Thursday, April 26, 2007

love, indifference and the bear

20th century american novelist and essayist joan didion wrote:

"To have that sense of one's intrinsic worth which constitutes self-respect is potentially to have everything: the ability to discriminate, to love and to remain indifferent. To lack it is to be locked within oneself, paradoxically incapable of either love or indifference.”

my New Warrior animal name is "Black Bear." it came to me in a visualization and i wanted to be a horse but the bear wouldn't have it; it moved in front of the horse and wouldn't budge. the more i've spent time with that bear's energy, and my own, i've learned that a black bear is a good thing to be, a good reflection of where i am in my life. the bear is gentle and aware; it saves its fighting energy for when it needs it; it sleeps - hibernates, even - when it needs to, and makes provision beforehand; it rests; it goes slowly most of the time, simply because there's no hurry. it plays. it fishes. it goes into its cave. it climbs trees and rocks. it sits in the sunshine. it cuddles its loved ones. it walks by itself sometimes. if you don't mess with it, it couldn't care less about you. it'll look over, and then go on about its business. you're free to go.
that's another way to express self-respect.
didion says that when we have self-respect, we can love, or remain indifferent, and either is fine. "indifferent" in this sense, to me, means to love without strings attached, without attachments and bullshit.
that's what i want. jesus had that.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


i ran across a quote from carl sagan, and it touched me.
in a world in which people can't seem to stop trying to destroy each other and advance their own supremacy, here's a reminder. i think this concept is so far out there that we shrink from it. don't. it's ridiculously liberating. it's jesus big time.

this is what NASA tells us about this picture -
This narrow-angle color image of the Earth, dubbed 'Pale Blue Dot', is a part of the first ever 'portrait' of the solar system taken by Voyager 1. The spacecraft acquired a total of 60 frames for a mosaic of the solar system from a distance of more than 4 billion miles from Earth. From Voyager's great distance Earth is a mere point of light, less than the size of a picture element even in the narrow-angle camera. Earth was a crescent only 0.12 pixel in size. Coincidentally, Earth lies right in the center of one of the scattered light rays resulting from taking the image so close to the sun

here's what Carl Sagan riffs on -
Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives...
Look again at
that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar", every "supreme leader", every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
Look back again at the pale blue dot. Take a good long look at it. Stare at the dot for any length of time and then try to convince yourself that God created the whole Universe for one of the 10 million or so species of life that inhabit that speck of dust. Now take it a step further: Imagine that everything was made just for a single shade of that species, or gender, or ethnic or religious subdivision. If this doesn't strike you as unlikely, pick another dot. Imagine it to be inhabited by a different form of intelligent life. They, too, cherish the notion of a God who has created everything for their benefit. How seriously do you take their claim?

- from Carl Sagan's 2004 book Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

yeah. absolutely. can we all just get the hell over ourselves?

Monday, April 23, 2007

nice to know you

this is what i think jesus might want to say to me when i raise objections about loving my enemies.
actually what i believe in my heart is that i make my own enemies; i have no enemies. anybody who "makes me feel" anything is actually just pushing a button in me. someone gets in my face and i'm angry? i'm afraid they'll hurt me because i've been hurt. someone is nervous and i get nervous? i'm afraid i won't be able to handle the situation because when i get nervous i'm afraid i'll make a mistake, blow it, whatever. someone is acting hatefully? i've acted hatefully - because of my own brokenness - and i've been treated hatefully - and i'm afraid that that anger and bitterness inside me will come flying out and kill everyone.
i don't have any enemies except my own shadow. so, welcome, shadow. welcome.
the rock band incubus has a brilliant song "nice to know you" -

I haven’t felt the way, I feel today
In so long it’s hard for me to specify
I’m beginning to notice
How much this feels like a waking limb
Pins and needles, nice to know you
Good-bye, Nice to Know You

Hey, my shadow: if i can see you, then i have freedom. i can love the world. no problem. so, nice to know you. goodbye.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

so bad it's good, but not quite

just go look at this. it's too beautiful not to share.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

One Million Children

in 1498, the portuguese explorer vasco de gama landed in india. he began looking around, talking to indigenous people there. (strangely enough, these were also called "indians.") there were christians. christians he'd never heard of them. with churches. and tributes to the saint who had traveled there in CE 52, and started establishing churches.
the christians of this part of india hadn't had any substantial contact with other christians from europe or asia. they were their own branch of christianity. not a breakaway denomination or new movement or reformation. this was a cutting from the original vine. and as it turns out, there were a million christians in 1,500 churches.
they had begun because a saint traveled to india, with the trade routes from egypt and the mediterranean. it was thomas. doubting thomas.
when i learned this last week, preparing for sunday's talk, i felt better than good. i felt that i wasn't wrong, that having genuine, sincere doubts and reluctance to believe what everyone else tells me to believe is a good thing. it's real. it's the truth, for me. that's not the same thing as being cynical or flip. that's not truth. i mean the honesty to say, Hey, god, this is where i am.
god can use that for sure.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

what is god? what is jesus? and is it loop 360, or capital of texas highway, or ben white?

for those of you who aren't familiar with austin, you won't know that the last questions in this title is a great joke. lots of streets in austin have two or three names. it's weird.
anyway, a dear friend emailed me and said, look, i don't know anything about the bible, but i'm learning at journey, and what i do know is that i love god and love serving god and other people. my thought, of course, is that that's all there is, and knowing stuff about the bible isn't important in the least. but he also asked about what god is, and what jesus is, and what the deal is with their relationship. i think that's a really fair question, so i responded. here's part of my response. a lot of it is unorthodox, but hey, this is what i told him because it made sense to say it this way, and it's what's in my heart. and, i know it's too long, but i just needed to say it.

There’s a Presence that animates, breathes into, and loves the universe. It’s mysterious. It’s big. I mean, really big. People have tried to understand this Presence, this Animating Force. But It’s Too Big. (I’m using capital letters just because It’s So Big. But It doesn’t mind if I use capital letters, so I’m going to stop now because it’s too much trouble.) Anyway, this presence, force, whatever, is best known in love. Love is what holds the universe together. I don’t mean romantic love, although that’s a tiny little taste of what it’s like. It’s like looking at nature, or at your children, or what a great meal feels like. It’s like rain. It’s like safety. I believe that’s what the nature of the universe is. People get hurt, are vulnerable, are afraid, whatever, and that disconnects us from this force of love. We forget that that’s our basic nature. And it is. I absolutely believe that. This love that holds the universe together – literally, physically, molecular level, personally, whatever, all of the above and lots more – is about healing and reconciliation. We human beings are only a small part of that large, infinitely huge force that’s ever-creating, ever-remaking, ever-changing, and yet not changing at all. But we matter. Everything matters. Everything belongs.
We human beings aren’t aware of how beautiful it is, because we can only see a small part of it. We tend to focus on what we feel or think, and that’s okay too, since that’s who we are. But it’s a huge mistake – or maybe just a misunderstanding, an illusion – to think that God is made in our image, that God’s whole work is the earth, and human beings. I mean, just look at the beauty and complexity and weirdness and wonderfulness of the natural world! We’re only a part of it. if God were only as big as us, we’d be screwed. I’m banking on God being much bigger than that.
And then comes Jesus. I don’t know what the hell was up with that man. I don’t know how it worked. But something slipped out, beyond, into the Big Thing, with this guy. He came at it from his cultural perspective, too, but he got something. He saw it. “The heavens opened and he saw, and he heard God’s voice” the baptism story says. Jesus saw it, heard it, experienced it down in some deep place that altered his personal universe. He got it. It started flowing through him. He couldn’t help himself; he had to tell everybody about it. He had to act on its being true – because it was deeply, powerfully true for him. Its power flowed through him. He could do things with the physical universe that didn’t make sense to other human beings – I’m not sure they even made sense to him all the time – but he let it flow. And he just gave it away. all over the place.

He was very pissed off at the institutions of his time that restricted love, that kept people from seeing and experiencing God as he had, that held God in a box. So he took them on. He was terrified, but he did it anyway. They killed him.And then he came back to life. I have no fucking idea how that worked. But it worked. He understood his scriptures to say that the messiah would die and come back to life, and damned if it didn’t sure enough happen. And then he disappeared, flowed out of this plane of existence and reunited with the big thing. He explained that that’s really who and what we all are, that that’s what It Is. And he said, Okay, go tell people about this. Enact it. Act as if it were true. Because it is.
And the word spread. And people got infected with it. And they talked about it. The physical universe was altered when they let it flow through them.
When they tried to understand it, they said, When we experienced what was happening in Jesus, and with us, it was God.
So that’s where the idea came along that Jesus was in some sense, somehow, some mysterious way, the presence of this force of love in that human moment. I believe that. I believe that God was flowing through Jesus and Jesus in some mysterious way was God. I don't understand it.
And then this group of people and how they saw the universe spread through the Roman Empire, and soon there were so many Christians that, despite periodic efforts of the Roman powers that be to get rid of them, they couldn't be stopped, and the powers that be decided that they should join 'em rather than fight 'em. And Christianity became the accepted religious view of the world. And then it went to shit. Because it became religion, and politics, and architecture, and law.
Jesus wept.
there are, and have always been, moments when individual people or little groups of people see it, experience it, get it, feel it. They tap into it. Its power flows through them. And the world is healed, healthier, whole, even a little bit, even just here and there. This is NOT CONTAINED IN RELIGION, certainly not contained in Christianity and certainly not in one denomination or group or church. It’s far too big for that. far too big.
What’s Jesus? There’s the guy, the teacher, the miracle-worker. There’s the thing Jesus came to mean to millions of people in thousands of cultural contexts and ages and countries and languages. Some of that is what It Was About. Some of it is shit we invented because we can't see clearly. The Spirit of God works in all of it, whenever it can get a word in edgewise.
That’s it. At least, that’s how I understand it.

bless my enemies o lord

while we're on the subject of everyone being a child of god no matter what, here's part of a prayer/poem by bishop nikolai velimirovich. he spoke out against nazism, was arrested, spent 2 years in Dachau prison, and then was liberated by the Allies and went on to found all sorts of schools and churches.

bless my enemies, o lord. even i bless them and do not curse them.
enemies have driven me into your embrace more than friends have.
friends have bound me to earth, enemies have loosed me from earth and have demolished all my aspirations in the world. ...
bless them and multiply them; multiply them and make them even more bitterly against me:
so that my fleeing to you may have no return;
so that all hope in men may be scattered like cobwebs;
so that absolute serenity may begin to reign in my soul;
so that my heart may become the grave of my two evil twins, arrogance and anger;
so that i might amass all my treasures in heaven;
ah, so that i may for once be freed from self-deception, which has entangled me in the dreadful web of illusory life. ...

okay, if that's not what jesus was talking about, what COULD he have been talking about and DOING, all through his ministry, including on the cross and beyond? this isn't an idea; this is a path. this is torah. this is the eightfold path. this is the way to enlightenment. this is peace like a river. this is the shit. because it's ALL about what is going on INSIDE ME, so that i can then be present with another human being in one moment - and then i'm present with myself. i know where i am - and i can just love and thank and bless the other person and really mean it (and i don't need to say a word about that to them). they're teaching me something about me.
seem too mystic? try it. in a grocery store line. in your marriage or with your kids or parents. with your irritating co-worker. just be present, and thank god for how they're helping you see yourself.

Monday, April 9, 2007

The Day After Easter Which Is Also Like Every Other Day Always Easter

"Breathe Deep (The Breath of God)"
from the album Scenic Routes (Music and lyrics by Terry Taylor)

Politicians, morticians, Philistines, homophobes
Skinheads, Dead heads, tax evaders, street kids
Alcoholics, workaholics, wise guys, dim wits
Blue collars, white collars, war mongers, peaceniks

Breathe deep
Breathe deep the Breath of God
Breathe deep
Breathe deep the Breath of God

Suicidals, rock idols, shut-ins, drop outs
Friendless, homeless, penniless and depressed
Presidents, residents, foreigners and aliens
Dissidents, feminists, xenophobes and chauvinists

Breathe deep
Breathe deep the Breath of God
Breathe deep
Breathe deep the Breath of God

Evolutionists, creationists, perverts, slum lords
Dead-beats, athletes, Protestants and Catholics
Housewives, neophytes, pro-choice, pro-life
Misogynists, monogamists, philanthropists, blacks and whites

Breathe deep
Breathe deep the Breath of God
Breathe deep
Breathe deep the Breath of God

Police, obese, lawyers, and government
Sex offenders, tax collectors, war vets, rejects
Atheists, Scientists, racists, sadists
Biographers, photographers, artists, pornographers

Breathe deep
Breathe deep the Breath of God
Breathe deep
Breathe deep the Breath of God

Gays and lesbians, demagogues and thespians
The disabled, preachers, doctors and teachers
Meat eaters, wife beaters, judges and juries
Long hair, no hair, everybody everywhere!

Breathe deep
Breathe deep the Breath of God
Breathe deep
Breathe deep the Breath of God

Okay, friends, if that's not Easter, I don't know what would be.
I can't think of anyone who in some way wouldn't be offended by someone on that list. Everybody has an enemy on that list.
God has no enemies on that list. Only children.
We have no enemies on that list. Only brothers and sisters.

happy The Day After Easter Which Is Also Like Every Other Day Always Easter.

Monday, April 2, 2007


so, yesterday the plan was that in worship my talk was going to be about how pontius pilate's worldview was one of security, order, keeping things the way they are, serving the machine. concrete. static. predictable. ... and jesus' worldview was based not on practicality and order but on wonder and a sense of spirit as the true reality. and that that's what pilate doesn't get. the "what is truth?" question pilate asks, comes out of pilate's sense that he's dealing with something large here, in jesus, that he can't explain.
anyway, that was the plan. but what i ended up talking about was about pilate - the same list as above - being in one place, and jesus being in an opposite place. jesus' worldview was one of flexibility, change, allowing new things to emerge, refusing to serve the machine. jesus wanted to change the world. jesus wanted revolution. jesus was willing to sacrifice himself as an act of love, in affirmation of what he believed in. and so, fellow followers of jesus - what is it you are called to do to change the world? what is your revolution? because changing the world with love and standing up to the powers that be, when they are wrong, is not an option - it is a commandment.

perhaps that talk rose out of my fear that after last week's big talk about deepening our commitment to the vision of journey, nobody would show up this week. so, my soul was all about standing up for what you believe in, no matter what the circumstances are. my act of civil disobedience, against my own fears.
i'm sure that it was influenced by the bible study lesson we were doing yesterday, which was all about ... basically the same thing.
i also think i gave that talk in worship in part because my wife and i had watched "the motorcycle diaries" the night before. about ernesto guevara, or at least, about when he was a young man, a medical student, and how he went on this long trip across south america and felt a deep sense that something needed to be done for all these poor people.

but mostly i just think the Spirit got ahold of me, and that message is what really and truly is in my heart.
i do want a revolution. i do want the world to be different.
there is so much pain, so much fear, so much imprisonment of the heart.
i want people to be set free. i want them to have courage. i want them to know they matter.
i am willing to give my life for this. i am giving my life for this.