Archive for January, 2015

Finding Meaning Outside of the Mall

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

One veteran, returning from Iraq, wondered when did “America become a giant mall with a country attached.”  How did life in the military at times feel “holier” than the “gluttonous, oversexed, over-consuming, materialist home where we are too lazy to see our own faults?”

Ouch.

Good questions.  Painful.  Confrontative.  Good questions.

Part of me hates to even hear them.  Maybe because I know, at least in part, that they speak to an uncomfortable truth.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt. 6:19-21)

I know,on most days, there is meaning in places other than the mall.

A Simple Story of Being Naked And Drunk

Wednesday, 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

Tuesday, 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

Friday, 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

Thursday, 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

Wednesday, 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.