A Simple Story of Being Naked And Drunk

January 21st, 2015

A simple story from the Bible… not one of Noah and his Ark.  Not the nursery story of Noah leading the animals in two by two.  Not one of God’s eternal covenant with Noah, a covenant sealed by the beauty of a rainbow.  But this story of Noah … naked and drunk.

“And Noah drank some wine and become drunk, and was naked in the middle of the tent.”  (Gen. 9:21)

This is the genius of the Bible for me … no one perfect.  No one beyond reproach.  All flawed.  All loved.

And there is another story here … a story of forgiveness and kindness as two of Noah’s three sons cover their father’s nakedness, gently, and the story of a third brother  who only saw the naked drunk.

And in the midst of this story, our story.

The third brother, Ham, only able, with sneering contempt, to notice flaws. He pictures a cruel us.  Lacking “all kindness [they] radiate hatred from every pore.  They want to examine and in fact judge everyone, craving nothing more than to find evil, constantly bent on … condemning, punishing and torturing others.” (Secrets of Heaven 1079) A degraded faith, a faith catastrophically split from charity, a doctrinal paradigm corrupt and toxic.  A faith only concerned with “arguing whether a thing is true and knowing exactly how matters stand.”  (Secrets of Heaven 1072)   A view of faith that leads such people “to mock and broadcast the faults of others whenever the opportunity arrises.”

But the other two brothers?  Life there.

No interest in debate here but only interest in affirmation.   Interest not in flaws but in drawing attention to the good qualities all possess. “Whatever evil and falsity they may see, they excuse, and if they can, they work to correct it.” (Secrets of Heaven 1079)  Everything unseemly, bent to what is good.

A very modern story.  Blessed and broken as we all are.

And Some Days Are Just Sweet

January 13th, 2015

Some days are just sweet.  Some days life is calm and paced.  A sign maybe of grace.

Not all days are that way.

Ignatius noted the danger of “disordered attachments.”  Those attachments that get between us and God, attachments which bind instead of free.

How do we know, how do we discern what is “disordered”?  For me, I know the feeling of those “disordered attachments” … anxious, must-have-now, short lived, fevered.  And instead of peaceful satisfaction? Guilt.

But ordered “attachments” bring connection and a certain graceful rhythm. They quietly champion commitment and courage, not as some aggrandizing, righteous add-on but as the settled movement towards the “next-right-thing.”

It is what makes some days just sweet.

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An Implanted Promise

January 9th, 2015

We all carry what Father Richard Rohr terms “An Implanted Promise”, a deeply held spirit within us, connected to God.  God both abides and enters there.

In New Church circles that implanted promise rests on innocence, charity, and mercy.  Restated the promise rests on a ….

  1. Willingness to be led
  2. Kindness towards our fellow human being
  3. Compassion
These “tether” us to heaven, a heaven we always carry.  Simply part of the human condition.  Can we ignore those deeper roots of implanted humanity? Absolutely. That is the crux of human freedom.  But they remain, for eternity, waiting to be employed.
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When Faith Becomes A Weapon: Terrorism in Paris

January 8th, 2015

Faith and religion, at there best, represent incredible forces towards healing, mercy, kindness … the better angels of our nature.  And at times faith and religion represent the exact opposite as they did in Paris yesterday with the killing of 12 individuals who worked for the newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, a killing carried out by Islamic terrorists.

Religiously fueled terrorism of this sort is especially depraved.  It grows out of a mindset anchored in a view of God as wrathful, angry, vindictive … clothing God then in our depravities.  The frightening nature of these attacks however may stem mostly from the fact that they can be perpetrated guilt free.  A crazy, transparently false line of reasoning may go, “If God calls for, sanctions and blesses such an attack, who am I to feel guilty carrying it out?”

What then is the answer?  What do we do when faith becomes a weapon?

For some, this attack yet again reinforces the dangers of religion as a whole, a thought which gives rise to much of the militant atheism in Western culture.  And that is understandable in a sense if all one knows of religion are these attacks.

Important to note however that some of the worse of modern day demagogues clearly rejected religion.  Hitler, Stalin and Mao …. all saw religion as weak.   All worked to eliminate it from their nations.  Each killed millions. Hitler repeatedly noted that Nazism was a secular ideology founded on science, which in the long run could not “co-exist with religion.”  While he did reference Christianity, no doubt playing to political concerns, it is hard to imagine he held any sincere Christian beliefs given his virulent anti-semitism.

So what then is the answer?

To do what Christians are called to do.

To stand for peace.  To “bind the wounds” of the broken.   And importantly, to pray.  And that prayer is for the healing of those hurt. For the grieving families of those who have lost loved ones.  For the trauma of a nation.  And that prayer is even for the terrorists themselves, as hard and as misaligned as that may appear.

Three prayers in Christianity – The Lord’s Prayer/ The Our Father – the Oneness prayer in John – and Christ’s Prayer of Forgiveness of the Cross.  All call on us to pray for healing.

  • “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
  • “… that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.”
  • “Father forgive them for know not what they do.”

That does not erase the need for accountability.  These attacks must be confronted and denounced, facing the darkness in the human heart, wherever it may reside.

And the spirit of that confrontation must return us yet again to the better angels of our nature.

 

 

Beyond

January 7th, 2015

There is nothing easy per se about the challenges to live meaningful lives.  We live in a time when the conversation around spirit is largely muted.

A recent NCAA football playoff trailer featured language of the spirit but in an entirely misappropriated way, stating for example “faith is trust in things unseen”, and “the fierce urgency of now” without I believe knowing or at least referencing that these quotes grew from the Bible in the case of former and Rev. Martin Luther King in the case of latter.  Our spiritual language … reserved to describe the game between Alabama and Ohio State.  A game serving as a paltry substitute for the deeper meanings of human existence. And I want to add … it was a really good game!  It just was not spiritual.  Just … a … game.

Brings up the question … how dead are we?  Can we choose life, a life beyond the reductionist dead end of self-referencing emotion? Can we choose life now even though “now” costs?

“You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be. And one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls you to stand up for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid…. You refuse to do it because you want to live longer…. You’re afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you’re afraid that somebody will stab you, or shoot at you or bomb your house; so you refuse to take the stand. Well, you may go on and live until you are 90, but you’re just as dead at 38 as you would be at 90. And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit.” (Rev. Martin Luther King)

Imagine 2015 as a year of thinking “beyond”  - beyond emotions to principles.  Beyond physical comforts to spiritual nourishment.  Beyond attainment to sacrifice.

 

A New Year’s Wish

December 30th, 2014

In a recent blog post Seth Godin noted how we respond most readily to “close and now.”  We ignore what is not.

And yet so many of the challenges we face are neither “close” or “now.”  Issues spanning from global warming to damaged relationships, we prefer, sadly to push off with shallow hope to some never arrived at future when we believe we will finally be able to say, “Now I have time.”

But “time” never arrives.  So “attention” never arrives.  So “healing” never arrives.  And we are left with spinning lives no more at peace for all the frantic efforts at distraction.

A simple New Year’s Wish… that we draw our lives, our true lives, our this-is-what-actually-matters-lives, into the “close and now.”  We don’t need to take all that movement in in one bite.  But we can find one small piece, a quiet piece, one “micro-resolution” as a dear friend calls it, and practice there.  Close and now.

Miracles I think … where there is nothing but stone and rock we find a soft pocket, soft soil.  A place where a seed can land.  A place where growth can happen.  Not all at once.  But given a space, it starts.

Blessings on 2015!

 

 

A Thought on Christmas

December 24th, 2014

I love the story of the shepherds, those families out watching their sheep at night, to whom a heavenly angelic “host” as the story goes appeared, proclaiming joyously to the surprised “Glory to God in the highest. And on earth, peace, goodwill to mankind.”  I love the shepherds for so many reason not  the least of which is that I am plain, not a wise man, not a man given to visions or personal visits by angels.  Not a John the Baptist filled with zealous wrath.  Or a quiet guardian like Joseph.  Just plain.  Just me.

And God can speak there too.  The gift.   The gift all received.  The gift of movement.  The gift in the form of a call spoken into even the most ordinary of us and into the most wise of us.

I imagine the shepherds, families in tow, rushing to see this baby.  Joyously rushing.  Anticipation.  Not with the expectations of grandeur most of us hold to but with the humble joy of beholding power in the beauty of the powerless, a Kingdom not of this world but completely of this world born anew in infancy.  A claiming of the “dual citizenship in the now and the not yet.

Picking up that infant, allowing that infant to look at us, to see us, to offer us that soft assurance that God is over us and under us, undergirds us, supports us, loves us, and needs us.

Merry Christmas!

Prayers for Pakistan

December 16th, 2014

We awoke this morning to devastating news of Taliban militants attacking school children at the Army Public School and Degree College in the violence-plagued city of Peshawar.  Casualty figures this morning are around 125 dead, mostly children age 12-16.

These events are beyond enraging.  Beyond comprehending.  And they are the world in which we live.  A world at times incredibly blessed and at times  breathtakenly broken as we witness senseless acts of horrific violence inflicted on the defenseless.

So we pray. And we cry.  And maybe something in us stirs to do.

This story is not outside the Christmas narrative.  2,000 years ago, feeling threatened by the birth of the new king in the form of infant Jesus, King Herod, to eliminate potential threats to his despotic reign, ordered the slaughter of  Jewish infants under his jurisdiction.  Titled “The Slaughter of Innocents” it is a little known tragedy tucked away in the Christmas story.  And God’s heart broke as well, “A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more.”

Events like the the unfolding tragedy in Pakistan are one of the painful reminders that the work we do, the world we advocate for, is not a small thing or a little thing or a conveniently happy little church thing.  It is no less than revolutionary in a still and quiet and non-violent way.  Joined by countless millions from many denominations.  An authentic alternative.  Beginning in our own broken hearts and reaching out into a broken world.

So we pray for Pakistan and we pray for the world.

Sydney, Souderton, and Damaging the Sky

December 15th, 2014

Such sad news today.  A terrorist attack claims 3 lives in Australia.  A still unresolved killing spree in Montgomery Country claims 5 lives.

So little to write that in any way changes the devastating impact of violence on our culture, an impact rippling out far beyond numbers.   In a recent interview, a Yemeni peace activist spoke of the impact of drone strikes on their culture.  His words chilling … drone strikes “damage our relationship with the sky.” Violence does much the same.  Damages relationship.  One to another.  Culture to culture. Damaging our relationship with the Sky.

The temptation – either a massive over-reaction to quell all threats or a shy desire to run away, someplace different, somewhere different. The call though – to stand with the victims. To mourn.  To speak of the better angels of our nature.   To live, somehow, differently.

Peace – never or as noteworthy as violence.  And peace is our soul, our heart, our hoped for destiny.

 

Road Construction Ahead

December 9th, 2014

Churches evolve like roads.  A plan.  A small road.  Joined by intersections, on ramps and off ramps.  A road that hopefully grows.  And serves more. And helps more.

We live though in times when the whole field of Christianity feels painfully like a collapse narrative.  Congregations smaller, older.  Youth more averse. Culture more at odds.

And that might be true, or not.

As new roads are quite quietly built the old roads, the well traveled paths, do not serve in the same way.  Not that those older roads are “bad” or highways to nowhere.  They serve.  And we need new roads to go in new directions in a new time.

That does not mean roads are out of style.  It just means there are new roads.  There are new roads, intersections, off ramps, and on ramps.  And that seems to be God’s plan.

Two Roads by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

 

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

 

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

 

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.