To live more and better

” Today we are in a new phase of humanity. We all are returning to our common house, the Earth: the people, the societies, the cultures and religions. Exchanging experiences and values, we enrich ourselves and we complete ourselves mutually (…)

(…) We go to laugh, to cry and to learn. To learn especially how to marry Heaven and Earth, namely, how to combine daily life with the surprising, the opaque immanence of the days with the radiant transcendence of the spirit, life at full freedom with death symbolized as to join the ancestors, the discrete happiness of this world with the great promise of eternity. And finally we will have discovered thousands of reasons to live more and better, all together, like a great family, in the same beautiful, generous and Common Village, the planet Earth. “

Leonardo Boff–Casamento entre o céu e a terra. Salamandra, Rio de Janeiro, 2001.pg09

The justice of God

The end had come and all the nations and people had gathered around the judgement seat of God to await the justice he would execute.  Sinners, evil doers, doubters, and the apathetic trembled as one by one they approached the throne.  Shockingly though as they came before him, God waved his hand and sent them on their way–they were free to go!  The scum of the universe were not sentenced to eternal punishment or damnation–but simply were free to go, as they always had, away from God–out of his presence.  The throng of angels and saints were appalled and indignent.  There were cries for God’s righteousness and justice to be exacted.  However all shouts fell silent as the Son of God emerged from among the crowd. Strongly and confidently he set out in hot pursuit of the criminals.   As the Son neared the edge of heaven an angel gathered the courage to ask what he would do to them once he caught up with them.  Looking kindly on the servant of God, Jesus answered, “I’m going to show them the Way.”

Reconcilliation alone will save the world. Justice is often just another word for revenge.

Meditation of My Honda Element

There’s something incredibly self satisfying about plowing through 6 inches of snow with my Honda Element. This beast is an all-terrain-juggernaut. It was built for carving through ice, bull dozing across African tundra’s, or jettisoning up Andes-like-cliffs.  This is justice.  My boots gush snow all over the rubber(ish) interior, but I’m not disturbed.  You can’t get this thing dirty. I’ll just hose it out later.  It’s interior designers crafted it to withstand the dust of Saharan storms or Amazonian mud trenches.  This is righteousness.  My machine is finally fulfilling its rugged purpose as all 7 cup holders carefully contain steaming Starbucks coffee’s.  

I know what you’re thinking.  “A HONDA ELEMENT?!” Yeah.  A frieking Honda Element.  It is Sparticus. It is Hannibal in the Alps.  That’s why I bought it.  I saw the commercial with snowboarders hi-fiving and saying words like “bro” and “rad” while all ten of them packed into the Faux-Steel silver milk carton with wheels.  I’m one of the ones who get it.  These machines weren’t made for alloy rims or sub-woofers blaring gansta gansta. They are for reconnecting to the soil.  Believe it.In my world of manucured sculptured lawns and garden gnomes, I’m ready for the abominable snow man. That’s what this about baby. It’s about my pup-tent Jimmy rigged between a lone pine-tree and the gaping cavern of my hatch-back trunk space. It’s about looking down at my hairy chest and NOT feeling any particular need to have it waxed.  

And so…once every 6 years or so (providing that a new commercial doesn’t convince me that my next car needs to have long distance flying capabilities) I will connect my image bearing beast of burden with its original purpose as I carve through fresh snow for 1.3 miles to get groceries from Safeway to last until the “Arctic Blast” melts tomorrow.  This is furious love.

…So God offers you a Gift…

Imagine that God speaks to you—we’re not talking about general revelation here, this is specific divine interruption.  He lets you know that he desires to give you a Gift, but because of “free will” it will need to be one of your own choosing.  Having said that you’re given two options:

 

1.) You can spend the rest of your life being absolutely certain about God, there will be no questions of faith or doubt. There will be an abiding sense of God’s presence and smile in all your ways…but everyone you meet will instantly begin to doubt the certainty of their own faith. They may or may not ever recover from that crisis.

OR

 

2). through you many of the wrongs in the world will be righted, justice and mercy and grace will be exhibited, the blind will see, the deaf will hear and the lame will walk…but you will cease to believe in God at all. You will even forget this conservation between yourself and the Most High…it will have been all in your imagination.

 

Which do you choose and why?

Cha-cha-Changes, one step at a time.

I’m inspired by ordinary radicals who work with what they’ve got to change the world one step at a time.  I don’t actually know if things will be different for the world…or simply if something is internally different for them…either way, this is a pebble in a pond…life in the Way of Jesus (and for that matter, what I implicitly mean…this is about being more fully human).  A co-worker recently blogged about her family’s own Christmastime tradition. I loved it.  Thanks Gretchen:

In addition to drawing names we find a cause to support with the money we would otherwise spend on things we don’t need. Last year our family bought a pig we fondly nicknamed “Mrs. Bacon” … this year we’ll be buying a goat. Our barnyard purchases are a part of World Vision’s gift catalog which allow ordinary people to bless families across the world with things they actually need. For just $75, our little goat will give a family consistent dairy, an income source, and fertilizer for crops.

Anyone want to go goat shopping?

Also–don’t forget about “Make Something Day“.  While Black Friday is all about a day where we reinvest our carefully earned dollars back into the GDP of Empire, feeding our own culture of never having enough and always wanting something more, camping outside of the mall waiting (like vultures) to swoop down on socks and trinkets that will need replacing several months down the road; Make something Day is all about using your time and energies, creativities and sense of beauty to craft presents or gifts for others–gifts as special as they are.  My own personal sense of what it means to be fully human includes Artistry, Creativity, and connection with Beauty.  This is a celebration that everyone benefits from.

And finally…on a similar note: The Advent Conspiracy.  This was actually started by a local Portland Oregon community of Christ followers looking to connect with the true and subversive story of the origins of Christianities founder: Jesus.  Their understand tied in with 4 statements they drew from that birth story of Jesus.

1) Worship Fully–know the creator…enter into relationship with creation…love your neighbor…

2) Spend Less 

3). Give More–one reason why New Testament “tithing” doesn’t exist is because it was too much of a low bar…10% is an easy way off the hook.  Give more, more of your time, more of your self, more of your possessions…on and on…

4) Love All.

Things are cha-cha-changing…

Experiments in Truth

More people than I can number or name entrust me with their confession of (non)faith.  Oh, it’s not exactly that they’re faithless.  Actually they tend to be far more faith filled than the religions they are shedding.  They are scared and uncertain, tired or bored, confused or distressed; they don’t readily see the final “vision”; in other words they are the epitome of those who “walk not by sight”…  And, they are done.  They are true believers who have been burned, hurt, torn apart by a thousand inconsistencies.  I love these people.  They are my people. 

Some of my friends, such as I’ve described above, project an image of not caring.  They say, in word and deed, that they don’t care about relgion, spirituality, or faith.  Ironically, they are usually those who care and have cared the most.  It is precisely because they care strongly that they are dissapointed.  We expect much out of that we idealize.  Isn’t that what causes such deep rage as we hear KKK members spout orthodox prayers and pleas towards God?  Isn’t that why its so disgusting when we here of a Catholic priest become predator?  Isn’t that why we feel so disturbed when faiths digress into violent fundamentalism sponsoring Crusades or Jihads?  We expect more.  We expect more from “the friends of God”.  And we should.

Here’s the thing…

Beauty hints at things that lie beyond the edges of our vision.  Something in us, crying out for fair play, demands justice–in ourselves and in the world around.  And, even though we find ourselves isolated and lonely, we long for relationships, for intimacy, for love.  This, truth, beauty, justice, love, is the Divine, is God.  They are not only attributes, they are the Person.  So, the very things we long for, the things are not right with the world of religion and faith, that we wish would change, are the very things that must change if they are to be real and true.  The dissapointment in the lack of those aspects is actually the outcrying for God’s Presence, and perhaps the evidence of the Presence itself. 

In other words…we aren’t alone. 

Our hunger bears witness to the existence of Bread. 

But that’s all jargon, isn’t it?

Beyond that…this is what I’m convinced of.  The person of Jesus described God in a way that is still intoxicating to me. I’m pretty sure he, and his radical way of living that he proclaimed, was on to something.  Life spent in the way of Jesus  changes things…at least I imagine it would.  It’s an experiment I wouldn’t mind testing out.  Ghandi called them “experiments in truth”.  What would life look like if… How would my relationships, the neighborhood, this area, this country, be different if I…

If I what? 

If I took Jesus seriously, if I tried the life he described. 

And then even bigger than that…what if I tried this with others?  Fellow scientists testing our hypothesis. Success or failure. Right or wrong.  Comparing notes. Taking a journey together. 

I read a book about writing recently. The author said an intruiging thing. He commented that writing isn’t something you can theorize about…it’s only something you can do.  You become a better writer by writing. You learn certain skills only by performing them.  I can’t help but think this is the nature of discipleship, of apprenticeship. 

Sadly religion, and as it’s my own faith tradion–Christianity, has detached the positional “beliefs” from the practice.  We believe in justice. We believe in mercy. We believe in love. But we practice dishonesty and greed and war.  Seperate the practice of life in the way of Jesus from Jesus and what do you get?  Dissapointment.  Detachment.  Nothing worth believing in. 

And I think that may just be the point of all this…as my friends confess their (non)faith to me, I’d love to make an invitation.  I’d like to invite them to do something counter cultural…at least it runs counter to the culture of religion most of us have grown up with…. Let’s experiment with truth.  Instead of believing into a new way of living, let’s live into a new way of believing. 

How’s that sound?

Taking the Leap

Simone de Beauvoire, the famous French existentialist, described a series of human reactions to “the anguish of freedom”.  What she means is that when faced by a panorama of choice, overwhelming option, humans have a tendency towards certain actions, because this is a very confusing place to be.  Without getting into detail she isolates five reactive categories:

1).  The Sub-Human–imagine a guy who pokes his head out the door one morning, sees his car, the bus driving down the road, a sidewalk for walking, and a bicycle laying in the grass.  This creates a set of options for transport.  But what’s he do?  He is so confused as to the correct or best decision that he closes the door and goes and lays on the couch, cracks open a cold one and turns on the TV.  He avoids choice.  The reason why she called this person “a little less than human” is because they are denying the most basic of human activities…choosing…the will to power.  By denying this trait and living in fear, they are escaping freedom and living in slavery.

2).  The True believer (my wording)–Faced with the paradox of decision and plethora of realities, this person throws away their freedom by essentially asking someone else (someone in authority usually) to make the decision for them.  This person asks God or political leaders or religious guru’s to choose.  “Tell me what to believe” they scream.  Rather than question through the endless minutia of this or that, they bypass it all and have another dictate.  Often, she suggests, the true believer is benign, but at worst becomes a fanatic or a fundamentalist…think The Inquisition or Nazi Germany. 

3).  The Niehlist–The end road of a true believer can often lead to dissapointment.  The authority let them down. The politician didn’t keep their promise.  The preacher was unfaithful.  And so anger, frustration, and crushing sadness results.  Where do they end up?  Back on the couch channel surfing.  But not out of apathy…rather, out of dissapointment.  They have ceased to believe because they believed so strongly.  You can always tell a Niehlist because they are in constant deconstruction.  They are the perpetual cynic, always critisizing everything but never spelling out an alternative.  Sadly, this stage forgets that reality is defined not by negative reaction but by positive momentum.  In other words…it’s easy to be against something…difficult to be truly for something.  Enter…

4). The adventurer–Realizing that all is meaningless, they grow tired of staying at home on a Friday night and instead invest themselves in (knowingly) meaningless activities or actions that feel good.  Their own personal pleasure or good will is of maximum importance.  The downfall of this stage is that this person ultimately becomes a slave to their own positive experience and they enslave others to accomplish their wishes.  (Pizarro and his conquest/massacre of South American’s etc…)

5).  Finally…The Passionate person–for me, I mesh this with Kierkegaard’s own belief in passion and the leap of faith.  It is the final stage of maturation in relating to the anguish of freedom.  This is a person who has wrestled with the complexity of the world.  They have understood rightly that there are NO inherent values around them…that nothing comes as prepacked answers.  They know, through hard fought experience, that all things are in many ways different but equal.  However…however…they choose a course.  They choose a path. They invest themselves, head first into one of the channels or opportunities in front of them, saying “I may be wrong…I might have this all amuddle…but THIS I believe with my life!  I will live into this reality!”  She says, in a beautiful turn of the pen, “at this final place of true freedom we arrive, where I concern others and I have concern for them as well”.  In other words this place of complete clear headedness committed to also assisting others to live in a clear headed way as well, no longer enslaved to the anguish of freedom.

For me, that final stage is the life of faith in our post modern culture.  As I look at the world today, and have been for the last 6 months, things have become incredibly grey. I have passed through each of the middle three points of progress.  From True believer, asking another man or set of men to dictate belief, to Niehlist, dissapointed in the institutions I had created and I had been given, to Adventurer caught in a reckless pursuit of my own priviledge.  And now, I stand on the edge of a great precipace.  Behind, the shadow lands of muddled thought and minimal action.  Ahead, the kingdom, God’s good dream rolling from the mountain tops that surround our valleys and even now which is beginning to encompass our cities, towns, neighborhoods, and families. 

Knowing, that we are easily as wrong as we may be right…not having to convince another person in the known universe…but finally at ease with the relationship I’ve been brought into. A Way of Peace and of Community and of Justice and of Compassion.  Life pursuing radical discipleship in the way of Jesus in submission to His words and actions, the best articulation of humanities collective and enduring theme: Divine Spirit inhabiting Human form.  This is hardly about a new narrative of beliefs, but actually a way of living an integrated spirituality.  Spirit as my relationship with everything around me. 

The Spirit is moving…she is stirring…and  we feel this in our lives, we KNOW that something (and maybe EVERYTHING) must change. Nothing can remain the same…and yet I alone am different, and I’m alright with that.

I’m taking the leap…I’m living into the Light I see.

Forgiveness

There’s too many books on this subject.  Too many Christian and otherwise religioussy books how to apologize, how to accept the apology, how then to cast the offense in the sea of forgetfulness (as god has done), and then how to never go fishing again.

Apostolic fathers start getting cited: “I consider it rubbish, forgetting the things behind”

So, the MO becomes “Get over it!” or “Deal with it!”  Honestly, neither of those makes much sense to me anymore.  They both represent a suburban understanding of “wrong”.  In the insulated environment where gossip represents a grievous offense and a sprained ankle or even the misfortune of cancer is seen as evil incarnate, there’s honestly little reason to believe in real good or real evil, real right or real wrong.  When the culture of our gospel is that of imperial security, it makes complete sense to strike the “antiquated” words good and evil, right and wrong, from our vocabulary.  Because of this understanding of evil, we can rightly tell people to “forgive and forget”—imagine holding on to the “offense” of someone’s tonal inflection, or being consumed by angst over being interrupted in conversation.  If these are the worst of our wrongdoings then we need to cease conceiving of evil at all…those things aren’t evil…they’re annoying…

But, for one horrific minute imagine a world outside of Suburbans, Hummers, sprinkler systems, bourgeoisie concerned armchair activists (by the way, that’s what I am), and then acknowledge genocide, holocaust, infants with aids mercifully aborted or cruelly incarcerated within death camp orphanages in which there is no hope for adoption, only a prolonged death, poverty, depraved hunger, child prostitution for the sake of survival…then…then say there is no wrong…then say there is no evil…  In that reality, and perhaps in that reality alone, one may truly begin to acknowledge the terror of the self perpetuating Fall of creation and the need for a Curing redeemer.  There, in those dank places, we begin to consider the greater implications of a caring creator, a savior king, and miraculous healing.  It is precisely in the violent face of real evil that good is challenged to truly embrace what it means to forgive….forgiveness, of which it’s said, “there is no greater miracle”.

Forget?  No, true forgiveness cannot, should not, forget the appalling injustice of what has occurred.  However, through the Divine intervention of resurrection Life the depravity of the Cross is able to be seen through new eyes.  It has been revealed in a new light.  The one who experiences the resurrection of forgiveness sees their memories transformed into new constructs, revealing grace and the power of God to transform us.  “In forgiveness the past is not forgotten, but it is remembered differently, recalled differently.  Nothing in the past has changed, but it seems like a different past; the situation has lost its burdensome weight.  The act of forgiveness changes the whole trajectory of a persons life and invites radical hope, faith, and love.”  (Rollins, The Fidelity of Betrayal). This resurrection from the death of wrong doing now can no longer condemn the injustice that has brought it such newness of day.  Instead, it can only embrace it. 

How I need this resurrection of memory, where all is the same, and yet everything has changed.  

What might the prophetic look like today?

Have you been left desolate suburbs and city streets?

Have you been withered away and wrenched apart great arctic glacial flow?

Do you fail to gather grain?

Do your crops of corn and wheat and hops cease to grow?

Where are your customers you tower’s of economy and produce, McDonald’s and Starbuck’s?

Where are the sounds of laughter or children running on the playground?

The streets are crawling with disease

The houses are caving in while the naked shiver inside

Does the sun scorch the forests and set them endlessly on fire?

Does the rain ever let up or the floods leave any dry earth?

What of the cars that once gathered supply?

They, abandoned, bring together no more.

What of the planes that littered the sky?

They, like birds of prey, are now extinct. 

How?

Why? Why do the nations rage and war for water as for oil before it? Why do kings and presidents and chairmen tremble for fear—like rat’s scurrying about looking for scraps of bread or a pinch of meat? 

How?

Why? Why do mothers abandon their children as they are born so that an early death will save them from a long life?  Why do father’s venture out of their walled stockade homes and not return? Why do young men—even young men—lose hope?

“I gave you empty stomachs in all of your cities

and lack of nutrition or any bread

And yet you did not turn back to me!”

                                    Says the sovereign Lord.

“I sent plagues among you, like Egypt, I killed your young men with the sword. I struck your victory gardens and private vineyards. I withheld rain in one place and sent to much to another. People staggered from town to town for water and did not receive a drink…still you have not returned to me.”

                                    Says the sovereign Lord.

“What have we done?”  the people ask, the religious beg to know their grievance. “Didn’t we seek you daily? Didn’t we memorize your words? Didn’t we study about your truths? Didn’t we worship you endlessly? Didn’t we gather at the right times? Didn’t we celebrate your Holy Day’s? Weren’t we passionate about you? Was there ever a time that we didn’t speak your name? Haven’t you been our all and our everything? Isn’t it true that we’ve accepted all this from your hand? Didn’t we sacrifice our lives for each other? Didn’t we love our fellow believers enough?  Haven’t our songs been filled with limitless praise and our gestures been full of abandonment to you? What about our adoration, doesn’t it mean anything to you?”

 

                                    Says the sovereign Lord,

“I hate—I despised your religious get togethers…I cannot stand your meetings…Even though you have brought me the offerings of your labors and the deep worship of your heart…I will not accept them…I have no regard for them. Take away the noise of your songs! I will not listen to your guitars or your piano’s or your drums.   You have lifted up the Messenger and forgotten His message.  You have adored Me but not what I adore. 

“Let justice roll on like a river and righteousness like a never failing stream!”

That’s your only way out. 

In that day I will restore your fallen cities. I will repair your broken walls and restore the ruins of your houses and will rebuild it as it was intended to be used…

is this the fast?

…getting noticed…

and that is what most of this is about…

we speak and long to be heard.

we act and need to be noticed.

we think and need to be thought well of.

by each other. by god. by anyone who will comment on the blog. by our friends. by our neighbors. and this is the heart of witnessing. “maybe someone will notice”…

what would it be like to go unnoticed?

what would it be like to go unheard, unthought of, unspoken about?

and in a world where i do all i can to build the number of people who read this blog…where i tweak it to make it visually, ascetically pleasing to your critical eye…where i write inspirational words and think motivational thoughts…where even when i’m being desperately honest, i’m so conscious that you…you…you are listening and watching my honesty…am i doing any of this for god? or for me?

“pride covers me like a disease, i’m surrounded god and i’m longing to be weak, U burn me deeper than i know…and my heart burns for you…and my heart burns for U…”

my people are busy at worshiping me, they love making new discoveries about me…as if they were a people who DID justice…they ask of Me “what’s the right thing to do?” and love having me on their side. but then they complain, “why do we fast, why do we worship God and U don’t look our way? why do we humble ourselves and U don’t notice?”

Well…here’s why:

Your bottom line is your own gain…it’s profit..

Your exploit the people who work for you, driving them to the lowest possible wage and not leaving enough for them and their families to eat off of.

You fast, but at the same time…you bicker and fight.

Do U think the worship I want is a day of humility? To put on a serious face and take yourself so seriously? Do you call that fasting?

This is the kind of day I’m after:

break the chains of injustice, labor to get rid of exploitation on the job altogether, free those who are oppressed, cancel people’s debts. I’m interested in seeing you share your bountiful food (you know…the food that you eat so much of that you complain how stuffed you are from and how you can’t eat another bite, all the while others starve from lack) with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your own homes, putting clothes around the shivering ill-clad and being available to your own families (rather than going off on your exclusive spiritual retreats away from your household duties)…

DO THIS AND THE LIGHTS WILL TURN ON and your lives will turn around at once. You righteousness will pave your own way. The God of glory will secure your passage. then when you pray God will answer: You’ll cll out for help and I’ll say: “here am I”…

(there’s more…)

If you get rid of your upper hand seeking unfair practices

quit blaming victims,

quit gossiping about other people’s sins,

if you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down and out,

Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness and your shadowy lives will be bathed in sunlight.

Then, I will always show you where to go…I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places…

I’m not going to say “God help us” or “wow, what a calling”…that’s still hanging out in the talk of the temple courtyards, in the chatter of the self protective insulated religious circles…it gives me time to keep it all hidden and not have to actually live into any of this…

This is God. This is where He’s going. This is where I’m going to…this is another Life…

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