Thursday, June 28, 2007

moses, moses, moses ...

come on, you know you remember high school ...

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

no, the whole question is stupid

y'know, christians spend a lot of time - always have - arguing and debating and thinking about the question of whom to include in The Church. homosexuals, people of different skin colors, people with different beliefs, sinners, whatever. i've been connected to christians and christianity for so long, and i've been frustrated about that whole process, the arrogance of it, for so long ... that it just now hit me that the construct itself is asinine. the question itself is ridiculous.
it is asinine, ridiculous, crazy, because it is predicated on the principle that christians think that they get to control who has access to god.

it's not as if that; it is that. that is the principle upon which all such discussion is based.

i don't believe that christians have exclusive control of who has access to god. (i mean, just to type this assertion shows me how absolutely naive and childish it is to believe for a moment than anyone would ever have exclusive rights to god.) god doesn't care one way or the other. god is infinite. god is reaching out to every human being. god is reaching out way beyond human beings. god is present in all things.

hey christians - you really think god only responds to the people you've decided you'll allow in your club? the god of the sky? the god of cells and dna and the planets? i know, you're trying to figure out your theology. you're trying to figure out what the scriptures say. guess what: god does not give a damn. because god is Beyond. what you're trying to figure out is about you, not about god. i wish you could see the difference.
meanwhile, the rest of the universe - and god - go on about their business together.

jesus help us. and i mean that.

Monday, June 25, 2007

las vegas part 2

it was ... creepy. plastic. fake.

beautiful buildings, huge skyscraper buildings with zillions of hotel rooms. it's unimaginable how much money is spent by people coming to vegas from all over the world every day. in casinos. restaurants. bars. hotels. broadway shows. admission to attractions - there was a shark reef at our hotel, a small sea world thing. there are rides and tours and crazy stores. all the t-shirts and cheapass trinkets nobody needs and mugs and souvenirs.

the casinos have hotels, not the other way around. the center of each is the casino. it's impossible to walk from one part of the hotel to another without going through the casino. i checked in on one side, amidst a teeming throbbing anthill of tourists eager to give away their money. the very very nice people behind the front desk told me i was in the hotel tower on the other side of the resort, and gave me directions. i got lost going from one side to the other. i stopped at a slot machine to study it - i'd never played - and a woman in a tacky outfit, a push-up bra and a tiny skirt and thick makeup identical to all the other women's makeup who worked there asked me if i'd like a drink. i didn't realize they're free. she'll just bring you drinks as long as you sit there. you tip her, which is nice. the thing is, it's not a free drink. nothing in vegas is free.

there's no eye contact. i felt weird - being a texan, perhaps, was part of the disconnect. but still.

there's no day or night. it's lit up crazily at night, and the day is beautiful and sunny. but still, there's no sense of time. we stayed up til 3 a.m. ... other than the hookers coming out into the casino in greater numbers, it was no different really from how it had been at 3 pm.

the casinos are set up so that there's no easy way to walk through them. you wander through a maze. it took me thirty minutes to go from my room (on the 62nd floor - i'm serious - my friends rock! it was so beautiful!) to the pool. literally thirty minutes.

there are no clocks in the casino. no natural lights. no places to sit except at a table or machine. no quiet. lights flash, lots of different kinds of awful music play all at once, people are everywhere. the machines promise you can will millions even if you only bet a dollar. but there's no such thing as a dollar bet - it's a dollar to play one line on the little grid, and you can only win if you play all twenty grids. so it's twenty dollars. and if you want to make some money, you don't bet one dollar per grid, you bet two or five or ten. are you getting how this works?

it wasn't like this.
all of the waitresses that helped me looked sad. they smiled a lot, but still.

the people looked so happy ... and yet, not. it was as if we were all participating in a mass trance. we were coming to give our money away in exchange for the possibililty of making more money. but everyone knows that "the house always wins." they say that while they're laying their money down. but there's that tiny hope that they'll be the one who hits it big, gets lucky.

and the machine - the matrix - gives them goodies and distractions to keep them participating in giving away their money. it's just ... weird. plastic.

and not weird. it's very american. very matrix. very clear about what it is.

i wanted to go up to each person there - i'm not kidding - and hug them. i felt overwhelming compassion for them. i wanted to free them. i think i felt, in some tiny way, what jesus felt every single day: you are in something that isn't real, but you think it is even though down in your soul you know it's not, and i want to help you see that it's not. the people look hollow and lonely. they want something. they came to get it, and they're having fun, and getting their hoochie on, and otherwise reserved nice suburban women wear low-cut dresses and people come to vegas and do things - drinking, sex, whatever - that they wouldn't normally do. maybe that's part of it. it's trading one matrix (work hard, be a good person, be miserable, and you'll be rewarded) for another (come and give us your money and you'll be a big winner and you can do things for just yourself and your pleasure and no one will be the wiser and you'll feel great). it's all the same mindfuck.

i tried smiling at people. saying hi.

other than my friends whom i love and with whom i had a complete blast, i felt completely disconnected and alone.

i prayed. god said, "what do you want from me? i'm doing the best that i can. this is nothing new. you're just new here."
is this the best our culture has to offer? is this our versailles? our roman forum? our cathedral? it costs us all a lot to build and maintain, and it grows and grows and grows. we fly there from all over the world. we get some goodies. we have fun. we squander zillions of dollars. and we thank them and plan to go back.
the poor of the world are starving. there are people with broken hearts in the house next to you on your street.

oh, and the food was great. and the cigars were great. and the shows are great. the hotel was gorgeous. i want to go and see "Love," the Cirque du Soleil Beatles show.

no, seriously.

seriously. las vegas part 1

okay, so two great friends from journey took me to las vegas last friday. i stayed about 22 hours. i slept about six. the rest of the time, i saw the city that never sleeps, the city i had heard about all my life and had never been to. i have two thoughts about this experience.
the first is, i have such great friends at journey. i have friends with whom i go to lunch, sit and talk, pour out my heart, have supper, play golf, study, sit in quiet, talk about my heart and struggles and lessons, go to men's groups and retreats, talk about marriage and kids and parents and siblings; we worship, pray, argue, bitch, cry, laugh our asses off. and these are men and women with whom i feel safe. seriously. i'm more casual friends with some and more intense friends with others, but it's beautiful all the way around. that's a rare thing in this world, people.
part of the reason for this is because there isn't a lot about me they don't know, and there is a lot about them that i know, and nobody is interested in judging each other - except when we're in our own shadows and don't see it, and then we get over it pretty quickly. there's a low bullshit tolerance quotient at journey. we're just not interested. and we don't put up with gossip or backbiting. we know it's not jesus. so we work very hard not to be in that space. and it's safe that way. i work hard to be vulnerable and honest with these people. i did not grow up in a house with that dynamic and it has taken me a lot of work and attention to get here.
one woman, melinda, who's a scream and honest and real and a hero, said that she was talking to a person who was concerned about journey's doctrines being too - i dunno, nonexistent? liberal? whatever. and melinda cut that person off and said, "we have no dissention in our faith community." it's true. i mean, people have their shit. everyone does. but we're dealing with it in FRONT of each other, for christ's sake. literally for christ's sake. so it doesn't fester much.
if you are wondering whether you are one of the journey friends i am talking about, you are.
where was i.
anyway, the two guys who bought me tickets to vegas and bought my food and gave me gambling money are adorable, funny, very real, very loving people. both heathens big time. in the very, very best sense that makes me feel safe and happy and real. they - and i - would not fit into a nice church. yay.
so, we went to las vegas. we laughed. we played in the casino. i have no gambling skills. i watched cards played. i played penny slot machines. it was a hoot. we stayed up very late, walked around, ate at bellagio, stayed at the mandalay, went to the luxor with the big pyramid, drove up The Strip. told dirty jokes. people watched. smoked cigars. it was wonderful to be with my friends. their generosity and willingness to invite me into their time there was a ridiculously beautiful gift.
another friend wanted to take me snow skiiing this winter and i couldn't go because a journeyer had a hospital thing. i want to go skiing with this friend, not to go skiing, but to spend time with this friend. that's what it's about.
i am grateful.
vegas part 2 discusses a ... different ... part of the experience. let me say this as preview: vegas is plastic.

what happened in vegas

hey, what happens in vegas stays in vegas, right?

okay, i'm kidding. nonprofit prophet told me to do that joke and it made me laugh.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

young man cold

i'm over my cold. mostly.
this may not seem like a big deal but i'm not a good sick person.
okay, let me rephrase that. when i'm sick, i just stop. this is because i have gotten over young man disease. the ambition part, the guilt part, the control part, the insecure part, says, Oh, don't rest - work harder - don't be weak - and if you do feel too bad to get up and be helpful/be a man, then whine a lot to let everyone know you're really sick.
but now i just say, I'm sick, i'm going to bed. i don't try to convince anyone. i ask leslie what drugs to take, take em, and go to bed until i feel better.
that's pretty much it.
i still felt a little guilty about not going to the journey warehouse yesterday because i could feel the cold going away but not gone - but not guilty enough to go up to the warehouse, convince myself that i had done the right thing, sniff and blow my nose all over everyone, work a while, then come home and take a nap and feel worse. why not just stay home, work on emails and writing and projects, return some phone calls, and then take a nap when i was ready? and cut out the middle(young)man?
so i did.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

c'mon, relax!

so i have a cold and i'm watching tv; i don't watch much tv which means i'm really not in the loop but anyway. kathy griffin is on and she's hilarious. she says something funny about Oprah and then she kids the audience and says "you're uncomfortable that i'm making fun of oprah!" which is funny ... because it's TRUE! we're all afraid of oprah -
a. because she's so good. so above reproach. so loving and giving. seriously. she's a force for good.
b. because she's so powerful and if you mess with her she could destroy you. smash you into bits. you'd never recover.

not that she would ever do that ... man who faked his memoir. but anyway.

i was just reading something about the movie "saved" which is a SCREAM and wonderful, and a commentator was observing that christians don't seem to have much of a sense of humor about themselves. jews do, and sometimes catholics do (seen "dogma"?) but protestant evangelical fundamentalists? jesus, it's so serious. why won't these people laugh at themselves or god or jesus or anything?

a. because god is so good. so above reproach. so loving and giving.
b. because god is so powerful and if you mess with god (i should say "him" because this model always sees god as a male) god could destroy you. smash you into bits. hell time. boom. crack. ouch.

but ... jesus' stories are often hilarious. i think he's messing with people's heads a lot. the book of jonah? a scream. abraham arguing with god about destroying a city, gideon hiding rather than be found by god, a LOT of things the prophets do ...

i remember the gasps once when i suggested in a bible study years ago that jesus wasn't all that sweet and innocent and that he was rugged and funny and while he sat around a campfire with a bunch of commercial fishermen and manual laborers they were telling jokes and farting and drinking. you'd've thought i ... well, committed blasphemy and was going to hell.

that's not including the times i've reminded people that jesus went to the bathroom or had b.o. ... jesus saying "oh, wicked and perverse generation, how long have i to deal with you?" in my translation sounds like "holy crap you people are driving me crazy!"

disneytunnels and fig leaves, part 2

and then there's the other side of the tunnel system, the perfection on the surface of a Magic Kingdom. any magic kingdom in which all is well and we don't have to think much about how it happens. how does it happen? as i said in part 1, there are underground tunnels, so that no one has to see a garbage cart or a sewage crew (as in, me, sunday night) or anything out of place. it's nice. seriously. no, seriously. it's beautiful.

i have worked as a janitor. i worked on an electrical crew on a refinery ship. i was kitchen help in a bar-b-que place. i mowed yards. i was a church janitor for two summers. i worked in a lumberyard for two summers. i worked at a grain elevator. i worked as a cook in a sandwich shop. i ran errands for a tv station. i have sweated and cussed and been hot and very dirty. i have sat drinking beer drenched and near heat exhaustion at the end of a 12-hour day in the texas sun. i know what it is to make minimum wage.

but i was always like matt damon in "good will hunting," a janitor at M.I.T. who knew as soon as he was ready, all he had to do was engage his amazing brain and creativity, and he didn't have to do that job anymore. i knew i was on my way to being not someone in the tunnels under disneyworld but in the offices creating things for disneyworld, collegeworld, businessworld, churchworld, americaworld, whatever. and now i am that. i'm up in the show.

but some people won't ever get out of the tunnels. that's their lot. as alice walker says in her amazing short story "everyday use," that is "their portion."

but we don't have to look at them. those people who work the tunnels under america and keep it pretty for us as we enjoy it, and trade our lives and money for its pleasures. they live in a different part of town. they are brown or black. they don't have the education we have. they live in dangerous places. they speak different languages, different dialects. if their houses are too small, we feel sorry for them - or we blame them, for not having more initiative. after all, this is america, the land of opportunity; anyone who wants to be successful can be.

they wash our dishes, mow our yards, take out our trash, pick our strawberries. and we let it work that way, because we don't have to know them personally. if we did, we'd be appalled. if we lived where they live, in the tunnels under americaworld ...

and we resent them for being angry. "why are black people so militant?"
and we resent them for being poor. "they are such a drain on the economy and the school systems."
and we resent them for coming into our country. "we have to be sure we have safe borders."

but what we really do is fear them ... because ... we don't want to look down into the tunnels under our magic kingdom and see the trash and shit and food scraps we leave behind and make someone else take care of for us. we have the money; we pay for our debris to go away.

jesus loved the poor - because no one else did. because they are open to god's love and grace.

and because he was poor, among the poorest class of people in his culture. he lived in the tunnels.

a wonderful way to end the day

father's day. so, saturday night it's movie night at journey and we show "Saved!" and have a fun talk about it afterward. go to bed late, but not too late. i notice my nose has been running all day and i have felt crappy since the day before. hm. that stinks partly because i had a cold six months ago or something like that. wake up sunday, it's father's day, that makes me happy - L has brought krispy kreme donuts for me. i go to journey, start a new series on Psalms, poetry, the joy and complexity of being honest with god and oneself. it turns out great even though whenever i start a lesson series i feel a little unsure as to how it will turn out. then the teenagers lead worship and i'm blown away by how honest and real and beautiful it is. then i go do a wedding for a really lovely couple, 60 years old, dated 38 years ago, got back together last year ... very cool. go home. do father's day things. we watch a new dvd i got that day ("children of men" - if you haven't seen it, watch it, today, now). get ready for bed. exhausted. weak. runny nose. irritated about that. but a beautiful day. grateful. happy.

and ... the kids' bathroom toilet won't flush.

leslie's parents were here for father's day. i figure it's just too many flushes and just too much toilet paper - there are always lots of teenagers at our house too, which makes us happy but anyway - so i try to plunger it. nothin'. i get the other, double secret probation plunger, the one i save in case it's bad. i does nothing. i go get the snake - this is for serious clogs. nothing. and the joy is, by that time, it's been flushed in one way or another about thirty times, so it's just water and some lovely bacteria, but mostly just clean water - so i've got my arm all down in the toilet. what're ya gonna do? i look over - and greyish water with little pieces of somethingorother is seeping back into not the toilet where my arm is but the bathtub next to me. i think that's a bad sign.

i tell leslie to go call the city. i put on long pants and socks and crappy old shoes - no pun intended, at least, not yet - and go outside to open the traps. the one up next to the house? little bubbles fizzing out around the top - i unscrew it and lovely, lovely brownish greyish yellowish water flows out. jesus! i am now interacting with raw sewage - yeah, sink water and bathroom sink water and shower water and kitchen water - but for real, this is toilet water too. i close the motherfucker up. i walk out to the trap in the grass near the sidewalk. reach down to open it and notice that my foot's in a half inch of water. okay, i know it's rained a lot, but did it rain that much? um, no. i open the trap and meet the same lovely ... uh, water ... that is everywhere else.
L comes out, says she can't figure out which department to call. i say just pick one and keep calling all of em until you get somebody; i can't really help right now.

so, turns out, at after, i dunno, 11 pm on a sunday, it's the police. weird. the dispatcher is great, very nice and helpful. we're going to wait. so i ask L's dad, who's hanging around with me (he LOVES this kind of thing - man stuff - wants to be the first one to answer the phone and say "Diamond residence," wants to be the one who has the right key to unlock the door, wants to be the one to hold the door open, wants to have all the information. so this kind of guy stuff, technical, problem-solving, is his happy place), to bring me some strong antibacterial soap. he does. i wash and wash and wash my hands and arms in the outdoor faucet, and then start cleaning the garage out, while we wait. i'm so sweaty now what difference does it make?

the guy shows half an hour later. very nice man. turns out opening the traps and letting some of the blocked pressure out was a good thing to do. at least the toilets will flush now. he has to go get another truck. says he'll be back in 25 minutes. so i go back to cleaning out the garage, putting stuff away, arranging laundry, talking with pop. an hour goes by. it's, i dunno, 1230 am. i'm exhausted. shaking. i do indeed have that cold after all. i give it up. shut the garage door, strip, throw away the shoes, put on my daughter's bathrobe - it's a little small - go in, wash off, wash again, wash again, then call the city - what up? turns out the other truck broke down, they had to call the mechanic, they're working on it, they're so sorry, they will not sleep until it's fixed. and i can tell they mean it. that rocks.

so i wash some more, put on shorts and a t-shirt, lie down. the guy comes to the door. it's all good. it's fixed. he asks for some bleach - turns out that kills the E-COLI KILLER GERM THAT IS CARRIED IN WATER WITH FECES IN IT - and so he pours it all around both traps, is apologetic about the wait, sincerely sorry. i thank him for taking care of us in the middle of the night.


i wash some more. then some more. dip myself in a vat of lysol and tilex, with scuba gear. konk out. don't set an alarm. sleep pretty much all day. feel ... better? and have a lovely story to tell.

Friday, June 15, 2007

lately loss

seems like the last few days have been full of news of sadness for people. my friend lee eschelman, i just heard, committed suicide a month ago. i am so so so so so so so so fucking sad.
another good friend is still struggling with cocaine addiction and getting real about the consequences of her actions and taking responsibility.
another dear friend is having trouble with his father and stepmother.

i on the other hand am living a charmed life, and that's for real. but i'm sad for these beloved ones, and for some reason my heart and body feel connected to the sadness around me - like obi-wan kenobi feeling it when alderaan was blown up. no, really.

here's a link to lee. i am really sad about that wonderful sweet gentle soul. i know he's resting easy now - he was, like many of us, like me, not always easy in his own skin. and it must've gotten dark in the room of his heart. i couldn't remember at first who had emailed whom last bewteen us - we'd email, then a few months'd go by, and then email again ...
he had sent the last one. it was my turn.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

disneytunnels and fig leaves, part 1

we lose innocence. that's absolutely part of the way life works. adam and eve learn right and wrong, good and evil. they see bigger than they did before. they become complicated. so does their life. pain enters their life - responsibility, raising children, working for a living, worry about survival.

but before that, it is eden. when something intrudes - the serpent, pain, loss, things that children aren't prepared to process emotionally or mentally - the innocence may just be dented a bit, or it may be lost. paradise lost.

when my wife's parents took leslie and me and our two kids to disney world years ago, the kids were little and it was absolutely magic. they carried little notebooks and the people in disney character makeup and costumes signed their notebooks. everyone was ridiculously nice. the streets and sidewalks were immaculate. all the big things - buildings, rides, shops, decorations - being beautiful and fun and carefully designed, every little detail (trash can, bench, light pole, light switch) was perfect - themed according to the area it was in.

the cynic in me says that it was creepy. fake. contrived. artificial. the innocent in me loved it. it was beautiful. simple. nice. like a good peaceful restful dream. i know that both are true. it is contrived. it exists to make lots of money. it also exists to give people a break and have some fun. is that bad? i don't know. disney world isn't True - it's Fake - so, is that good or bad?

when i was a young man, realizing that the world wasn't eden/magic, and pissed off about it, and really really pissed off that the perfect people i had trusted weren't so perfect after all, i was snide. tacky. cocky. well-educated. sarcastic. cool. it was a mask, to hide my pain, grief, fear. like a suit of armor, made of fig leaves. i had realized that since the world wasn't eden, i was naked. the hebrew word in genesis for "naked" connotes "vulnerable."

i don't really wear that mask very often anymore. i prefer kindness and compassion. i feel compassion for those east of eden, including myself. it's a bitch, but it just is. there's no point in trying to make it back to eden. a warrior angel with a flaming sword guards the gate. maybe it's that i don't feel quite as vulnerable or naked anymore. maybe it's that i've realized i am stronger than i thought - that the loss of innocence is simply an initiation into the possibilities that an adult has and a child can never have. i prefer as much reality as i can take, a step/bite/awakening at a time. it's okay. it's scary, but it's good. it is good. i absolutely believe that.

and it's nice - no, it's absolutely necessary - to read a book and relax. sit and look at the stars, or the moon, or trees. there's a matrix that the system built to keep us believing that if we work hard enough and do the right things and figure out the answer, we can return to eden. the matrix. success. the Law. whatever. i have come to believe that there is no such thing. there is only here, and now, in this moment, and that's not only good enough, it's good, period. there's nothing that needs to be done. the kingdom of god is present.

and, the kingdom of god, as jesus embodied it, isn't a magic kingdom. it's not perfect. it's full of brokenness and the silliness and humanness and confusion of us human beings. and it is better than perfect, better than magic, better than falsely constructed; it is good.

interesting fact: at disney world's magic kingdom, in the park itself where guests are walking around, there's no trash being transported, no costumed people moving from one part of the park to another, no trucks, nothing support-related, visible. that's because there are tunnels underneath everything, and unmarked or hidden doors leading to them. walt didn't want a cowboy from frontierland walking through tomorrowland. i'm sorry, but that rocks. that concern for creating an edenic experience is what makes it work.

one website i looked at noted that "No guest under 16 is allowed in the tunnel system because it would bother children, seeing two Goofys passing each other, Mickey without a head, seeing Minnie eating with Snow White, and ruin the magic."

i am not a child, and i think that would be a hoot.

does it suck to be the person who sweeps, takes out the trash? yes. that's the subject of part 2.

(a person who had recommended taking hallucinogenic mushrooms and enjoying the Magic Kingdom posted on his blog, "hint: never bring illicit chemicals INSIDE the park. rumors abound of tunnels leading directly to the Anaheim police station through an underground tunnel below Tom Sawyer's island, including murals of Mickey and co. in tears being handcuffed. always consume in the parking lot and walk in empty handed. cameras are everywhere." .............................. that's funny shit right there.)

Monday, June 11, 2007

nap ....... time ........

i think after weeks and weeks of being part of the team leading worship at journey in our "sabbath" theme, it is finally beginning to soak in. sabbath. it is part of the creation process, part of the life process. part of what god calls Very Good.

yesterday's worship gathering at journey was led by our children. it was gorgeous. beautiful. simple. funny. serious. sweet. and kaye mckee, one of our lead volunteers in our children's ministries, led the worship gathering. and she preached. and it was absolutely The Gospel. she reminded us about god taking pleasure in our play, and that the joy of the lord is our strength, and that the seventh day of the creation story isn't god resting and nothing happening - it's god resting, which is part of the creation experience.

and, kaye preached with braids and wearing overalls. it rocked.

no, i know - i know in my head that rest is good. but it's really starting to make sense, down deep. maybe it's because middle-aged, although i have no idea what that means in the 2000's. but that doesn't make sense - young people may feel that they're in a hurry, because they have so much yet to accomplish. but don't middle-aged and older people feel afraid and frantic because they don't have that much time left? or is there a breaking point where you just say, Oh, well, whatever.

this isn't that. this is, I'm where i've chosen to be, am doing what my heart wants to do, am learning and growing.

and therefore it's not only permissable to take a nap or rest or take a day off - it is essential. it is at the heart of being healthy and real and faith-full.

i came home from journey yesterday, ate some lunch, talked to some of the teenagers hanging in our house, went into my room, and slept for nearly four hours. lo and behold, when i got up, i felt happy. rested. played cards with the family and a friend, worked a puzzle when more teenagers came over, had a blast, made cookies.

woke up happy and ready to start the week.

here's a thought: when i'm tired this week, or frustrated, or lose track, or "go drama," i'm going to stop and rest and draw and sing and play. or bitch about stuff. and then play.
is that alright? does that mean i'm not serious about the things that need to be taken seriously? wait ... i get it ... it means i can be MORE engaged and intentional and present for every thing - especially when there is pain or need or urgency in someone's life ...

... can that be right? it's so not right, it's probably jesus ............. typical.

Friday, June 8, 2007

itself itself itself

my friend Buzz told me a story about a factory or power plant or something in Dubai or somewhere (can you tell i don't have the details?) and it is huge, and important, and terribly impressive. so some people came to see it. they asked where the docks were - no docks, no access to trains or water to transport the fuel the plant was generating.

the answer was that the plant itself consumed all the fuel. it takes all the fuel produced by the plant, to power the plant.

i am thinking that's what the western civilized industrial post-industrial consumeristic world have created.
i am thinking that's what the western civilized industrial post-industrial consumeristic church has created.

this self-absorbed model generates itself and then feeds itself. if there's anything left, it throws nice tidbits to the dogs under the table to feel good about itself. itself itself itself itself itself. it's like a toddler. it's like an adolescent. it's got Young Man Disease.

but ... then comes the thing after that. the post-/pre- that.
i see jesus as pre-that and post-that and through-that and beyond-that.
i see love and compassion as pre-that and post-that and through-that and beyond-that.
it is my deepest hope that my life can be something other than that.

Thursday, June 7, 2007


okay, you have to go see this. do it. whatever. i was moses and eve kicked my ass. we will rematch.

from the demented folks at Adult Swim comes a flash-powered arcade game for students of scripture. i got this off of bob carlton's blog he and his wife lisa are moving to austin and they emailed about visiting jifc. i'm fired up. she has a very cool blog too, anyway,
Let there be Bible Fight!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

much much better

i love that moment in the movie "white christmas" - i think i'm remembering this right - when bing crosby and rosemary clooney are flirting over the piano keyboard, and bing says "is that better?" about a way to play the song, and rosemary says, "yes, that's much better" - and then danny kaye says, sweetly, "much much better."

i feel much much better. i took the day off yesterday. did nothing. ran an errand. went home. took a nap. went to L's and my appointment with our wonderful therapist, which was already scheduled from a few weeks ago, so the timing was great - i talked about feeling sad and grateful at the same time ... and it was just fine. very fine. went back home, got back in bed, prayed, slept, prayed, slept. got up. spent time with my family. went to bed.

for years and years i didn't know it was alright to just sit and be sad when i was sad. it's good to know that it's okay to be WHATEVER i am - that the universe will still go on. it's quite wonderful, actually. is that what elderly people come to, those who have lived courageously? a sense that when death comes, it is alright just to sit with it, and know that all will be well?

anyway, freedom comes from sitting with it. looking at it. breathing it.

fixing it doesn't work worth a damn. there is no fixing it. there's just being. and that's plenty.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

i mean it.

i'm included. i have all my shit. all my brokenness.
but i'm open- rather than closed-minded. and i believe in love and acceptance rather than judgment and condemnation. and i believe in jesus as poor man speaking against powerful systems, rather than as tribal hero rallying troops to powerful systems.
and the people who see jesus as that person, a jesus who works for their corporation - that way of seeing the universe is dangerous.
jesus, protect us. give us the courage to fight. yes, to fight with love and compassion, but still, to fight.

this isn't where i live but it's where i am today

three years ago this week, i was fired. i had never been fired before. i am feeling a lot about it. i don't know what to do with it, so i'm not doing anything; i'm just feeling it. but it's not pleasant.
in the years that have followed, the most beautiful and amazing thing ever to occur in my 20+ years of work life, has happened. has grown. has emerged. has taken its place in the universe. i see that. i celebrate it every day. i am grateful beyond words simply to be part of it. i feel so much joy. deep assurance that the work i and others are doing is meaningful. i love waking up in the morning to do this, to be one of the pastors of journey imperfect faith community.
so, perhaps that's why my feelings these past few days have surprised me. i don't live in a place of resentment or anger about my being fired. i choose not to live there. it's not who i am; it's something that happened; it wasn't even about me; it was the business of the church i left.
but it affected me, and my wife, and my children, and a lot of other people who were hurt and had their hearts and hopes broken. and that sucks. i know that in my faith, the way i see the universe, my being fired and all the fallout and debris from that for hundreds of people is part of their lesson, their path, the gift that god has given them for their path here on earth. but it makes me angry when the bully picks on and harms the lesser one, the small one.
i was very often fearful as a child and young man. i lived in a constantly changing, scary, abusive world. but as i've grown older i have seen that i don't have anything to be afraid of; that whatever comes is alright, good, powerful; that i have what it takes simply to stand. i have so much compassion for people, mostly because i'm not afraid, that i can't help but see someone not as a bully, but as a broken person who is bullying someone else. i see that in the addict, the rageaholic, the workaholic, the unfaithful, the victim - it's what they're choosing, but it's not who they are. they're a child of god, and they're hurting.
but i don't like it when the actions, the manifestations of this brokenness hurt the broken person or the people around the broken person. and so i work for healing. that's my way of responding.
but this week, i'm just sad. i am remembering what happened to me when a broken person who wasn't in his right mind responded to his deep fear and insecurity, and i ended up in the line of fire, at ground zero, in the target zone.
it was time for the founding pastor of a large church to retire. i think he was just terrified. maybe he was worried about finding the end of himself. he was physically sick, and his wife had died, and i wonder if maybe he was just afraid that when he retired he wouldn't have an identity. i don't know.
i had come on staff in 2001 and felt weird about being at a big church; i think that constitutionally, a big church will have trouble following jesus. the larger the institution, the sicker it can become, encumbered with the things jesus warned about - dependence on money, attachment to possessions, self-identification through status or achievements. this church had all those things. it also some beautiful people, who had a dream about what that church could be. they asked me to help that happen. i did, for three years, and believed in my work.
and then many people picked me to be the next pastor. i never sought that job. i didn't want it. and god didn't say to me and leslie, "do the job"; god said, specifically, "if they offer it to you, say yes." that's all; just say yes. the church council asked me to be the next pastor. i said yes, with fear and trembling, but i believed that god was at work and that god had change and newness in mind for this church.
and a few months later, the founding pastor fired me. the reasons he came up with were flimsy and silly; they were about him. it was ugly. lots of people were hurt. my family got hurt. i got hurt. i'm not even interested in the story anymore; how the pastor chose to handle it, what he chose to talk about and not to talk about, what he chose to be honest about and dishonest about ... none of those things are the point. he found a reason, and then he found a way to hurt me so that i wouldn't be a threat to him.
the afternoon leslie and i met with the church council, it rained and rained and rained. hard. thunder and lightning. darkness. we laughed later about god responding to what was happening. there was nothing in how the pastor and his hand-picked council handled it that was healthy; it was about a wounded person needing to hurt someone in order to feel safe, and an unhealthy system supporting him in that.
so, journey was born. a bunch of people who experienced this together, chose to form a new faith community. and my ministry was resurrected by god and the love and hope of a group of people. it is amazing. honestly. i am amazed. such beauty and hope and new life have grown out of that pain and death. and it's not even about "building a great church" - i don't believe in that. it's just about the healing and hope that are happening today in this faith community. that's all. that's all there is. and that's everything. it's here.

i don't live in a place of victimhood or resentment. a lot of people told us to sue the church, sue the pastor, speak to the members, write letters. we didn't want to do any of those things. we chose to move forward. so, this isn't a place i live - which is why it surprised me yesterday when it showed up.
i have acted out of my woundedness and have hurt people - been angry, refused to cooperate, didn't see what they needed, hid, indulged myself, avoided dealing with things. we all hurt other people and ourselves. i see that. and i see, too, that god works in that and through it, and that healing and possibility are always at work.
i'm just sad this week, that's all. i'm grieving, because it was a painful thing for me and for a lot of people. and it's good to be sad, and to be grateful, all at the same time.

Monday, June 4, 2007

it's just that good.