Archive for August, 2015

Imagine this fall and something being set free

Friday, August 28th, 2015

Imagine.  Imagine something set free this fall.  I imagine you know what that thing is for you, even if it is no more than a sense.  A piece, a part, that yearns to slide into its own skin.

And that freedom always entail a fall, a death of sorts.  Christ’s words fill wtih this truth.

I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. (John 12:24)

We discover a freedom – we think we discover a freedom – through ways we come to see, over time, as wanting and shallow.  The 20 year old who leaves home believing self indulgent indepedence forms the beginning and end of all wisdom.  The 30 year old with money and money on their mind. “$50,000 a year then I will be free!”… my mantra for a decade.  The 40 year old wiggling around in the discomforts of change, challenge, and children in middleage marriage sure something is “wrong.”  We could go on.

And I know this … we will be set free. That is God’s point. Divine providence pulling us towards an undivided life. Something dies there in that new life. Something greater, and precious lives there as well. And the call is painful many days.  Joyful on many others.

A prayer as we enter fall … may something be set free in your soul!

Scandal and Ashley Madison

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

Hard to miss all the attention around Ashley Madison. A website catering to those searching to have an extra-marriatal affair, it hosted 10′s of millions of subscribers.  Recently, following a massive computer security breach, the personal data of those subscribers was made public.

To give an idea of the breadth of the websites reach, every zip code in the US with the exception of 3 were represented in the clientel.

I imagine a conversation must start with this.  Adultery is bad.  A sin.  And why?  Because we were created a certain way.  And that certain way appears to function best married to one.  A concrete love.  Committed. Blessed and broken. Where we can learn and grow.  Working over the decades to learn how to love unconditionally. That seems, plainly, to be God’s plan.

When we go outside of the plan, hurt follows. Notice even our language.  We don’t often use the term “adultery.”  We say instead someone “cheated.” They were “unfaithful.”  I think those words are spot on … adultery is a “cheat”, a shortcut, a way of pulling faith in relationahip from a relationship.

And people do have affairs.  It happens.  People make mistakes.  Good people. Christ clearly shows a way forward.  A woman, caught literally in bed with her lover, is brought by a mob to Christ.  The mob seeking to stone her to death as Jewish law prescribed.  Christ gently rebukes the crowd “Let those without sin throw the first stone.”  Words that saved her from a horrendous death.  And then lovingly raises himeself up from the ground and offers…

Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,”Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

So the message is simple.  No condemning. No throwing stones. And please, no adultery.

Church as an Invitation not an Institution

Friday, August 21st, 2015

We live in an era popularized by the phrase “spiritual but not religious.”  I imagine for many the connotation is a movement away from institutional forms of religion to more personalized, individualized, customized views of religion devoid of the demands of formalized faith.

And I would kindly offer … maybe church is, at its best, more than just an institution.  Maybe it is as well an invitation.

How to differentiate between institution and invitation?  Maybe this … institutions can often tend to embrace begrudged compliance.  Invitations can often tend to embrace a freely offered surrender.

I worry … for me … that if I went full bore to “spiritual but not religious” I would miss the invitation, I would forgo the surrender, so prone are we to get trapped in self-referenced “what feels good”, “what feels right.” What feels good, what feels right?  Meat and beer and football and sex.  Left to our own devises, the centers of the universe.

My hope is to heed the invitation and surrender.  To surrender to something more freeing, far greater than the cramped horizons of my personal compulsions.  Church is an invitation to do just that.

And the best churches?  They are institutions centered on that very invitation.   A radical welcome home. A surrender to something far greater than me.



The Endless Search for Self Esteem

Thursday, August 20th, 2015

We search endlessly for self esteem.  Endlessly desiring to finally feel good about ourselves.  And I am unsure if we ever arrive.

For many the pursuit of feeling good about oneself can lead to an even more endless pursuit to find more and more distracting entertainments.  A short term fix of an experiential high.   Don’t feel good about yourself?  Find a parade, a carival with lights and noise (and of course funnel cake!:-)) THEN we will feel good about ourselves.

For those who crave entertainment … and funnel cake … it doesn’t work beyond the slivers of times when the entertainment briefly overshadows the consistent, dull drumbeat of self doubt.  And then there we are, again. In all our self loathing wonder.

I think this.  I think the question of self esteem must eventually die.  Must eventually go.  That does not mean the answer lies in misery, a misery that can be just as addictive as entertainment.

And how does the question die?  It dies over time, over a long time, as we settle into the deepest sanctuary of who we are in God. For me, I find that in stillness. From a center or Center that just is.

And in some odd, I-don’t-have-words-for-it way, I suspect that we find it as we look at others that way … right to the center/ Center of their being and so ours. Seeing beyond their doubts and confusions. Resisting the understandable urge to distract them with the shiny trinkets of our culture as a false fix.  And simply see.  Simply see them.  Simply see them as an angel.  Simply see them as they are.  Made in the image and likeness of God.

It will save you a lot of money in carnival tickets.

What does it mean to be “born again”?

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

People many times call with tragedy or pain right there.  Right in the midst of their life … a pain that takes our breath away.  A loss.  A crippling doubt. Fear.

And what I know of Christianity is that it has to work there too.  I know this …. Weddings are easy.  Funerals are hard.   And somehow through the very painful we are born again.

Amanda Haines shared a beautiful blog post, written in the midst of great pain.  A moving testimony to “born again”, what New Church calls “regeneration”, re-creation.

When He breathed, my chest rose.

I was trained to argue, but His breath came when I lay with nothing to say, how broken I was.

I had nothing with which to entice anyone to come to my rescue. I made no argument and no fight; I wasn’t budging in my own power, because I had no power with which to budge.

The presence of God, Spirit, warmed my blood and assembled my bones. I crawled to the bed, like one who heard a voice in the desert, saw fire in the bush.

A path cleared in me. I whispered, “I am free”— lungs full of air. I was newborn.

The weight of legions lifted, taste of forbidden fruit gone from the mouth, sting of death removed.

The Bible from class was on the bed, and I drank it like hindmilk. I was broken but filled. The hush in my spirit, this was freedom, the presence of God.

Freedom is peace.

The first of many births I would witness was my own. I was born into the light.

I would have waited on that linoleum floor until I starved, waited there to be raised from the dead, or be made dead, whichever.

I can’t explain the difference in what was happening in my head and in my heart and in my body. It was all taking new form.

I didn’t lie down so that when I stood up I might believe. I lay down to die because I was done with moving about in a body that had no life.

The fact that the presence of God was so obvious, like Road-to-Damascus obvious, was absolutely shocking to me. I had never felt so pursued or so loved, and love is what got me up off the floor.

As my eyes came open to something so simple as love, that God loves me, I was overcome with new desire: more than for a warm body—for skin on skin; more than for the taste of home— biscuits and gravy on a family morning; and more than for any drug to numb my pain.

I didn’t know who I was, filling with such delight, the allure of God. His meeting me on the floor was my release from being bogged down in self-awareness and loathing. He released me from feeling required to entice love, to always make an offering.

I became aware of God who loved me first.


The Blessed Space

Thursday, August 6th, 2015

Blessed space.  Much of the spiritual life is finding blessed space.  And one of those spaces is the space between Christianity and culture.

It is not a distance colored by anger or judgment or righteousness.  It is a quiet distance God-born of newer allegiances to higher angels, to larger purposes, to wider circles of community.

And what does this blessed space create?

[It] breaks through our self enclosed worlds creating a personality enriched by otherness – a rich personality because others are reflected in it in a particular way. (Volf)

A connectedness that is heaven.  A connectedness that circles us right back deeply into the world but not “of the world.”

This Weird Place

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

A recent article ended with these words…

Never before have we experienced a moment with so much public alienation and so much private, assertive, and fragmented self esteem.

I wish statements like that were not true.  And I suspect they are.

I experience a world where many of us run, happily, in our own direction. “Private, assertive, and fragmented.” Little in the way of ties. Even less in the way of commitment. In the race to catch up or measure up we fail to show up.

This giddy and shiny independence is way too enticing for the likes of me.  So that quieter sense of God, for me, pulls in and offers a movement of go “back to.”  Back to simpler commitments instead of the headlong rush to the next experience.

I wonder – an open question – if that is where the future of Christianity might just lie.