Monday, December 24, 2007
"penny wanted nothing to do with religion," don explains. "her perception of christians was that they were narrow-minded people, politically conservative and hypocritical. ... it seemed on every humanitarian issue, she found herself directly opposing the views held by many evangelicals. she also felt that if christianity were a person, ... that human being probably wouldn't like her."
i've been there. still feel that way.
nadine, from a privileged and austere background, genuinely cares about penny, to penny's surprise, and they become close friends. and nadine, a genuinely loving person, tells penny why she's a christian. and penny shifts. penny tells don:
"'nadine and i would sit for hours in her room. mostly we would talk about boys or school, but always, by the end of it, we talked about god. the thing i loved about nadine was that i never felt like she was selling anything. she would talk about god as if she knew him ... she was never ashamed, which is the thing with some christians i had encountered. they felt like they had to sell god, as if he were a soap or a vacuum cleaner, and it's like they really weren't listening to me; they didn't care, they just wanted me to buy their product."
i have felt this. a lot. it's part of why i left organized christianity.
i've worked very, very hard to find a faith in god that is real, for me. no bullshit. no dogma. no systems. no sales pitch. no judgment or hell. no shame. and i've found it.
i've even found that it's true for me. just for me. no shame. no bullshit. nothing except love.
sometimes love is hard. in fact, it's almost always hard, unflinching, demanding. and it's beautiful, overwhelming - because it heals.
that's god, for me. healing. listening. valuing. empowering.
and i have found, as penny did, that there really is a god. not the god that the christian evangelicals sell, or the god that the big religious systems use as their corporate c.e.o., or the god that the arrogant or the (emotionally, politically, or physically) violent claim as their tribal hero.
instead, i have found a god that is at the center of all things good. all things true. all things that require courage and stillness to discover.
penny tells don, "'we would eat chocolates and smoke cigarettes and read the bible, which is the only way to do it, if you ask me. don, the bible is so good with chocolate. i always thought the bible was more of a salad thing, you know, but it isn't. it is a chocolate thing.'"
yes, the god that's best with chocolate and cigarettes and conversation and good friends.
"'i found jesus very disturbing,'" penny tells don, about reading Matthew; "'very straightforward. he wasn't diplomatic, and yet i felt like if i met him, he would really like me. ... i kept identifying with the people he loved, which was really good, because they were all the broken people, you know, the kind of people who are tired of life and want to be done with it, or they are the desperate people, people who are outcasts or pagans. there were others, regular people, but he didn't play favorites at all, which is miraculous in itself. that fact alone may have been the most supernatural thing he did.'"
that's the god i follow, and love, and the god i know loves me. and loves you. and loves. and is love.
may that god - the god of the nadine, and penny, and don, and you, and me, and the pagans and the desperate and the regular people, and chocolate and honest conversation, and friendship, and of the jesus who never played favorites - may that god be with us in blinding and quiet and simple and complicated ways today. tonight. tomorrow.
Friday, December 21, 2007
this year, driving out to the pristine, beautiful retreat center, leaving caldwell (which, remember, is in the middle of b.f.e.), turning off the highway onto the road through the farms, we all saw a fascinating marquee out front of a tiny building:
i have no response to this other than to say, what a wonderful world.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
do you ever feel yourself succumbing to that fear? the numbing out? (maybe with you it's anger, or addiction, or busyness.) the sense of responsibility to all that shit just weighs me down sometimes. that's me this week. i'm just worn out. so there's a part of me that's decided to stay afraid. it wants to avoid. it wants to run. it wants to protect me, and i appreciate that. and it's getting easier to recognize it for what it is. but i hired it to protect me decades ago, and i was young, and scared, and they told me to be good and behave or everyone would be angry, and i didn't know how hard it would be to get rid of, and it felt like it'd keep me safe and alive, so i said Yes, i'll work here. protect me? keep me in line? and the recruiter assured me, Yes, this will be a good fit for you.
and it tried, for years, to cover up the gnawing, the knowing. But, as Emily Dickinson said, “narcotics cannot still the tooth that nibbles at the soul.” in my case, it's nibbling at me from deep within my soul. my soul says, HEY, it's okay, we can come out now - it's just fear. and there' s nothing to be afraid of. even if everyone on earth thinks you fucked up, it's okay. god is here. and besides, you didn't fuck up. you're just a person. you cant' make everyone happy. just breathe. that's the knowing. and it sure enough does gnaw in me. "you SURE this is how you want to live?" and i think - hey, no, you're right - this isn't me - is it?
but that fear, that sense of inadequacy, that worry that i've got to do more for everyone and for journey and for my family or else i'll disappoint everyone and everything will fall apart - it's a hard taskmaster. sometimes i forget that that's not what i serve anymore.
bob dylan wrote a song about the bullshit of working in the recording/starmaker machinery (as joni mitchell called it). but for me, that song is a reminder for me; it doesn't have anything to do, btw, with the church or whatever else i do or don't work at; it's about what voice inside me drives me. dylan called it "maggie's farm."
this song is a declaration of independence - to nobody else but just myself, and that fear that no longer is much use in protecting me. turns out, i don't need protecting. I ain't gonna work for my fears no more. I ain't gonna work for anybody ELSE’S fears no more. I ain't gonna work for my own sense of inadequacy no more. there's those moments when i remember: Wait – I remember – I don’t live here. I’m a free man. come to your senses, return to yourself. you're a rich man's son.
I’m gonna walk the road beyond any farm or any rules or any powers that be, and be with anyone who comes walking or struggling or skipping or stumbling along. There'll be plenty to eat, places to stay, folks to be with. It’s better than living and working on Maggie's farm – it wasn’t worth rolling around with Maggie in the hay and getting to sit on her porch, to have to stay there and work for those people and their bullshit. she's not worth it. her father's a dictator/ceo/slaveowner/headmaster/preacher/nazi, her brother's a sadist, her mother's a witch. it's a slave farm. it's a concentration camp. it keeps you in line. it makes you behave. it keeps you weak. it feeds you scraps and says you're a good boy.
sometimes it just takes me a while to remember. thank you god that you keep talking.
I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more.
No, I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more
Well, I wake up in the morning
Fold my hands and pray for rain.
I got a head full of ideas
That are drivin' me insane
It's a shame the way she makes me scrub the floor
I ain't gonna work on, naw
I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more.
I ain't gonna work for Maggie's brother no more
naw, I ain't gonna work for Maggie's brother no more
Well, he hands you a nickel
And he hands you a dime
And he asks you with a grin
If you're havin' a good time
Then he fines you every time you slam the door
I ain't gonna work for, naw
I ain't gonna work for Maggie's brother no more
I ain't gonna work for Maggie's pa no more
No, I ain't gonna work for Maggie's pa no more
Well, he puts his cigar
Out in your face just for kicks
His bedroom window
It is made out of bricks
The National Guard stands around his door
I ain't gonna work, naw
I ain't gonna work for Maggie's pa no more
I ain't gonna work for Maggie's ma no more
No, I ain't gonna work for Maggie's ma no more
Well, she talks to all the servants
About man and God and law
And everybody says
She's the brains behind pa
She's sixty-eight, but she says she's twenty-four
I ain't gonna work for, naw
I ain't gonna work for Maggie's ma no more
I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more
No, I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more
Well I try my best
To be just like I am
But everybody wants you
To be just like them
They sing while they slave and just get bored
I ain't gonna work on, naw
I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more
ps check out the version of this as covered by rage against the machine ... it will SET YOU FREE!!!
Monday, December 17, 2007
Keira Knightley and Rick had a baby and that baby grew up. and became ... a boy? girl? other?
so, i saw on his blog that dave madden had taken this quiz, and i took it. i knew i wasn't a fundamentalist. i don't know the difference between a "classical liberal" and a "modern liberal," so i'm not too concerned about that. i do think the questions on the quiz are incomplete - because i am also deeply orthodox; i believe deeply and passionately in what i believe jesus' message and purpose were. i don't actually think that's particularly new; i think it's really old. but maybe it's new in that not many church models in the last few hundred years have been focused that way. no wonder i didn't feel at home in The Church.
What's your theological worldview?
created with QuizFarm.com
|You scored as Emergent/Postmodern|
You are Emergent/Postmodern in your theology. You feel alienated from older forms of church, you don't think they connect to modern culture very well. No one knows the whole truth about God, and we have much to learn from each other, and so learning takes place in dialogue. Evangelism should take place in relationships rather than through crusades and altar-calls. People are interested in spirituality and want to ask questions, so the church should help them to do this.
we watched "It's A Wonderful Life" saturday night at journey movie night, and the 20 or so of us there talked afterward about the movie, about george as a christ-figure, about how mr. potter never gets punished, about the deep question in the darkness of the film, which is, do our lives matter? do they have meaning?
IAWL's writer-director Frank Capra seems to suggest, in the last message of the film, that "no man is a failure who has friends." the angel Clarence also says, "strange, isn't it? each man's life touches so many other lives.when he isn't around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?"
george, the hero of the film, wants desperately for his life to matter. he wants to get out of the little town he has always lived in, and do something important. see the world. explore. build. i would say that he's completely infected with Young Man's Disease, but there's a difference in george: he helps people. he's not selfish. he is willing to sacrifice his own desires for the greater good. so, he's caught.
stay and help others in small ways in the crummy little town? or go out into the world, and do things that feel important, and escape? george wants to "build things" - so, build a family, and a small business that builds houses for common people, or go out and build skyscrapers and bridges and fame and fortune?
it has occurred to me lately that what jesus was doing was really, really small. i know, it spread all over the place, but at first he had a couple dozen people whom he influenced and knew, and then a few hundred more who were around him, and that's it. and it was the hard work of being in relationship with other human beings. sometimes he stood up to evil powers that be - like george saying No to mr. potter - but mostly with jesus, as with george, it's just about showing up every day, and loving people, and serving, and raising kids, and running errands, and hoping that what he's doing with his life matters.
i think jesus hoped the same thing about his own life. i think he hoped that what he was choosing was the right thing. he had distilled some ideas about what the jewish messiah was predicted to be, but he'd left out some other ones - not a military leader, not a political leader, not a revolutionary, not a heavenly warrior with hosts of angels flanking his fiery chariot. he chose, instead, love, and patience, and healing - with a few people, here and there. it was a big gamble.
he knew something george bailey doesn't realize until the end of "iawl": that the way the world defines a man or woman has nothing to do with whether that man or woman is of value. jesus is willing literally to give his life for his belief that god is love and that god's love is in meaningful sacrifice.
it's nice that at the end of "iawl" the people all come and affirm george, and thank him, for his decades of service to them. i always wonder whether in the days and years to come, the citizens of bedford falls secretly keep score, and passive-aggressively remind him of that night, and ask each other questions about what happened to that $8,000. but then that's me, after eleven years of working in the often toxic world of organized religion. (it's almost out of my system after three and a half years of working in the much healthier world of following jesus with a group of friends.) i've accepted that that's part of the bargain. people are just people. george has already gotten pretty tough; he'll just have to continue to swallow his pride and know that he has done and is doing the right thing, not just for himself, but for his community, his wife, his children, his family.
there will be crucifixions along the way. loss, sadness, pain. despair. a dark bridge at night. tears. how could there not? nothing good comes without pain. but when the gift is given with a pure heart, or even because it's just the right thing to do and it's chosen freely, the gift and the suffering that comes with it it become transformative. redemptive. resurrected. holy.
and, when that gift is given, as with george, and jesus, and you, and me, it is (as dave madden sang yesterday)
holy, holy, holy, holy,
everything and everybody.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
THAT is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees
- Those dying generations - at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
the young who play and love in each other's arms, and the birds that sing, and the salmon swimming upstream to spawn - they're all about life, and fullness, and joy. old men don't belong there. it's not their world anymore.
Yeats wrote the poem in 1927, when he was in his 60s. an "old man," especially a hundred years ago. so, what do you do? just check out? or find some other possibility? Yeats writes,
An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
what if that's what we did? we clapped our hands, and sang, to celebrate every tatter, every wound, every seeming mistake, every moment of loss, every place where our bodies and minds carry the marks of our life and aging and path? then an aged man - or any man - won't be small, paltry, empty, but loud and full and beautiful.
i'm for celebrating now - and not waiting til i'm an old man.
this past weekend i was with 35 or so other journey men at a retreat in the woods. we celebrated our whole stories - tatters, joys - our souls clapped hands and sang, and louder still, for every tatter in this life - and we remembered that each of us is a son of god. not just "even with" all the tatters - but especially with what we think are the tatters. all of it is sacred.
that's what Yeats calls "Byzantium," a city where he can go and be recreated once he's left this life and is "out of nature." he talks about going there after he dies.
we experienced byzantium this past weekend.
when have you? in the sunset? in the stars? in the face of another human being? in your own suffering? or joy? in prayer? in great (or not that great) art? in cooking? in singing? in quiet? in gardening? in just be-ing?
Sunday, December 2, 2007
javier bardem plays a villain that i can't make sense of. i would say he's the devil - but he's not. he's a man. i would say he's crazy, and he is, but not in a cartoony way - the person he embodies, Anton Chigurh, is ... possible. probable.
and in a world in which things have a certain right and wrong, and meaning - the country of old men, who have a sense of history and coherence and order - what do you do when a man who has principles, but not compassion, appears and takes whatever lives he thinks he must? he sees human beings as cattle. and yet he sees the world with what, for him, is clarity.
what does a man, in this case Tommy Lee Jones' character, Sheriff Bell, choose in the face of such amorality? no, amorality isn't the right word. that suggests that there are morals, and a lack of them.
in the country that isn't for old men, there are no morals from which to divert. there's just who chooses what when.
that's the question the movie explores.
it's a question the bible explores, too - as do all the great spiritual traditions.
go see it. and then lemme know what you think.
Saturday, December 1, 2007
no, i don't believe that this is what god is like. but it's just so damn funny. and a great take on the old testament sense of the god of wrath ...
see?? i keep telling you, the only way to have children read the bible is to read the bible WITH CHILDREN! help em out! it's bloody and weird!
here are some pictures from the tree farm's website. it's so cute!
i thought we had a pretty good tree this year. we looked and looked through the rows in the field - longer than we usually do. we always go with my wife's parents, and our daughter had brought her best friend from back where she grew up, and we brought a family friend we love - the awesome calla - so, we had a good crew. we all loved it. it's fat and really beautifully shaped. tall. my son cut it down and we all cheered. drove home to austin the next day with it tied to the top of the minivan. set it up in the tree stand.
like, really crooked. the middle goes bronk. or werp. or some other bendy word.
the tree fell down three times the first week i had it up. my really good christmas tree stand can't hold it up. the tree's just too twisted around. i was SO pissed off. the 2nd time it happened was on monday morning. that's just wrong.
i finally got it to stay standing. i added plywood to the bottom of the tree stand, and used thick wire to anchor the back of the tree to the window lock. and then for a few days i kept running into the wire with my head as i was watering the tree.
the angel this year leaned over so far i had to tie some black sewing thread around one hand and pull her back over a bit.
and yet ... last night, we decorated the tree with our zillions of ornaments, most of which are movie or cartoon characters or keepsakes from when the kids were young or my wife and i were young, and lots of little clear lights. we had a blast, played christmas music (nat king cole, frank sinatra, charlie brown christmas, leon redbone, etc.), enjoyed getting into the christmas spirit.
christmas is all about the impossible happening. just like all the christmas stories - the unlikely thing turns out to be sacred. the loser turns out changing everything.
george bailey in "it's a wonderful life,"
buddy in "elf,"
rudolph the red-nosed reindeer,
natalie wood and kris in "miracle on 34th street,"
and that little poor, shotgun-wedding couple in a cruddy little town who have a baby who'll grow up to be executed as a guy threatening the authorities.
so, this is christmas. at least, part of it.
there's also the gross consumerism part of it, but that's a different blog entry.
i want to pray, Please, god, don't let the christmas tree fall down again. i swear i'll have a breakdown.
to which god says, Oh, breakdowns are good for you. they can help you get over yourself. eventually. see? a crooked christmas tree didn't hurt so bad.
oh, god, you just crack me up! ha ha haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa ..............
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Lester Burnham (played by Kevin Spacey) is the protagonist of the film, and he goes through a beautiful shift in his sense of himself and the world. if you haven't seen the movie, i won't give the ending away; i'll just encourage you to see the film.
this is a quote from Lester; it's what i'm feeling today. gratitude. perspective. humility.
Lester's journey to get to this place is not an easy one. the journeys that are worth something like this never are easy. they're better than that.
we talked this morning at jifc's worship gathering about the apostle paul saying to a group of early followers of jesus that paul's prayer for them is that they would understand that the universe is really all just love. i think he's right.
here's Lester (and if i've included this on a previous blog entry, that's okay; it's worth repeating):
"You have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm sure. But don't worry... you will someday."
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
austin area interreligious ministries, a group we at journey really believe in and support, brings together leaders from every faith tradition in order to build relationships that make austin better. they feed the hungry, repair poor people's houses, host events where people from different religions can talk and learn to appreciate each other.
they also hold an annual thanksgiving service, usually the week before thanksgiving, for everybody to come and pray, and give thanks, and celebrate. this year they rented a gymnasium for the event (a lot of people come) at the Quarries. the Quarries' gym and land happen to be owned by hyde park baptist church. the Quarries is a big piece of property where christians can come and play sports together.
aaim made it clear to the Quarries' management way back when what aaim is about.
i guess somebody noticed, probably a member of the church, and said to a minister, "What's this about these islamic and buddhist and jewish people coming and praying to their gods on our property?" ... i don't know that that's what happened, but it sounds possible. and the hyde park people said, "Wait a minute - is THAT who's rented that gym on our property? we can't have that! sorry, aaim - i know you rented it a long time ago, but we've decided, here at the last minute, to make the whole event move. we don't care where. hundreds of people in dozens of churches and organizations have to move? make other plans. you'll have to communicate the changed plans to hundreds of people and hope the message gets out? tough. we can't have muslims on our property."
and so hyde park baptist church decided it could not host the aaim thanksgiving service on its property.
a jewish synagogue took the thanksgiving in, gave the stranger welcome, as the torah commands. and jews and muslims gathered together, for prayer and healing.
alright, that's enough. enough thinking about their position on the issue, and their fear, and caring about what may have honestly motivated that decision. that's a healthy thing for me to do. but that's enough.
JESUS! What is WRONG with these imperial-domination-system-territorial-controlling-insular-divisive-sick-fearful people who say they are following you??? this is such fucking bullshit! i am so embarrassed for christians! and sick of them!
Okay, that's out of my system now too.
Here's my real question, and it's a prayer.
am i - and i'm honestly asking this question - reading your followers' stories about your life and words incorrectly? am i missing it? because you came and rejected the overly controlling, restricting bullshit religious systems of your time. they absolutely pissed you off. you wept. you threw furniture. you went to your death to show people that god is not contained in those machines and systems and boxes.
and here are some territorial, fearful people who say they are following you, but they are following doctrines and regulations and prejudices that christians invented over hundreds of years - which you and your first generations of followers would NEVER have agreed to.
am i not getting it? i just cannot for a MOMENT even IMAGINE that you, jesus - you oppressed little poor man, wandering mystic, troublemaker, insurrectionist, criminal - would ever own a gigantic building, or dress up to enter it, or deny anyone access to it, or own property so that you and your friends - and only you and your friends - could play sports together. i cannot imagine that this decision by hyde park baptist church is what you want, not in a million years.
a jewish congregation chose to create healing - as you did, jesus. all your people were invited to pray and thank god for our many blessings from you. they looked into each other's eyes and saw themselves as brothers and sisters.
i'm tired of understanding and making excuses for christians' small-mindedness and pharisaism.
enough. i feel your zeal and anger burning in my bones.
and so i say,
in the name of the lord, hyde park baptist church,
you have sinned before god and all creation.
Monday, November 19, 2007
week before last, i was telling my friend raging bear how this felt. he said, It's like juggling pillows.
yeah - at first it doesn't seem that hard; they're not heavy; but they're floppy and hard to handle with just one hand at a time, and they don't float right, and the more of them there are, the harder it is to see past them ...
have you ever felt that?
the cool part is that knowing that helped me realize that it's okay ... that there's a few chairs next to me where i can set a pillow or two to wait their turns to come into the rotation ... and they're pillows; they're not plates or chainsaws; if they fall, they won't break and they can't hurt me.
the more i thought about this, the better it got.
so, i took a nap.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
brian mclaren is a big author. i've seen him at conferences and workshops. his books are big sellers. he's traveled all over the world. on top of that, he's been saying for fifteen years or so the stuff that I'VE been saying for that long too. we're both former english teachers, who then did church leadership and pastoring, and now have gone off the grid. so i feel connected to him. and he's humble and nice and courageous and smart.
so - it was odd when leslie and i were at bob and lisa
i'm not kidding, i felt as if bono had just walked in. okay, maybe not that big; it was as if george clooney had walked in.
i wanted him to notice me. validate me. but i was also scared; what if he didn't like me?
welcome to american star-worship culture.
anyway, he walked in, unassuming as usual, and bob introduced me, and mclaren said, "i remember you - i've met you before." it was at a conference like five or six years ago, briefly, after a talk he gave. my heart soared. suddenly i wanted to tell him my whole story. i'm a writer like you, i used to be a college english teacher like you, i talk about the same stuff you do, i'm committed to the emerging model of christianity like you are, journeyers are all about what you're about.
welcome shadow. i just want to feel like i matter. like every other human being on the planet.
and, too, i wanted mclaren to hang on the patio with the journeyers. i thought maybe he'd've liked that better than sitting and having a serious conversation at the end of a long day when he'd spoken in dallas and then flown to austin.
here's the funny part: at the end of the evening, and then WHEN I WAS PERSONALLY DRIVING BRIAN MCLAREN IN MY AWESOME MAN-TRUCK FROM BOOK PEOPLE TO THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH WHERE HE WAS SPEAKING NEXT, we talked about just those very things. about ME things. and then we did again during lunch on tuesday when it was just me and my wife and dave madden the awesome musician AND BRIAN MCLAREN eating lunch together!!! just sitting there talking.
does anybody see how funny this is?
okay, here's the really cool part: brian mclaren is just a guy. he's been all over the world speaking to people who want to hear what he has to say. he's got lots of books that lots of people are reading. he's an important voice in the emerging church movement. and yet he's just a guy who wanted to do a good job talking to people. and we just made conversation. the poor guy was exhausted at lunch - a little quiet - and as he ate and checked his computer to make sure his laptop powerpoint was ready for the session that was going to start a half hour later, while leslie and madden and i talked with him but gave him his space, i told him about some thoughts i had about the people helping emergent stuff be born, and we chatted, and i thought ... brian mcclaren thinks i'm an idiot!
what is wrong with us? what is it about thinking that famous people are not normal human beings? give the guy a break already! he's not responsible for validating every human being that comes up to him wanting to know they matter.
so, having said that, it was a cool thing, and it was even cooler for it to have passed, and then to look back at it, and say to myself, Oh, come on, we don't need important people to affirm us. it's okay. we're all The Beloved.
but ... it was nice to have brian mclaren IN MY AWESOME MAN-TRUCK!!! and THAT MAKES ME COOL!
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
and, he's a revolutionary. he stirs shit up and then continues in conversations with his readers - in blogs, workshops, conferences - while they respond and figure out what they're feeling and thinking.
he keeps asking a question, in many ways: What is it jesus was talking about, for real, and what does that mean for us now? and if we stripped it down and let all the things we've created go, what then? church structures, squabbles, doctrines, stuff we think is the point but isn't, territories - all the not-jesus stuff about institutional religion. let it go. instead, ask, How are we serving The Thing Jesus Wanted?
his new book, however, goes way beyond reforming and rethinking chrisianity. it's called everything must change. he calls us to reform and rethink all of human civilization.
mclaren says that human civilization is a big interdependent machine. what drives this machine is the very legitimate human desire for happiness. and so the machine uses resources - people, coal, agriculture, air, water, time - to give people happiness and food and transportation and stuff.
over time, the having of these kinds of happiness and stuff has a negative side, which i identify as fear. people get stuff, they're afraid they don't have enough or they'll lose their stuff, and so they feel they need security. and those without the stuff want the stuff, and it just explodes from there. and meanwhile, the machine has grown too big to fit in the ecosystem as it is running today. and this is a problem which, if not addressed, only has disastrous (for human beings, the ecosystem, plants and animals, etc.) possibilities ahead. he talks about how this system breeds terrorism, and war, and prostitution, and the more-and-more rapid use of the ecosystem's (limited) resources, and border reinforcement - and on and on.
i started to get depressed as he talked. because it was so, so, so big. i had no idea where to start.
then i heard him say that we as christians - or jesus people, in my case, since i'm no longer a traditional christian -
are the ones who can change this path. not politicians, who are too inured by the system/machine/matrix. not those caught in the system/machine/matrix. not those who come from a place of fear.
it's the Big Story that influences everything. if the big story is that the universe is hostile, then all our choices come from fear. if the big story is that people are sinners, then our relationships are based on self-protection.
but if the big story is that the universe is benevolent, and that people are just broken children of god, then our choices and relationships can come from a place of creativity and possibility and hope.
and we who are jesus' people - not necessarily christians, since christianity is, on the whole, a part of the system/machine/matrix - can change the big story. or, retell the big story as jesus told it.
and then everything can change. but ... it won't be easy or fast.
i had some ideas about how to start with that. tell everyone i can the big story that god is love and that we are god's beloved and that our job is to receive that love and to return it to god and give it away to other people. when we do this, miraculous impossible things happen and the world is better.
i actually am goofy enough to believe that the world will be really better because of that mission.
and the journeyers and i are not the only people telling that big story. so, yeah, it takes a long time to be transformed by love. and we may not make it before the system/machine/matrix konks out. i know that. but i won't go down without giving away lots and lots of encouragement and hugs.
Monday, November 12, 2007
olivia our elder cat comes out with me. she sits and waits, just hanging around, until i finish my cereal. when i'm done, i set the bowl down on the floor beside me and she drinks a little half-spoonful of milk i leave for her. sometimes while i'm still eating she just reaches up and touches my hip, sort of a "ummm ... i'm here .... i love you .... gimme the freakin' cereal ... but i'm being nice about it ... don't make me hurt you ..."
however, this past friday was not usual because my parents in law were coming into town; today's my wife's birthday and they were in to celebrate. and go to the cedar park high school timberwolves' final football game of the season, to watch my daughter's drill team perform (brilliantly of course). so i was getting up to finish cleaning the house, and the week last week was weird anyway, lots of stuff happening with people, lots of people in need, schedules stacked up, just busy and chaotic. and i was trying to figure out what hadn't been done yet on getting the house ready, and working on my worship talk, and i needed to run some errands.
so i walked out to the man cave while still brushing my teeth. turned on the laptop with one hand, continued brushing with the other. checked email. lots going on. began to scroll down and see who was hurting about what.
sat down in my chair while still brushing my teeth with one hand. moved the chair back to get a better look at the papers on my desk. and the following things all happened at once:
a piercingly loud high scream coming from behind me
me jumping up in the air
toothpaste spewing out of my mouth, onto my desk, papers, cds, laptop
a cat flying across the room
me going "AAAAH! HOLY SHIT! WHAT!"
seems i rolled over olivia's tail. i didn't even think about her following me out to the man cave - i didn't have any cereal yet. but she didn't know that.
and here she sits this morning, patiently. she doesn't seem fazed. i on the other hand am very aware of where my chair's rollers are, and where olivia is, and where my cereal is.
and i also finished brushing my teeth before i came out here.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
for me, a huge part of it depends on whether what she or he is saying resonates with me. seems like the right thing, the truth being called into a moment in time or culture. that the the message isn't easy to hear and act on, but it's right.
and the prophetic is, for me, not just about something that is true, but about something that must be seen, and dealt with, and (hopefully) changed. how's this: gandhi was prophetic. his words and actions were a message to his culture (and then everybody's); they were intended to change things for the better. that's the purpose of the prophetic: change.
for me, too, part of what makes a prophet, as opposed to a false prophet, is what happens, how culture changes, because of her/his influence. i believe the prophetic is from god if a prophet's message causes people to be more loving, more courageous for good, more humble, more healthy - individually and especially systemically, culturally, economically, politically, relationally, whatever. the prophetic creates equality.
if a prophetic message causes all those things to be less loving, less courageous and more fearful, more arrogant, sicker - it's not, for me, from god.
and something that just helps out - mobile loaves and fishes, for instance, which is an austin outreach to the homeless and hungry - isn't necessarily prophetic, AND YET - just by being in the world, mobile loaves and fishes points out need and inequity and that something is wrong ... and in showing up, it points out what might need to change.
oh - and - the most important message of the prophetic is that the true change doesn't happen outside, or in someone else, or by kicking out the bad guys. true change happens within.
- harsh tv and talk radio voices from the far right and the far left who just point fingers at each other? not prophetic, even though they pretend to be; jimmy carter and gandhi? supremely prophetic - their messages are connected not to how evil the enemy is, but to the ultimate reality which is, there is no enemy.
- the cynic who goes around showing everyone how much smarter she is than everyone else by pointing out what's wrong with everything? not prophetic; the kid who innocently and sincerely says "the emperor has no clothes"? prophetic.
- anyone who defends the system because the system is by nature right? not prophetic. reports from habitat for humanity, or relief workers in war-ravaged countries, or those working to care for the sick and oppressed? prophetic.
- sunday schools and churches that keep everything in place? not prophetic; people who follow jesus and screw things up? change the way they look at the world? change the way the world works? make trouble in the best sense? prophetic.
- jerry seinfeld? funny, but not prophetic; andrea gibson the slam poet? prophetic.
what, black people are equal to white people? women and men are equally important? homosexuals are people too? india doesn't belong to the british? empires taking over other countries is wrong? controlling human beings with violence and torture and rape and murder is wrong?
political cartoonists often feel prophetic to me. satirists too. (prophets can be funny - look at some of the stuff the jewish prophets - and john the baptist, and jesus - pulled.)
and - too - even though the prophet will often have friends and helpers and followers, the prophet is always an outsider. how else can s/he see where the message goes?
and don't blame god for what happens after the message is delivered. god can't control what happens with the message once it's delivered. and so ... god keeps sending messages.
who or what is prophetic for you? let's chew on it and see what happens.
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
drew was great. funny, relaxed. his c0-host was great on-air but she was a drip in person. but that was okay; drew and i got along great. laughed. i knew from listening to the show that he was really smart. they shaved my head. i hung out. it was a hoot.
drew asked me about myself, what i did. i was reluctant to tell him about it, but i gave in. i emphasized teaching rather than preaching. i didn't want our conversation to be stuck in that awkward place where it gets quiet because everyone's uncomfortable - "he's wearing white after Labor Day" or "he's a mass murderer" or "he's a dentist; don't open your mouth." it happens all the time when people find out i'm a pastor. eek. but drew was genuinely interested in what my work is about. i learned a lot about him too, and we had a good time.
drew and i said hi again a few weeks later at the moby show. it was great. we laughed and got along. (his partner? nah.)
i mailed him a copy of my book wrestling with god. mailed it to him, with a note. never heard back. that wasn't the point; it takes me a long time to read the books (a zillion) that people give me to read. i just wanted him to have it.
i also wondered whether i'm too old. this young man was in his late 20s, hip, very austiny, new media, what's happening.
so, last week i was listening to the morning show on 101x (drew and hag have left) and i love the new morning show deejay, deb. she's english. funny. sweet. and it turns out she's pretty. jason got married last week, and so deb is on her own this week. i emailed her to tell her good luck, and that i like her show.
she emailed back.
i was amazed. me? a young austin hip person, emailing me? and on top of that, she told me to tell her about what i do, i guess at journey. so i sent another email, and talked a bit about what journey's about, and what i do, and invited her. i told her journey would be a good place for her to hang out. ask questions. not be beaten over the head.
haven't heard back. it's only been a few days, but still.
i'm wondering whether the spiritual-seeker-open-to-mystery thing isn't enough to override that i'm a pastor of a church. no matter what you call it, that's my job. and i'm grateful and willing for that to be my job. thrilled. but it feels sometime as if the "church" is just for church people. and that young adults just aren't going to get it - unless they go to cool churches because it makes them feel cool - and journey ifc isn't cool. it's way too relaxed.
yes, i hear you - why wouldn't what journey is about make a great place to collect, hang out, just be?
i dunno. i don't think i'm the person to connect to young adults, no matter how hip i am. and i'm old, let's face it.
if deb emails back, i'll let you know.
Monday, November 5, 2007
andrea gibson. the awesome calla told me about her.
jesus was a revolutionary
his mother mary
was a goddess
still neither could have prophesized
the dark that is now upon us
since the christian right
now white men drop bombs
in the name of a faith
born from a song of thou shall not kill
left the will of their god unheard
every word ignored in the name of profit
while it was their prophet
breaking bread with the poor
walking on bare feet
now they're talking that path of that god
but they're walking the path of their greed
preaching do unto others
as you would have them do unto you
but they've painted their cross red white
and blew 140,000 japanese people away in one day
they will always be their brothers' keepers
as long as their brothers are rich and white
you only have to look at the facts
death row is black
those cloths on american backs sewn by brown hands
in lands they've made theirs for the taking
raping whole cultures
while proclaiming themselves holy
but there are holes in their truth so deep
jesus would weep for his own name
being used and abused like this
christian means christ-like
and christ was neither white nor like this
neither white nor like your so called christian right
there's no such thing as a right wing
wings are made for angels
and i'm yet to see a halo on your head
blasphemy defines the things you've said
quoting scripture amidst your war cry
your belly full and warm
while millions die beneath the weight of your sins
and there are days i'm ashamed
to wear the color of your skin
there are days i'm ashamed
i ever prayed to the same god as you
but really i don't believe i did
i don't believe that's true
because christian means christ-like
and christ was not like you
not like this
wasn't bound to the cross
wearing combat boots and clenched fists
tonight the world wails an unbearable suffering
and you are the thorns and nails
how many more will you crucify with your white lies
deeming yourself supreme and above
when your god's love
is the last thing you've ever lived by
better cross your heart and hope you die a peaceful death
before jesus comes back
finds his way to NBC and CBS
calls you out on all the peace you've been talking
and all the war you've been livin
now that would be some reality tv
this would be the reverse of everyone in the audience at a taping of her show being given a new car; everyone who shows up in their car during rush hour today gets an oprah magazine.
Friday, November 2, 2007
i have no clue about where that question is about overall, but the beauty of dreams is that our subconscious has picked something only because it will help us sort out our feelings - a dog, a warm breeze, a straw, a friend, whatever.
jacob and esau are twin brothers in the book of Genesis; esau's the first-born, who grows big and strong and goofy. he can't see anything past whatever body part is active. he trades his role as inheritor of the family wealth and responsibility, for a bowl of stew - just because he's really hungry.
young man disease run rampant. he's his daddy's favorite. hunter.
jacob's the second-born, who grows weaselly and tricky and really smart. "jacob" means "grabs." he tricks his way into a fortune, over and over.
young man disease run rampant. he's the mama's boy. he's going to climb and build and have.
jacob tricks esau and then runs for his life; goes and finds his own way as a man; tricks another man; comes back and before he reenters the homeland, he stays up all night wrestling with god - sweating, straining, swinging. i think he gives up his running, and says, This is who i am, and i'm going to rely not on my own plans, but on god's presence with me. the angel says, Your old name was Grabs; now your name is Wrestles With God And Lasts.
i thought about the question again. who IS jacob? who IS esau?
i thought at first that it was about our son. who, in my judgment, is sort of like jacob - crafty, smaaaaart, a little unsure of whether he is okay or not; waiting for something. like i was at 20. good heart, young man guilt and worry and vision. lots of promise.
it then washed over me that it might also be about journey. journey is a faith community full of promise. great people. good heart. not necessarily willing to abide by anybody's rules. most have "left home."
but it's good, for me, that journey doesn't have YMD. young man's disease is about self-absorption and worry and ascent and It's All About Me.
you know you're getting over YMD and you're no longer jacob or esau when you can stop and rest, stop and breathe, have compassion, and be okay with not knowing The Only Answer.
maybe journey is better named neither jacob or esau, but Wrestles With God And Lasts.
esau and jacob are shadows of each other; mirrors; each has his story to share with his brother; each teaches his brother something. esau forgives; jacob apologizes; both grow out of YMD.
that question in my dream - If he's jacob, who's esau? - is about what my life is based on, what anyone's life is based on.
what things am i choosing? what things am i pushing out of eyesight? what things will i become? what things am i grabbing onto? what things am i wrestling with?
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Ninja Parade Slips Through Town Unnoticed Once Again
ps the reference to luther as a badass ninja pirate can be found here
Monday, October 29, 2007
this speaks volumes.
i do NOT believe that most people who are sincerely living out their beliefs realize that they need someone to be their scapegoat ... but as this song hilariously points out, we all do it.
i'll tell you mine if you tell me yours ...
Sunday, October 28, 2007
they had asked specifically about what journey's beliefs are about homosexuality. i talked about how at journey all people are children of god, period. and all people are welcome, period. if there is someone who's in a pattern in their life that's not healthy, we are teaching all the time about how god is in all things - so, look at your life. really look at it. all of it. and then say, Okay, is this healthy for me? what's in this that i can learn from? where do i choose to go? is this something i need support around? 12 steps? men's group? women's group? bible study? discussion group? small group? volunteer to help at journey? feed homeless people? find a good therapist? learn more ways to pray and connect to god? all of these are ways to get at, and deal with, patterns in our lives that aren't healthy - like sexual promiscuity. unhealthy patterns of drinking, or eating, or drug use, or pornography, or spending money, or not spending money. rage. victimhood.
i realized later that night that i hadn't actually "answered" their question - i had gone into how we at journey deal with our shit, our beauty, all of who we are, with god in the middle of it. that's what i think jesus invited people into. but they had wanted an answer to whether journey condemns homosexuality as a way to live. i emailed and told them that no, in fact, we don't. i have read the scriptures at length and don't see that homosexuality is a "sin" at all. american greed is a sin. america's preoccupation with violence is a sin. america's treatment of those in prison, and the poor, and the ugly or unintelligent or outsider - that's a sin. but the way god designs people to love each other? as long as it's between consenting adults - and that's true of heterosexuals as well - and done in a committed and loving and learning relationship, we don't see that it's anything we need to change in anyone. everyone is a beloved child of god.
(they had asked, when i talked about that general principle, whether if someone were an adulterer or a child molester, even though - they acknowledged this - that person is to be loved and welcomed, would journey not say that that behavior was wrong? i said, the real question is, what is the behavior/pattern in your life about? first, accept that you're the beloved of god. love god. be loved by god. then, look at your life. what's working - not, what feels good, but, what is really making you more and more healthy, more and more loving, more and more real? and any negative, hurtful behavior? jesus says, I invite you to change that.)
they emailed back a very respectful and sweet answer, which was, how much they appreciated our time together, and how they will pray for and support journey, and they're glad we're here doing our thing for god, but that's a decisive issue for them, so they'll keep looking for the right church. they were very loving and very principled, and i really respect that.
here's my question, not to this couple, but to the world:
why is this a deciding issue?
i mean, i'm just not sure i get it. why is this that big a deal? do people make decisions about a church based on whether it's greed-obsessed? or success-obsessed? or whether the leaders are contentious and mean?
is whether a church tells homosexuals that the way they feel love toward another adult all that important?
i honestly have come to a place where i just don't see it. i really don't.
i think - and i do not mean this as disrespect for this couple and other people like them, who are genuine and humble in their convictions - i think we're completely missing the point. it's a symptom, not the thing itself. is it about whether that church accepts the bible as literal vs. figurative? in which case, is that about whether the world is careening out of control because people who aren't holding on to something solid are causing people to lose what's most important? in which case, is that about fear - a model that says if someone doesn't enforce the rules, we'll all go down in flames and the bad people and forces will take over?
it's just not an issue for me anymore - like, at all. i have no interest in it whatsoever. i want to be with people as they deal with the real barriers to love in their lives - rage, violence, greed, selfishness, obsession with money or control, self-abnegation and condemnation, shame ... when those things are being healed (and jesus was a healer, not condemning ... except toward systems that excluded and shamed the outsiders), the kingdom of god is present.
soft on "sin"? absolutely not. the opposite. i fight it with all i am.
i guess it's an issue of what we believe "sin" is.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
i put my official picture they took at the austin american-statesman when i did an essay for them some months ago. check out the handsome mofos that look like that picture of me.
ummmm ... how do i even begin to respond to that?
now, granted, i'm not sure that mug shot really looks much like me unless i'm smiling nicely for a camera. which i never do. but still.
although, i do like the range - from o henry to telly savalas to maharishi mahesh yogi? (and by the way, everyone laughs about my unruly mess of hair - and i look like telly savalas?) i have to, and i do, respect that.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Thursday, October 18, 2007
the truth in this music will set you free or just get something in your head to start making weird noises
iron and wine
this man, sam beam, lives in central texas and makes beautiful and strange and haunting and sweet and sad and gently loving and heartbreaking music. it has gotten into some places deep in my head, behind and beyond the front part where the reasons are.
here's some data. http://www.austinchronicle.com/gyrobase/Issue/print?oid=543274
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Thursday, October 11, 2007
it's a freakin' norman rockwell painting.
so, i went for 3 days this week to go advise/help/work with doctoral students who are doing their projects and dissertations over the next year and a half. they are brave and great. they are from south carolina, las vegas, new jersey, canada, pennsylvania - all over. and i had a blast.
Monday, October 8, 2007
ps i drew a cartoon strip for the school paper when i was in college. the main character looked like me - but he was much thinner and more angular than this me. what a difference 25 years makes ...
well, my wife's parents came for the weekend, to see my daughter's drill team friday night, and then hang out saturday, and then come to journey sunday morning. so thursday was clean the house day. and i've felt completely behind on my to-do lists at work and i hate that. so that's where I'VE been the last five days.
yesterday at jifc was really wonderful. lots of people. and lots of soul and Spirit. the "lots of people" part isn't the point; we journeyers have always said that it's not a question of how many of us there are; we don't count; we don't have growth goals or plans. but when the Spirit is on, and lots of people are there all up in it, it rocks. it's like a big feast and the more people there are celebrating and getting some good food and drink, the better.
what? no growth goals? that's insane!
i don't mean to be arrogant or snide. i am aware of the voices in my own head.
emily dickinson knew what it felt like for people to think you're crazy, just because you do things differently.
okay, e.d., do your thing:
Much Madness is divinest Sense -
To a discerning Eye -
Much Sense, the starkest Madness -
'Tis the Majority
In this, as all, prevail -
Assent, and you are Sane -
Demur, you're straightway dangerous -
And handled with a Chain
The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson