity. He opened his eyes, prepared to despise and be superior to it, whatever it was, even while seeing it, and he was stricken with a deeper wound in his soul than the gladiator. … At the moment he saw that blood, he drank down savageness and did not turn away from it. He was riveted to it, drinking in frenzy unawares, and was delighted with that wicked fight and intoxicated with the bloody pastime. Nor was he the same man that he was when he had first come; he had become one of the crowd."

I began to see this "intoxication" all around me in my culture and now being baptized by the church.

In a Christianity today article: "A Jesus for Real Men: What the new masculinity movement gets right and wrong" the issue of a biblical view of masculinity is toughened up with some phrases that Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill, a church in Seattle, will forever be repeated in this ongoing discussion of what makes a real Christian man?

"Driscoll, "real men" avoid the church because it projects a "Richard Simmons, hippie, queer Christ" that "is no one to live for [and] is no one to die for." Driscoll explains, "Jesus was not a long-haired … effeminate-looking dude"; rather, he had "callused hands and big biceps." This is the sort of Christ men are drawn to—what Driscoll calls "Ultimate Fighting Jesus....Driscoll comes closest to imagining Jesus as the model of maleness when he argues that "latte-sipping Cabriolet drivers" do not represent biblical masculinity, because "real men"—like Jesus, Paul, and John the Baptist— are "dudes: heterosexual, win-a-fight, punch-you-in-the-nose dudes." In other words, because Jesus is not a "limp-wristed, dress-wearing hippie," the men created in his image are not sissified church boys; they are aggressive, assertive, and nonverbal."

Now MMA has moved from the TV set into the church: "The Jesus who eats red meat, drinks beer and beats on other men" My concern only grows.

Now if you are a regular reader to Crowbar Massage, you know that one of the more significant results of this seismic shift in my inner dispositions...has been my politics and views on violence as it relates to war and non-violence. I regularly blog about those topics at http://thedreamofeden.blogspot.com/ and on my Facebook page and as you know, that has been quite a "battle" of ideas both biblically and culturally. These issues run deep into the American psyche and surprisingly just as deep in the religious soul too. We are a people at war with ourselves, our families, our spouses, our Government, our enemies and even our brothers and sisters in Christ.

God said that the ground was cursed from one man's blood being spilt on it...I cannot imagine the darkness that has enveloped us as a people who worship and immortalize the warrior, who revel in the highest body count and sanctify the sword.

I pray that God will truly awaken us from our blood lust and loose us from the spirit of death and destruction that we have embraced.

"Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?"
But Jesus turned and rebuked them, And he said, "You do not know what kind of spirit you are of,
for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. -Luke 9:51-56

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Specialman...not Superman.

I admit up front that I write in a manner that often appears to be simply pugilist in nature. Sometimes that is there...I provoke in order to draw out the debate. But I see that not as a means to draw someone into the line of fire; as much as it's meant to draw people into conversations, debates about stuff that is serious to me or needs to be talked about.

All mediums of communication dance with the line between confrontation and contemplation...or sensationalism and passion. Everyone chooses which medium of information they are going to engage. Some like a Charlie Rose of PBS and others find the rancor of a Oberman or O'Reily...or the Trojan horse approach of Colbert or Sterwart. And if you are like most of us...you approach it with a buffet plate...a bit of this and that...but regular favorites.

We are more and more a sound bite culture and that lends itself to huge hurdles for ongoing dialogue. Most folks just don't have the time or energy to flay a subject...its too emotionally draining or time just doesn't allow. That means folks often don't read my thoughts in entirety or are simply at the mercy of the nature of the internet and its limited circumspect nature....we are all far more complex and nuanced than a 140 lettered TWEET.

I start fires...because I want the light...not to just burn down the house.

Do I have issues...yes, I do.

In fact, my issues are both my strengths and my weakness. My wounds make up my sensitivities that both draw me to those who need someone who "sees" but they also blind me many times as well. How does one avoid that reality? I don't let that stop me from doing what I do...I trust the process to do the work. In time light, experiences, people, conversations, knowledge, pain, suffering and enough u-turns...bring one into greater wisdom. Is there a wake of brokeness behind me? Yes...and by the grace of God, I've sought to learn from it, restore where able and over all pray to avoid as much damage as possible in the future. But in the end...I must be content to go forward in the direction of my future. I cannot drive looking in the rear-veiw mirror.

I've always been a thorn more than a feather.

I dont say that as an excuse..but as a confession. I've accepted the fact that there is a expression of the nature of the God found in my volatile image. I used to carry that knowledge as a burden...but more and more I have come to hold it as a gift. What I thought was my shame...has gradually become my strength. I have to embrace the fact that I will not be liked by many. I will be a lamb among wolves. People will hate me...for the Jesus in me and simply because I am an ass most of the time if the Spirit isn't the dominating bridle in my day to day life.

I've accepted the truth that I am "Being Resurrected"...I'm not "Superman" but I am a "Specialman"...I ok with that.

I am in process...I am being born...I am coming to life...what God has done within me...is slowly emerging and taking over me and will someday burst out in all its transforming power and glory.

But for now...it's from glory to glory...a slowly dawning light.