Two events: past and future, community

Today, through a mutual friend, I ended up randomly meeting up with two beautiful people.  Tamara Park, author of “Sacred Encounters” and one of her traveling companions.  I have not read the book but now want to.  It bills itself as a bit of a travel journal as she treks through terrain between Rome to Jerusalem, and covers territory such as faith and doubt in between.  I suspect she picked up many stories along the way–she listened intently in the little half hour we had together, and while I wanted to hear more about her and her life she continued to simply encourage my own sharing.  What a marvelous quality to discover in some one else.  I hope to encounter her more and emulate the beautiful way of engaging the world around her that she seems to have.  Cheers!

The second event. Tonight Jessie and I embark on a seven week book club adventure reading through “A Theory of Everything” by Ken Wilber together with a group of fellow “post-Christian” adventurers.  I read the intro last night and found myself excited for the voyage ahead.  There were two things that stood out to me.  1) He talked about the “de-throning” of post-modernism by other more viable stories.  While post-modernity emphasized the nurtured cultural models of the beliefs we have concerning the world, making them little more than embedded myth and accepted fables; such discoveries as evolutionary psychology, chaos theory/complexity, and M-Theory/String Theory, have helped us realize that while things may not have readily apparent reasons for why they are…they still ARE!  In other words there are bigger stories than post-modernisms particular one, at work.  That intruiges me.  Another thing that Wilber said in the intro was particularly good: “we may not be able to get a view of EVERYTHING but isn’t a little bit of wholeness better than none at all?”  And I found that hopeful and redemptive.  All in all, I’m excited to take the journey together with my wife and other friends who all seem to find ourselves in the same space.  What dreams may come?  It will simply be good to gather around a challenging text and be stretched again. 

These are little blips of community that I see taking shape again… Receiving the stranger, creating space of sacred encounters, and then allowing others into the place of concept and stories to encounter something Other.

The Object

As I look back at my closest friendships I’m struck by something: the object(s) around which we gather, in other words, the things that make our friendship possible.  I remember birthing a friendship around the first season of “Survivor”, another over some stupid teen-evening melodrama.  I have other friendship’s that are nourished around the object of music–playing it, listening to it, engaging it.  I watch and see some people and how they evaluate their closest friends by simply being able to go see the latest flick–they’re gathering around an object, a ritual.  Still others call up friends because they know they too like to drink–they’re “drinking buddies”.  That’s how they relate.

And then I notice as things “fall apart”.  It’s odd because it usually isn’t the frienship that cracks first, it’s the object around which the relationship was built.  The season ends. The show gets boring. The music doesn’t flow or tastes change.  Movie tickets aren’t as cheap as the used to be, it gets cut out. Drinking becomes emblematic of a problem and is abandoned by one or both of the parties.  And as the object of friendship is taken away, like the old rug pulled out from under the feet, the friendship fails. 

There isn’t a judgement statement here.  It’s just a trend I’ve noticed play out across my own social experience. 

Still, my friend Gretchen tells me that there are some friendships that transcend the Object. Her best friend, whom she met in elementary school, does not live in the same town, they haven’t gone to the same school, they don’t have the same major, they don’t work in the same industry, etc… In many ways they have no commonality–no object.  Save one.  Their committment to each other, that is their object.  They are dedicated to the relationship and to relating.  Living in seperate places means that they make efforts, they write, the email, they call, the send care packages, they plan get aways.  And they relate, not on the shared experience or the activity, but on what either person are experiencing right now at this very minute. 

I think that’s the artistic way to approach friendship: with experiment, authenticity, and imagination. 

Still…is it something we’re capable of?  Certainly not with many friendships…maybe one or two…maybe a lover or a spouse…a soul mate…  it seems to me that the rest of us in the rest of our ways of relating need ritual and shared pattern to jump kick the feeling. 

Interesting (at least to me).

Off the Moutain…(in search of a new monasticism)

…it seems to me that God is always moving and always moving on…keeping step with Spirit is so terribly important…I think of Peter wanting to build condo’s on the mount of transfiguration–we like camping out–but Jesus was moving on. That passage is always interesting because it pegs the human tendency to want a worshipful experience; to prefer the glorious and the glittering experiencing of having “truly met the Lord as He is”…that’s the experience most of us are after. And the best part is–He gives it to us. Well, at least he gave it to them (Peter, James, and John). But quickly, ever so quickly, he moves off the mountain and descends into the needs of humanity. For Jesus the mountain wasn’t the point–the multitudes were. His mission (and I would argue, our mission also) is to seek and save the lost and the looking–to meet their needs–to heal their wounds–to touch them in their situations and untouchability…love…and particularly; love in the ghetto of humanity (remember Jesus’ statement to the Pharisee’s: “A physician is not for the healthy”–but it is a whole lot easier to want to become the community nurse for a country club than to be the pro bono medic in the war zone of Compton isn’t it).

Anyhow…Jesus descends into the mess of humanity, while we long to hang out on peaks of highest praise. That is one of the realities of the “mount of transfiguration” narrative. God moves on towards His Mission–and we want to stay put. And so this is where keeping step with Spirit comes in…as disciples we must follow the Master into the margins where He is always going.

Having said all this, one of the most exciting motions of God today is found in the growing counter culture called “New Monasticism“. I was first exposed to the words “new monasticism” years ago in the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer when he called for Christians to move towards this type of life–save not in the cloister, but out of the world and into the foundation of a new society that looks radically different than the world system. I remember being grabbed by the brutal honesty of Bonhoeffer’s wrestling with the notion that Christians are called to be relevant to their culture but also peculiar from it as well. What might that look like?

A new generation of Christians–dissatisfied with the dominant cultural regime; considering themselves expats of the empire of capitolism and greed; having come down off the mountain and into the masses of hurting; are forging ahead into a “new monasticism”. History will tell where this return to Christian community and the burden of tending to the lost and the looking, will end…but for the time being, it is tremendously exciting.

April 08 a new book comes out by one of the pioneers in this frontier expansion…Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. It is called appropriatly: “New Monasticism: What it has to say to today’s church”. Here’s what Brazo’s Press, the publisher says about this book:

New Monasticism

“It’s hard to be a Christian in America,” writes Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, a leader in the new monasticism movement in America, a growing group of committed Christians who are living lives of radical discipleship. However, the movement doesn’t mirror traditional monasteries–many members are married with children and have careers, yet they live differently, often in community in once-abandoned sections of society. Wilson-Hartgrove founded a new monastic community and works with an alternative theological collaborative. In this book, he takes readers inside new monasticism, tracing its roots through scripture and history and illuminating its impact on the contemporary church. He identifies the key tenets of new monasticism, including:

  • How monasticism is the oldest form of counter-culture in the West
  • God’s alternative economy and financial practices for church
  • Hospitality and active peacemaking
  • A model for grassroots ecumenism
  • What the church offers new monasticism: stability, diversity, and structure

“Monasticism isn’t about achieving some sort of individual or communal piety. It’s about helping the church be the church,” Wilson-Hartgrove writes. A must-read for new monastics or those considering joining the movement, this book will also appeal to 20- and 30-somethings, pastors, leaders, and those interested in the emerging church.

Endorsements
“It is my sincere hope that new monasticism will grow so strong and healthy and widespread that every follower of Jesus in every church has the opportunity, if not to actually live in a new monastic community, to at least have enough proximity and relationship to be influenced by it. This book can help that dream and prayer come true.”–Brian McLaren, author of Everything Must Change“This is the most informative work to date on its subject. Written in fluid, accessible prose and without pretense, it is also rich in personal and historical insights. The result is a book that is both beguiling and highly credible.”–Phyllis Tickle, author of The Divine Hours“This book demonstrates how embracing the lifestyle prescribed by Jesus is a realistic possibility in our present age. It also shows how countercultural Christianity can provide a needed critique of our self-centered, consumerist society.”–Tony Campolo, Eastern University

“This book is a scavenger hunt into Christian history and the abandoned places of Empire where the Spirit is stirring today. It’s like digging around in the dirt trying to find the pearl we buried, the pearl that is so beautiful it’s worth giving up everything else in the world for.”–Shane Claiborne, author of The Irresistible Revolution

“Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove is bringing things both old and new out of the great Christian storehouse! New monasticism is discovering what is always rediscovered–and always bears great life for the gospel.”–Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM, Center for Action and Contemplation

So…I can’t wait till April 08. I will be cracking open the book and may it crack open my heart. I hope you read it too.

Soundtrack To My Upsidedown Life

Sometimes song writers touch a nerve that perfectly sum up what’s happening to their audience…now I know that I’m not who Matt Pond is writing about…I get that.  I get that his “saturday night” that he’s talking about is totally different than mine that I’m meaning…but still…for some reason I can’t shake the fact that this song is about me in this moment–perfectly tuned to my little feelings in my little world. Check it out.

Went to where the people were on a saturday night
seems like it always seems
where i go i want to leave
i thought we were doing fine with our lives
there are people who will tell you
there is always something better

if you don’t know or care you’ll be alright
i heard it’s modern to be stupid
you don’t need to talk to look good

i surprised myself as my mouth started speaking
there is nothing left of my nerves
as i lean over to ask her

pardon the intrusion
could we leave before it gets bad
i might smash up all these windows
and set fire to the curtains
until it goes on and eats it with its blue and red orange
until the fire burns and eats it with its blue and red orange

if you don’t know or care you’ll be alright
i heard it’s modern to be stupid
you don’t need a thought to look good

pardon the intrusion
could we leave before it gets bad
i might smash up all the windows
and set fire to the curtains

went to where the people were on a saturday night
seems like it always seems
where i go i want to leave
i surprised myself as my mouth started speaking
there is nothing left of my nerves
as i lean over to ask her

pardon the intrusion
could we leave before it gets bad
i might smash up all the windows
and set fire to the curtains

until it goes on and eats it with its blue and red orange
until the fire burns and eats it with its blue and red orange

Anyhow…thanks Matt Pond PA for providing to the soundtrack to the theory of my upside down life.  

groaning the Lord’s Prayer

Father of the unknowable and the unutterable—creator of Beauty and justice/mercy and Truth

YHWH we groan for your good dream to come! (groan)

Dweller in heavenly temples shrouded behind the veil in unseen darkness—You, whose Light shines brighter than Light—Inhabitant of all that is Real and Good, Filler of effulgent Love and ineffable Peace

YHWH we groan for your good dream to come! (groan)

You heard the cries of the oppressed and the exploited in the brickyards of Egypt and overturned an empire to bring them to yourself in perfect Freedom. You brought high walls of established governments to the ground at a shout by those who needed to be reminded to “fear not”. You led men who looked like grasshoppers in comparison to the 10’ giants they faced to victory using only stone and sling. You lifted and up and tore down. You send out and you bring back. You tear down and you lift up!

YHWH we groan for your good dream to come! (groan)

Your reign of love which leaves no one hungry—where no one has surplus and one have lack, your Abba’s heart that all would enter into gentle, compassionate, restored relationship with fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers, neighbors and enemy until there is no longer any enemy but Death itself—oh death where is your sting?

YHWH we groan for your good dream to come! (groan)

We hunger for bread from heaven and then long to be satisfied with the choicest of wines—experiencing your enjoyment, newness and wine-skin bursting Life.

We acknowledge our emptiness, our lack of resourcefulness, our inability to imagine your kingdom come—we forgive ourselves…and then apply the same generosity to those around us who leave us feeling slighted, wronged, or annoyed…we extend the grace that you have extended to us.

Even though temptation comes and the fierce adversaries of affluence, complacency, laziness, and judgment battle against us—we fear no evil…oh Abba…Abba Father…

Yours is the Kingdom, and the Power, and Glory Forever and ever…

YHWH we groan for your good dream to come on earth as it is in heaven…Amen

Statement of Faith (the journey thus far)

I didn’t used to believe in statements of faith.  I now do.

In fact I believe that almost everything we do in this livingness of ours is a statement of faith.  The question is “What kind of faith” are we putting into action?  For instance, take real estate (my last profession): what kind of house do I buy? What size? Where the house is located? What sort of community it’s situated in?  These are all actually statements of faith.  They are declarations of the life I believe I should be living…they are testimonies of what I consider the good life to be.  A quirky statistic that I am well aware of is this: in the last fifty years the size of the American family has divided in two but the size of the American home has doubled and even tripled.  Why does a family of four need a four thousand foot sprawler?  What is that inherently saying about their values and what they consider important?  And just where did they get that value or that sense of importance?  The merchants of cool?  The American Dream?  Or did the Immaculately conceived Kingdom Dreamer dictate?  Some people would have you believe that God really doesn’t care where you live or how you live? Come on!  That’s way to convenient.  And I dare…I challenge…I invite them to just actually sit down and read the words of their Rabbi instead of listen to the rumblings of their own temporary feelings caused more by Taco Bellic indigestion than Holy spirit.

Anyhow…off my box of soap.

Statements are everywhere–even not making a statement is making a statement. Not having a theology is having a theology. “Just Jesus” is just as much of a bumper sticker as “Everything Must Change” is…they both get packaged and sold and bought by greedy consumers hoping to validate our own inclinations.  <whew!!! There I go again…stop already>

Everything makes a statement about what we consider to be spiritual.  So why not be upfront and leave an artifact about where we are–right now–the journey thus far?  Why not?  Why not be self aware?

I loved the statement of faith found in Tony J.’s book: the New Christians.  It’s a gooder:

“We at _____________ Church acknowledge that God’s coming to earth in the person of Jesus Christ and recounted in the Gospels turns upside down what we used to think about concepts like “truth”.  For in him “truth” walked around, talked to people, and even cried and bled.  We’re left with a faith that, while deep, is also paradoxical and difficult.  As a result, we’ve committed to leaning on each other as we collectively try to follow Jesus. We’re confident about some things: Jesus’ coming to earth was good news, it’s still good news, and there’s more good news to come.  You’re welcome to join us anytime.”

Wow!! How up front.  How inclusive. How honest.  It says so much without being narrow or dogmatic or decisive (or indicisive for that matter).

Why not make that kind of statement up front? It can always be changed later…and will forever be an archeological reminder of where we’ve been.

Fear Vs. Hope…a hopeful journey

This is my quotation and paraphrase of a post on Josh Brown’s website which can be found here:

What I am For

Read on…I am discovering that hope is more than dreamy expectations, it is an assuredness based on God’s great history and triumphant tomorrow…it is understanding that what God has done He is now still doing and will continue to do…it is the hope of yesterday, today and forever. We must be a community of hope. Thanks NT Wright, and Josh Brown:

“Operating out of fear, you see the end as the destruction of all things. Anything that doesn’t have life or “is death” to us as individuals is something to be feared and avoided. Operating out of hope, you see the end as the renewal of all things and death as the necessary opportunity for resurrection.

Operating out of fear, you respond to those differently than you out of threat or a defensive posture. The differences seem unavoidable and undeniable. Fear convinces us that those differences are too divergent…too devastating and therefore to be defended against. Operating out of hope, you act out of love, compassion, and a desire for an open and common understanding. Believing all, trusting all, accepting all.

Operating out of fear, you see your agenda as converting (convincing them is probably a better term) people to “save them” from whatever wrong opinion they hold. Operating out of hope, you see yourself as being an instrument in the hands of God to bless your neighbor, friend, family, stranger, enemy, and the world and to play a part in their healing just as they play a part in yours.

Operating out of fear, you respond to God out of concern of disappointment or punishment (or even worse behaving or acting for reward). Avoiding getting it wrong (which is framed as “trying to get it right) becomes the driving factor of why we avoid certain activities… Fearful people will constantly strive to believe “more correctly”, act “more correctly”, and demand that others do the same… “more correctly”. Operating out of hope, you respond to God out of “I can’t do anything else but respond this way” posture…this is my calling, I can do no other.

So as we reimagine and redream what the role of the “called out community of God” is to have in our context and in our lives, a framework of hope is as essential to us as Jesus himself.

So as we live, move, and have our being, we take seriously this idea of hope. And with it the challenge of fleshing out this hopeful perspective into the world around us and certainly in the relationships we share together.”

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