Tuesday, July 31, 2007

how i get help being in mission and staying sane, list 1

1. janettee, leslie's and my wonderful therapist. she helps me see when i'm falling back into old patterns, the ones that i developed as a child to survive, but which i don't need anymore. she helps me see myself more clearly, and reminds me that i am a child of god. and she gives me tools.
2. friends. i have many, many wonderful friends. from high school. from college. from L's and my early married days. from tyler in east texas, where we lived for ten years. from the church before journey. and journeyers.
i turn to friends for support when i'm sad or depressed or confused. when i'm angry. when i just want to laugh or cry or sit and stare. or just ask a question, like, "what the hell?"
3. journey ifc. when i am leading a talk with journeyers, or worshipping with them, i slip out of my head and into spirit space. it's because the journeyers invite Spirit in and let Spirit work. it's freaky and wonderul. i really believe in what we're doing. and journey feeds me.
4. journeyers. they actually give a shit about me. they check on me, ask how i'm doing, offer to help, give ideas. and let me sleep on sunday afternoons. seriously. (being in that Spirit space all morning with and for the journeyers is exhilarating and filling, and then i'm drained. it's not like having run a marathon or moved furniture all day. it's not fatigue. rather, it's as jesus says after the bleeeding woman touches him and is healed, "power went out of me".)
i can honestly, truly say that i've never - in ten years as a college teacher, 10+ years as minister in organized religion, sunday school teacher and church volunteer and pta and school volunteer, neighbor, etc - been part of a group of people who were more loving and gentle and strong and centered than the journeyers. they are just cool. they are real. they are unselfish.
5. the new warrior experience. i went on my warrior weekend last august and i am forever changed. now there are men around me who are also initiated men, who are dealing with their own shit, and support me as i look at myself and learn how to be healthier and healthier. it's truly a group in which i am not just allowed but guided to shout, cry, curse, struggle, confess. i would say it's like group therapy or a recovery group, but it's very, very loud and its native american/mythic ritual and imagery make it unlike anything i've ever seen. do it.
and, to end and be the best part of List 1,
6. leslie, alex, and caitlin. i have three people in my life who are my home. i don't mean, they live in my home; i mean, i look at them and i feel connected to my own heart. my best self. they are truly loving, caring human beings. funny. smart. strong. growing. learning. creative. curious. thinking. we all love cats. we all love laughing, movies, talking. they all pick wonderful friends and have healthy priorities. and more than any of that, my heart sings when i am near them, or think about them.
here's the weird part: not one of them really realizes this, not as deep as it runs in me. i know it's not because i haven't told them; i have, over and over. i promise. i think it's because they're all humble and unassuming. i know they know how much i adore them. but maybe it's like god's love - i love my wife and son and daughter SO MUCH that it is bigger than the UNIVERSE. when i tell them that, or try to explain it, how are they to make any sense of that anyway? so i think they just believe it as much as they are able, and then go on.

this is only List 1 of the things that fill my soul and help me. can you see why i'm the luckiest sonofabitch in the world?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

it's just jesus.

this is what worship at journey looked sunday before last. it's part of what it looked like, anyway. just a wall, in the back of the room, where the water fountain is. near the big door leading into the pool hall/art gallery/middle school space/ping pong room/junk place. and fenech and other beautiful journeyers transformed it.
it's just a little table. it came from somebody's living room. it's just candles. it's some plastic sheets of table covers, hung from pipes, with duct tape. it's a leftover tv. it's a powerpoint slide projected with a borrowed projector on the back wall, since we were facing the back of the room this time.
it's not a cathedral, or a sanctuary. it's just a room. it's not fancy stuff; it's stuff nobody needed anymore.
it's just jesus, with a meal of some bread and some fish.
it's just people, screwy and beautiful.
it's just the kin-dom of heaven, here, among us, among you.


here's a song, 3,000 years old, and right now. it's beautiful for a lot of reasons; it says that god comes and is with us. it says that we continue to get into miry clay - and god comes to us and is with us some more. it models us telling others the story. it wonders how long we have, how long will i be given to keep singing this song of happiness? but it also wonders, how long do i have to keep telling this story before somebody gets it.

i am blessed to be someone for whom this story is absolutely my story. god is always with me. sometimes i end up in miry clay, the ditch, the pit, and that's not about circumstances - just my own inward journey. and ... god is still with me. i tell the story, to friends, to family, to journeyers, to the world beyond that, to you. the story is repeated, and told and retold. and it goes on. ... and i wonder, how long will we have to keep telling this story? how many more people are there, fucked up and scared and broken and in the pit, the miry clay, the ditch - and they have no idea that there is hope, that there's a god.

meanwhile, we keep singing the new song. and in the midst of our hope and longing that there are those who will hear it, we sing.

I waited patiently for the Lord
He inclined and heard my cry.
He brought me up out of the pit,
out of the miry clay.

I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song

How long to sing this song?
How long to sing this song?
How long...how long...how long...
How long...to sing this song?

He set my feet upon a rock,
and made my footsteps firm.
Many will see,
Many will see and fear.

I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song

How long to sing this song?
How long to sing this song?
How long...how long...how long...

Friday, July 27, 2007

it's not really that big

i was a minister in a worldwide denomination for six years, and then for three years i worked at a large church that's connected to another worldwide denomination.
i don't know what i was thinking, but anyway.
i hadn't been at the large church for long when i was hanging around the front office one morning with some folks. we were talking about this and that. i asked how many people the church had on its rolls; the receptionist told me that the church had about 8,000 members. the others all smiled and breathed the air of the proud and satisfied.
i asked, "How many people attend a UT football game?"
as it turns out,the ut football stadium holds over 80,000 people.
i said, without realizing that i was about to blaspheme one of the sacred icons of this particular fellowship, "8,000 people isn't really that many, then, is it."
i immediately felt surrounded by the stifled breathing of the terrified and embarrassed.

a church can well be proud of having 8,000 members. that's a lot of people.
especially if that church's focus is on the american idea of success - numbers, income, programs, ministries, people in classes, pews full of asses. so, if that's the kind of church you're part of, just know that that's a sacred thing. if you're on staff, it's best to know what the real sacred objects of this church or denomination are. and i don't mean what it says it sees as sacred - i mean, what it truly values.

churches' sacred objects and ideas might include a particular ritual (baptism, eucharist/ communion/ lord's supper, how they visit the sick, what kind of pot-luck lunches they have, how they sing, how they speak creeds or other words in worship, whether they use pianos or organs or guitars or zithers or harps or horns), or a shared priority (we are all nice; we are all believers; we are all white or black or brown; we are all not going to hell; we are all bible-readers), or a goal (we will increase membership by this percentage; our church has the most beautiful cathedral/ sanctuary/ buildings in town; we will send this many missionaries this year).
this is no different from any other organization, business, family.
all organizations, businesses, families, and churches have stated priorities and rules, and unstated ones. the trick is to figure out which ones are the unstated ones. those are the dangerous places. find out how to listen to what is unsaid. said behind the scenes.
no one told me that morning that being proud of having 8,000 members - even though that's not that many people - was one of the most sacred totems in that church. when i was a methodist, the great unspoken-but-known sacred idea was that it was our job as clergy to make the people behave according to methodist doctrine and systems. we acted like that wasn't that important, but that's the ultimate value paradigm in that culture.
good to know.

if an organization, business, family, or church says that it values some things, but it really values and serves something else, that makes everyone sick and crazy. angry. self-doubting. disconnected. weird. unhealthy.

if what you want is to be big, or rich, or fancy, or smart, or hip, just say so. don't act like you're following jesus if you want to be any of those things; jesus is the opposite of those things. so, don't blame him or thank him either way.
but don't say you want to follow and serve jesus and say jesus is your lord, if you are serving something else.
that makes all of us feel crazy. angry. sick. self-doubting. disconnected. weird. unhealthy. it turns people away from god. or maybe just from the church - in which case, god's at work and present in the whole universe, so it's all good. anyone loooking for god will find god.
but come on, church, can't you see this? just be honest with yourself. you want to look good - to traditional churchgoers, or under-30's in jeans, or baby boomers with money? just say so. you want to be powerful in politics? just say so. you want to be big, because numbers equal success? just say so.
be real. have the balls.
but don't say it's because of jesus.

the ridiculously high rate of clergy burnout reflects this schizophrenia. know why i think ministers crash? it's not because ministry is a demanding job, although it is demanding. it's not because holding the spiritual space for people is difficult; when it's done well, it's energizing, not exhausting.
i believe it's because almost all clergy live in a split-personality church culture. we say we're following jesus, when in reality we're serving a corporation. and we are afraid if we call it like it is, the corporation will see that we're not "on board" and kill us. that's a realistic fear. it's like the people who worked at Enron, where the motto was "ask why," but the reality was that since they were cooking the books, everyone knew not to ask why, even if they didn't realize that they knew it. they could feel it.
fuck that!

oh, and, by the way, for more perspective:
austin has 680,000 people.
8 million people watch every episode of the sopranos.
80 million people at least watch the super bowl.
there are 8 million methodists in america, 8 million southern baptists active in their churches in america, and 8,500 jehovah's witnesses congregations in america.
so, what's 80 people or 800 people or 8,000 people or 80,000 people? what difference
does it make how many people are part of a church? didn't jesus say 2 would be fine?

or perhaps the right question is, What do you think success is?

(and, yes, i liked finding numbers so that i could have 8 as a number in each of the statistics. it's cooler that way.)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

because of friends of mine

explanation - my list of suggestions from last night's entry wasn't to scold friends of mine; it was because various friends of mine and i have in one way or another, or lots of ways, been the person feeling inadequate, shamed, addicted, judged. AND friends of mine and i have also been those judging or not seeing - but that wasn't the point.

what is the point? i think the point is seeing. awareness. paying attention. listening. shutting up.
in a busy, digital, electronic, noisy, living-indoors culture, it takes effort to pay attention and look and listen, and really see and hear. after all, what we're really looking for and listening for is ourselves. that may be why we avoid this work sometimes.

but - it's worth it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

oh, and one more thing

if you have never judged people unfairly, do not say a damn thing to anyone who has. do not judge. get over yourself.

do not say a damn thing

this is because of friends of mine.

if you have never had a problem with alcoholism, do not say a damn thing to anyone who has. do not judge. get over yourself.
if you have never struggled with a drug problem, do not say a damn thing to anyone who has. do not judge. get over yourself.
if you have never had a troubled marriage, do not say a damn thing to anyone who has. do not judge. get over yourself.
if you have never been divorced, do not say a damn thing to anyone who has. do not judge. get over yourself.
if you have never had an extramarital affair, do not say a damn thing to anyone who has. do not judge. get over yourself.
if you have never been the person cheated on, do not say a damn thing to anyone who has. do not judge. get over yourself.
if you have never lost someone whom you loved, do not say a damn thing to anyone who has. do not judge. get over yourself.
if you have never been addicted, do not say a damn thing to anyone who has. do not judge. get over yourself.
if you have never had a problem with pornography, do not say a damn thing to anyone who has. do not judge. get over yourself.
if you have never had depression, do not say a damn thing to anyone who has. do not judge. get over yourself.
if you have never been unfairly treated because of your skin color, do not say a damn thing to anyone who has. do not judge. get over yourself.
if you have never treated someone unfairly because of their skin color, do not say a damn thing to anyone who has. do not judge. get over yourself.
if you have never been unfairly treated because you were homosexual, do not say a damn thing to anyone who has. do not judge. get over yourself.
if you have never treated someone unfairly because they were homosexual, do not say a damn thing to anyone who has. do not judge. get over yourself.
if you have never committed a sexual offense, do not say a damn thing to anyone who has. do not judge. get over yourself.
if you have never been the survivor of a sexual offense, do not say a damn thing to anyone who has. do not judge. get over yourself.
if you have never been mistreated by religion, do not say a damn thing to anyone who has. do not judge. get over yourself.
if you have never mistreated anyone because of your religion, do not say a damn thing to anyone who has. do not judge. get over yourself.
if you have never stolen anything, do not say a damn thing to anyone who has. do not judge. get over yourself.
if you have never hurt anyone, do not say a damn thing to anyone who has. do not judge. get over yourself.
if you have never been sick, do not say a damn thing to anyone who has. do not judge. get over yourself.
if you have never been alone, do not say a damn thing to anyone who has. do not judge. get over yourself.
if you have never wanted to hurt someone, do not say a damn thing to anyone who has. do not judge. get over yourself.
if you have never been poor or homeless, do not say a damn thing to anyone who has. do not judge. get over yourself.
if you have never been rich or privileged, do not say a damn thing to anyone who has. do not judge. get over yourself.
if you have never lied, cheated, broken the rules, said the wrong thing, done the wrong thing, do not say a damn thing to anyone who has. do not judge. get over yourself.
if you have never been a fuckup, do not say a damn thing to anyone who has. do not judge. get over yourself.
if you have never been a disaster and ended up in the ditch, do not say a damn thing to anyone who has. do not judge. get over yourself.
if you have never succeeded, do not say a damn thing to anyone who has. do not judge. get over yourself.
if you have never failed, do not say a damn thing to anyone who has. do not judge. get over yourself.
if you have never had a crisis of faith, or doubts, do not say a damn thing to anyone who has. do not judge. get over yourself.
if you have never had to face temptation in the desert with your shadow, do not say a damn thing to anyone who has. do not judge. get over yourself.
if you have never been to the cross, do not say a damn thing to anyone who has. do not judge. get over yourself.
if you have never been imperfect, do not say a damn thing to anyone who has. do not judge. get over yourself.

and when i say "get over yourself," i mean it with great compassion and love. and that's the truth.
and a different translation of "get over yourself" could be "shut the fuck up." and i mean THAT in great compassion and love. absolutely. it is a gift. it will help you, if you listen to me.

look in the mirror. no, deeper.
no. look even deeper. even deeper than that.
look at yourself with great compassion and love. and don't blink. don't shy away. it's alright.
you're alright.
so is everyone else.
yes, your enemies too.
especially them.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

hero's journey 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

i've had some questions about the progression of harry potter, specifically in reference to the hero's journey.

Phase I - beginning awareness of one's self, and one's tasks
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, book 1, is about the magic of Hogwarts the school of magic, and Harry being rescued from unhappy orphanhood. turns out the Boy Who Lived through an attack by the evil wizard, He Who Must Not Be Named, has something to give after all; he's not a nobody. it's about learning that you have worth, and friends, and it's exciting and fun. meeting 2 best friends, and wonderful loving surrogate parent teachers. turns out he's downright gifted. a hero in the making.
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, book 2, is also about Hogwarts and Harry having worth. and magic. and bravery. and where the evil wizard came from. and the miracles that asking for help brings. facing the beginnings of the evil wizard is a step into danger. eek. and Harry survives. for now. imagine that.
Phase II - initiation into loss, and traveling the path
not as child-friendly, but still passable
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, book 3, introduces us to the stories of Harry's parents and their friends, and how some of them stayed true to good magic, and some of them turned to serve the evil wizard. and now, a generation later, the same struggle continues with Harry and his friends. there's also an examination of the role of time. It all gets scarier. people are in real danger. turns out, he can do miracles, defeat fear and danger. wow.
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, book 4, has Harry face great tests, which happens with the hero. people die. it's horrible. people are not what they seem. it's also horrible. Harry survives. but it's really, really scary. there's also the onset of adolescence and love and quarrels, and that's fun. it's about Harry discovering what strengths he has, or doesn't have, and what to do about that. people die. for real. the evil wizard shows up and attacks. nice. Harry survives. of course he does. the journey's not over.
  • but this is a turning point. of course it would be - 4 is the balance point out of 7.

Phase III - the tests
i would say these are not for small children, period. and they move from stories that kids love and adults like too, to stories that adults and teens love and kids go along with because it's harry potter.
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, book 5, is the story of the good wizards and the bad wizards fighting each other for real. Harry's caught in the struggle. and in young love. and hormones and the insanity of having physical power and not maturity, and what to do with all those feelings? and - what if some adults are trustworthy and some aren't? the world gets much scarier. oh, and, people die.
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, book 6, continues book 5. only scarier. and more intense. and things fall apart. and peole die. a lot.

Phase IV - the end, and the return

not for children.

  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. book 7. this is it. the showdown. the valley of the shadow of death. the tests have grown intense, harry is frodo and luke skywalker and aragorn and jesus and dorothy and joan of arc and perseus and st george. i have nothing else to say until you've all read the books. oh, and, the showdown ultimately isn't with anything or anyone but oneself, one's shadow. one's hopes and fears. so, that's nice. painful. horrifying. beautiful.

so, what's the hero's journey? it's about leaving safety, being initiated into one's sense of one's calling, one's being tested to see what one is made of, going on adventures to learn what one must learn, and gather the friends one needs, going willingly through ultimately life-threatening tests, and emerging with a sense of acoomplishment - and purpose. what king will you serve, warrior? what cause will you champion? what people will you lead? what life will you bestow on others?

Monday, July 23, 2007

stubborn before the creator

here's a conversation between me and nonprofit prophet. i had said that i am patient when it comes to waiting for the right thing, and determined. the prophet is a stud. check it out.

prophet: I think Stubborn is a good term for you. I like it better than patient. Patient is not always good. Neither is stubborn but it seems to fit better.
me: i'm in agreement. i am stubborn. much more stubborn than i was when we first met [ten plus years ago], although i was getting my back up even then. back then, i was wondering - is it me? am i crazy? is something wrong here? now, i'm like, fuck yes something's wrong here and i'm going to fight.
if fighting some days means standing still, i'll stand still. if some days fighting means speaking up, then dammit, i'm going to speak. if fighting means lovingly confronting people in their comfort or complacency or fear (including myself), i'll do it. if fighting means forgiving and blessing, i'll do that too.
i'm becoming fearless. living through some crucifixions and pain and loss and grief and continuing to stand and flourish and learn, will do that to a man. all good.

then he refers to my comment on a comment on the blog that i'm tired of the whole conservative/liberal political and theological thing.

prophet: be honest with you. i'm tired of both sides of the theological debate. i see points on both the apologetics and the so called liberal views. i am beginning to think neither has it figured out and both claim to know better than the other.
me: i am totally with you. everybody's doing the best they can and to villainize any one group is to empower it - and to be in a sick place. to say they're all wrong and i'm all right is the same shit the fundamentalists, in any religion, are doing. i'm not that. i don't want to be that. ugh.
prophet: I'm not playing middle of the road here, but i rely less and less on what some person is trying to tell me about the nature, essence, plan or whatever of God, and hell, i just listen to the Author of the creation. I ambecoming more and more frustrated with people who try and put a label or containment field on "their view of God". i'm not sure it can be done.
He is no more a liberal than He is a conservative. We worry about getting his commandments right, following the right doctrine, interpreting the BS or His Will...and we don't even bother to have a relationship with Him to start with.
me: sucks don't it. fuck. wears me out. a real relationship with the creator of the universe leaves me quiet and still and determined and forgiving, not arrogant and self-assured that i'm right and everyone i don't agree with is wrong. as anne lamott says, you can be pretty sure you've created god in your own image if god doesn't like all the same people you don't.
prophet: Three times in a week I have been presented in various forms with the scripture of Jesus saying, "your lips praise me but your hearts are far from me".
Its like we want to come across as having it figured out and we can show you why we are right, but we really don't need God or Jesus in the picture to do that. Its all about meeeeeeeee and my school. Its like studying someone, having a focus group and research and discussing it all, and the person is in the room with you and you ignore them. Strange.
me: okay, that's brilliant. that's perfect. post this. or i will. just get this out there.
prophet: Maybe i'm in a strange mood. Or maybe i'm in a great mood - cause I'm just tired of everyone's shit.
me: that absolutely works for me. stubborn. word.

prophet: Revelation also comes into mind - lukewarm? brother ain't got time for you. nice? whatever. there has just got to be a much better way.

is the prophet the bomb or what? as Rage Against The Machine say, "calm like a bomb."

the hero

joseph campbell the great mythologist wrote about "the hero's journey." it's one of the great archetypes, a hugely important metaphor for how we human beings experience our lives. dorothy in "the wizard of oz," luke skywalker in the "star wars" films, perseus, hercules, the knights of the round table, aragorn and frodo from "the lord of the rings" (i would argue jesus in the gospels, though to some people that's heresy), peter parker as spider-man, and on and on - and now harry potter. book 7 makes it clear that where j. k. rowling was headed all along was the resultion of the hero's journey. the leap into adulthood. the learning of lessons and the facing of fears ... and in book 7, the ultimate enemy is death itself ... or maybe it's what we fear and feel about death.

read it.

in the real world, and not story, the journey is often interrupted, or incomplete, or unresolved. we don't receive our mentor. our initiations are goofed up. our enemy/ shadow/ minotaur/ dragon/ satan/ voldemort isn't on time, or we never see that it is a reflection of ourselves, or there's no context for us to understand the gift that enemy is to us.

i think sometimes that there is a problem in our culture, which is, many of the adults in the westernized christian consumerist individualist world have no sense of their own lives' being meaningful in a larger context than their own stuff. mine, mine, mine. i want, i want, i want. and since we're all so mobile, the idea of a tribe of people, or even a mentor, who help us in our personal journey, just doesn't make a lot of sense. we have therapists or small groups that help us along the way. that's good. but very few things in our culture reinforce the message: you are a hero. that means you are here to serve. you have responsibility. you have power. (remember "spider-man"?) you will have to decide what and whom you serve, and why. and there are resources to help you.

sometimes i feel alone. but not often, anymore. i felt a lot more alone when i was a younger man. i look back in sadness about that. i was on my own, building a family and a marriage and a career and trying not to implode or explode. i survived, but it took a while. i had to do a lot of learning, breaking, rebuilding, mistake-making, hurting and being hurt. maybe that was my hero's journey. but i have learned some things, and am learning still more. i want to help other men and women as they go through this path of leaving safety, crossing a threshold, facing trials, finding a helper, traveling to confrontation, and victory ... and return. it repeats. and goes on. and we all need reminders ... and help ...

you are on a journey. where are you? do you know? can you find someone to help you figure that out? this moment is the only moment there is, in the universe, period. but it's informed by the way i understand the moments that have alrleady been, and my thoughts about the moments that may come. so, the way i see, is everything.

when i see my life as meaningless, it is. when i see my life as meaningful, it is.

mine is meaningful today. and you?

check back with me about 7, when i get tired every day and wonder whatthefuck ...

Saturday, July 21, 2007

go jo go.

love this review ... this person gets it.

don't read any other reviews. this is the only one you'll need.

that's jo rowling, on the right.

go jo go.


Oh, Jo. Jo Rowling, you amazing, beautiful, blessed woman.

you knew all along.

you knew what you wanted to do.

you saw it, didn't you.

you saw how beautiful the story was that you longed to tell ...

the guts, the incredible guts it took to tell this story, to go all the way through all these books, and go as deep as you have into the darkness, the mystery, the unknown, the terrifying ... only to bring us to this amazing, gorgeous, overwhelmingly powerful conclusion.

we stood in line last night at barnes & noble after our trip to port aransas. exhausted. the trip back to austin in pouring rain and flooded-out roads and traffic and more rain, took six hours instead of 3 1/2. good lord.

and we changed clothes and went early to the bookstore to pick up our copy, which my beautiful wife had pre-ordered for me and my daughter and son.

i won the costume contest, dressed as the mean and strange professor snape. so that was fun. (it helps to have a leftover black pastor's robe.)

we got the book. we drove home. my daughter needed to read it first, because she's got school stuff and drill team stuff to do this week. but i didn't want to know what happend, i didn't want anyone to spoil the surprise for me. so i decided to skim it. i started reading at 1.

i couldn't stop.

i finished at 6:45 a.m., with the sun coming up. with tears in my eyes. tears of grief, joy, admiration, awe.

she did it. she pulled it off, and more.

every theory, every guess, every idea i heard among us fans about who will die, who will live, how it will work, what's going to happen ... none of them were shit compared to the guts of what jo rowling had seen all along in her head.

read this book and be amazed at the huge spiritual journey this genius - and ballsy, brave woman - will take you on.


ps: there will be endless discussion about whether she pulled it off. whether it was a satisfactory end. whether it all made sense. whether the series was worth this. you heard it here first: tell everyone to shut the hell up. read it. let it speak to you.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

rainy day in port a

so the fam and i are in port aransas, the beachy little town near corpus christi on the gulf of mexico. and it's raining.
i love rain. this has been my favorite summer in years. it has yet to even get near 100 degrees.
the summer we started journey with a wonderful group of people, i happened to mention in a sermon or bible study or something that i hate summer. someone asked why. i had never thought about it. i said that shitty things happen in the summer - my mother and father split the summer after 1st grade, and i listed one or two other things i can't remember. i said i was neredy as a kid and i loved it when school kicked back in in august. i started to say "i got fired from a big church" in the summer - and linda jones, who's a deeply spiritual human being and one of the original journeyers, said, "but we started journey in the summer." and i said, Oh, my god, you're right.
she said, "why don't you claim summer for yourself?"
and so now i love summers. i did it. i just insisted that i would love summer. i'm sure i loved summer as a kid, playing outside and no school, but all my adult life, it's just too fucking hot. sweaty. bleah. and then i decided to love summer. the last 2 summers, i work in the yard, breathe in hot air (i've always loved getting into a hot car and breathing in the hot air before i turn on the a/c. weird.), sweat, wear shorts and flip flops (maybe that's a journey/freedom thing - HA! YES I RULE!).
and then here it is, summer in austin, and it's rained all of may and june and most of july and it's cool and it crackes me up.

so we're here, near the beach, and it's raining, and i'm sitting on the patio on the second floor of this lovely little cottagey hotel we're staying in, all crammed into one room because it's cheaper, and everyone's still asleep because it's raining, and i have everything i want in the world.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

8 random factoids meme

i've been tagged by my friend and co-blogger bob carlton in a random facts meme.

rules to play
1. players start with 8 random facts about themselves.

2. those who are tagged should post these rules (on your blog or in emails if you want, and send 'em around, since not all my pals have blogs, or just list 'em in comments on this post) and their 8 random facts.
3. players should tag 8 other people and notify them they have been tagged.

my 8 random factoids:

1. i have "flat feet" and had to wear special tennies when i was a kid.

2. i am named after my father, but i'm not a jr. i'm a IInd. my father's mother said she didn't want her grandson called "junior."
3. i had lived 18 different places by the time i graduated high school.
4. in high school i had a crush on a girl who had a little bit of hair on her chest. that wasn't why i had a crush on her. i didn't even know she had it; a friend-girl told me not to notice when we all went to the beach, because the crush-girl was self-conscious about it. i peeked anyway. it was cute.
5. i only use very sharp pencils with still-functional erasers. any short pencils or pencils with either bad erasers or no erasers, i throw away.
6. i have always wanted to live in england, even though i've never lived in england. i like cold rainy weather, and i love english literature, so maybe it's in my dna somewhere.
7. i have shrunk 1/3 inch in height since college.
8. i have some o.c.d. in that i have strong feelings about the arrangements of people sitting around a table, the way things are arranged on a table or on a desk, and driving evenly over manhole covers and over the little blue bumps in the street that say there's a fire hydrant on the sidewalk. i realize this is weird and i don't care.

okay, those are mine. what are yours?? let's post some comments and share.

renee listed an extra, so here's mine:
9. i hate country and western pop music but i love hank williams sr., patsy cline, cowboy songs, and bluegrass. it makes me feel nostalgic for something i didn't live but wish i had.

Monday, July 16, 2007

happy birthday 2 u jifc

sorry to have been offline since wednesday. busy getting ready for journey's birthday party; out of town guests for 2 days; late new warrior meeting thursday; sermon writing somewhere in there; more work setting up for birthday party; another new warrior function; and the party yesterday.

it was ... glorious. we had worship at the warehouse and it was energetic and sweet-feeling and funny and heart-felt. i had had SO much trouble figuring out what to say about Samson. at first when gentiles (yes, that really is my co-pastor's last name) (and diamond is a predominantly jewish name) (; we rock!) and i were coming up with this worship unit, about how god uses losers, and we included Samson ... i thought i'd get to Samson, despite being a blockhead, was used in mighty ways by god. turns out, the more time i spent with him, the more i felt that Samson had been given a gift - and had wasted it, used it for himself, and was just an asshole. in the book of Judges, we only get a few episodes out of what are probably lots of other oral tradition stories about Samson as a Judge of Israel. but the ones we have? he's an asshole. at the end of his life he is humbled, and broken, and kills "more philistines on that day than he had before." and that's the happy ending. or whatever.

yeah, i don't see the violence and bloodthirst that was acceptable in the ancient world (and sometimes in the current world? sometimes even in america the beautiful?) as a helpful model for how to follow jesus. but it was the ancient world after all.

anyway, the more time i sat with it, i thought, Well, this is ... weird. it's party day - celebrating that journey turned 3 years old on july 11 - having a gigantic picnic - waterslides and games for the kids - barbeque and homemade desserts - the new journey tshirt debut - and yet we're doing a worship service centered around not something joyful and celebratory, but an asshole who kills people for fun, and then kills more people and that's his greatest achievement.

but god said to me - saturday afternoon (no, it's okay, god, i wasn't worried or anything) - that it's just about self. where do you look for help, source, light, power? do you know you are beloved, or are you relying on all your own strength? are you in ego, shadow, fear, constructed self? or are you in spirit? are you dealing with the shit in your soul and head, or are you denying it? in which case, the gifts god is giving you all the time? you're going to miss them. and you're still the beloved, but it's not nearly as powerful a way to live.

my daughter said to me saturday, "selfishness is about itself. it's not healthy. it's fearful. but to trust yourself [this was code for "god" but i didn't say that because it's a bitch to be a preacher's kid; that's why L and i give our 2 kids all the room they want about christian language, god language, etc.] and believe in yourself and act in healthy ways means that you'll be able to practice getting out of yourself. and then your life will flow."
so, that was what the birthday party was about. is my life for me, or is it to give away and so make the world better? if i focus on myself and how wonderful i am, or how wonderful i'm not (both the same trip) or how wonderful my church is, my resume is, my house is - or how wonderful they aren't - the focus is all on me. and all that god energy is stuck, and it comes out sideways in chaos and meanness and self-destructiveness, etc. but if i say "God, i'm your beloved. you're present. bring the power, and use it. do your thing. i'll join in" -

well, that's when you get to have a joyful party like we did yesterday.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Harry Potter and The Problem Of Fear

so my family and i, along with a gaggle of teenagers, saw Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix last night. i have some thoughts about what this movie, as well as the novel (which is one of the best novels i've ever read, no kidding), suggests about the nature of the universe.

harry is dealing with a problem. the problem is exacerbated by, and mirrored by, his being an adolescent boy. the testosterone, hormones, and confusion of being sixteen years old are making his life hell. he also has a deep longing for support from friends and parents, or surrogate parents. he has twisted, sick surrogate parents, the dursleys, who represent selfishness in every sense. but he also has a loving community of people - the weasleys, albus dumbledore (look up what his name means - it's wonderful - "white veil-piercing bumblebee," etc.) who is the headmaster of hogwarts school, professor mcgonagall who is the head of his house at hogwarts, his godfather sirius black, those adults and students who have taken up the cause against evil, and most of all his friends hermione and ron. (the name "ronald" comes from an old european word meaning "leader's counselor"; "hermione" is the feminine of hermes, who's the messenger of the greek gods; ron and hermione fill those roles perfectly for this young warrior king; the name "harry" comes from "harold," which means "ruler.")

harry longs for connection with other people - his parents were murdered when he was a baby - but trusting other people is difficult. and so is carrying the burden of being "the chosen one," who is, like all warriors and ringbearers, ultimately alone. nevertheless, harry learns to trust and rely on this community, and in so doing becomes a leader and teacher for them.

it's a huge issue, because lord voldemort, harry's "other," his shadow self, his mirror, is a bearer of fear. voldemort rallies a community around him as well, the "death eaters," who are motivated by fear and intimidation. they are drawn to voldemort's power and teaching. but their community is based on selfishness.

further, in this story, harry has another enemy: the culture of fear, represented in the blindness and denial of the ministry of magic, a gigantic bureaucracy. the ministry sends a horrible woman to hogwarts, to enforce ministry doctrine and policies. dolores umbridge, whose name means "sorrow" and "offense." nice. umbridge and the ministry seek to undermine the freedom of hogwarts; hogwarts' job is to educate and equip wizards and witches for their lives' work. the ministry doesn't want people equipped; it wants them obedient to its control. harry and umbridge become enemies. she sees him, and his insistence that voldemort has returned and is gathering strength, as a threat to the ministry's model of the universe.

like jesus, harry gathers a group of misfits; like jesus' peole, these misfits are given the awareness and tools to live in miraculous ways, and to fight evil systems that enslave. the systems of jesus' time seek to legislate, regulate, and control, through fear and obedience to dogma. jesus, as harry does, resisted. as with jesus, the system tries to eliminate harry. suffering follows. always.

luna lovegood (a great name) tells harry that voldemort will seek to make harry feel alone - to weaken him. this is what the ministry does as well, in a campaign to discredit harry and dumbledore. community strengthens; fear divides. trust empowers; fear weakens. love and courage build; fear destroys.

this message is one of the biggest themes of this story, for me. it's the same thing jesus talks about and enacts. it's the same thing all great spiritual leaders talk about and enact. aslan in the chronicles of narnia. gandalf in the lord of the rings. dumbledore, harry's mentor.

to follow jesus requires courage. and it requires trust - in oneself, in loving community, in the power of goodness to triumph over evil. fear is the true enemy. it will kill those it can. that's all it knows how to do. voldemort isn't even alive; he lives "a half life"; harry and his misfits suffer, and some die, but all are tied to love and healing and hope, and they are fully alive, diverse, strange, funny, beautiful.

like journey. like true family. like the love that creates and gives life and possibility.

i'm in.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

The sorting hat says that I belong in Hufflepuff!

Said Hufflepuff, "I'll teach the lot, and treat them just the same."

Hufflepuff students are friendly, fair-minded, modest, and hard-working. A well-known member was Cedric Digory, who represented Hogwarts in the most recent Triwizard Tournament.

Take the most scientific Harry Potter Quiz ever created.

Get Sorted Now!

oh well. not a gryffindor.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

this makes more sense to my soul, part 2

here's a quote from the movie american beauty. it's said by a man who was murdered - after his murder, as he looks back:

"i guess i could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me. but it's hard to stay mad when there's so much beauty in the world. sometimes i feel like i'm seeing it all at once, and it's too much; my heart fills up like a balloon that's about to burst. and then, i remember to relax, and stop trying to hold onto it. and then it flows through me, like rain, and i can't feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life.

"you have no idea what i'm talking about, i'm sure. but don't worry; you will someday."

this makes more sense to my soul, part 1

i have struggled for years with a question. it's not "why do bad things happen to good people?" - but, "why does a loving god allow human beings to go on and on and on with false understandings and assumptions and information and systems? especially if it's just ignorance, and people could be so much happier and healthier if they had the right awareness and information?"

it has occurred to me that so much suffering could be avoided if people just had better information. about themselves. about addictions. about nature. about other people. hell, for thousands of years, about pasteurization and disease prevention and prejudice. there are people - millions - who don't know how to dig a well, to irrigate their land, to prevent AIDS. they don't know how to prevent dictatorships, to assert themselves, to become strong and whole.
my god, i don't know how to become strong and whole most of the time! i'm in my late 40's and i'm just figuring out some of the most basic parts of that. tools. simple stuff.
not to mention people's suffering because of their ignorance about god and the bullshit of religion and its enslavement through superstition and doctrine and dehumanization.

i was mad at god for a long time about this.
my focus was on the prevention of human suffering. i thought that was the objective.
then i heard arguments like, The point is to learn from our suffering, and continue to evolve and improve as cultures. What we struggle with makes us stronger. Etc.
that made no sense to me. a child who dies from disease? a woman who stays in an abusive marriage because the church tells her to be submissive? people dying of starvation?
i also heard the arguments, Well, god's ways are not our ways, and we're just to accept that all things happen for a reason. Someday we'll be in heaven and understand that this was the will of god. except for the non-christians, who will burn eternally.

and then it shone into my soul.
emily dickinson said, "This world is not conclusion."
this world, this human existence, is not the point. it's only part of our journey. it is full of suffering and sadness. this life is absolutely painful. it is also full of joy.
all of this - my joys, my pain, my lessons, my losses - all of this - my mistakes, my successes - all of this - my heart breaking and my breaking of others' hearts - all of this - is a gift.
we are here to learn to love and be loved. our joys and our suffering are all part of this process.
i thought we were here to avoid suffering. we are not. we're here for something else.

Monday, July 2, 2007

no more church crap

do you ever get tired of church? i don't mean journey - i love our faith community, its lovely and strange and very loving and honest people.
i mean, church as institution. church as cultural pillar. i'm tired of the whole thing. i see churches building more and better and bigger and fancier buildings. i see churches enforcing rules and regulations. i see churches telling people that they don't know their own minds, their own feelings, their own hearts or souls. i see churches crushing people under the weight of shame.
i'm tired of the whole fucking thing. i really am.
i hear stories from friends - and strangers - all the time about how the church broke their hearts, stole their dreams, imprisoned them. i hear opinions all the time, as well, from church people, or former church people, who still haven't gotten it out of their heads that women are not equal to men, that judging other people is okay, that god is vengeful, that god is a man, that god is white and speaks english. that rules are more important than compassion. that it's alright to demean and exclude and ridicule and hate.
it makes me mad and sad. but mostly mad.
i quote again thomas jefferson, and take the same vow:

"i have sworn upon the altar of god, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."

i'm not hostile in that i'm eaten up with hatred about it. i'm just telling you, i'm not having it. i'm not putting up with it. i will respond with compassion and love. and comfort to those caught in this sick system. and i will respond with clarity and force against those forces when i see them asserting themselves to enslave people. nonviolent force, but force nevertheless.
crucify me. i dare you.
jesus said, "anyone who causes the little ones to stumble? it'd be better for that person if someone tied a rock around their neck and threw them into the ocean. that's how pissed off that makes me." the church causes little ones to stumble. not "little ones" as in children, although it does that too. i mean all children of god. that's what i think jesus meant.
or, if you prefer, i quote jesus saying, about the Temple, "tear it down."
i'm with him.

i added the "pissed off" part, but it seems to fit.

warrior work

i just watched "peaceful warrior." maybe i am particularly touched by it because i am very interested in the issue of men's work right now, because of my warrior weekend nearly a year ago, what i'm learning about becoming more and more healthy as a man, what i've been learning for years about being a whole and strong human being. this movie isn't perfect - i'm not sure why i'm saying that, because i loved it - but it may not be for everybody. i dunno. maybe too mystic/philosophical for some people. and i don't know nothing about gymnastics, and that's its overall metaphor for the journey this young warrior takes. nevertheless, it spoke to me. powerfully.

nick nolte plays a man who mentors a collegiate gymnast who's all up in his own head. full of young man's disease. full of confusion. self. bullshit. the mentor teaches the young man about getting out of his head and into his own heart, his body, his soul, the present moment.

it's all there is. seriously. that's all there is. that's where compassion for others comes from, where forgiveness comes from. it's the ability to be present. it's jesus, buddha, love, nonviolence. it's gandhi's willingness to suffer out of love. it's mlk. it's bono's giving of his fame and fortune for those who are hungry and sick. it's mother teresa. it's the path that leads to goodness and mercy. it's about letting go of everything that keeps us from being in the here and now.

to be a warrior is to be completely vulnerable, completely present, willing to feel, willing to listen. willing to love. willing to release.

a daffodil in olivialand

olivia is a tortoise-shell calico cat. has been part of our family for 13 years. she came to live with us when she was six weeks old. she is deathly afraid of strangers. she runs. panics. hides. hisses. acts nice as she walks uop to people visiting our house - and then bolts, runs. she's neurotic. very afraid. we've been loving and affirming for her. but something in her has always been afraid, and that's made her territorial. we love her. she loves us. she's getting older, but she's still our cute old livvie.

for some bizarre, ineffable reason - one of those mysteries of the universe - we decided a few weeks ago that it was time to get another cat. we didn't think olivia would love the new cat, but it just felt like time to bring someone into the family - we'd never thought of this seriously before. it just came to us. so, we went and got a cat from a shelter. daffodil. an absolute cutie. she's nine months old, long-legged, so not a pushover. olivia can't eat her, in other words.

yes, i know, cat people, you are already saying to me, "why would you do such a foolish and potentially world-destroying thing?" the answer is that we did our research. we knew there would be initial conflicts between the two cats, as they figured each other out, and each one established her territory. we set up separate eating areas. we put the new cat in a different bedroom. we did all the right things according to the checklist.

this was a little over two weeks ago. they're not over it. last night there was the proverbial cat fight. it scared the shit out of us.

it occurred to me as i was putting antibiotic ointment into the gashes on my hand that maybe our gradual efforts for this past few weeks to help olivia and daffodil like each other were unnecessary. they're territorial predators. let them figure it out.

so, that's what's happening. i'm typing with the index finger of my right hand bandaged. we're going to let olivia and daffodil figure it out today.

why is it that there's a part of me - and lots of us - that wants to avoid conflict? at any cost? even our own integrity or sanity? a fight is the scariest thing in the world. maybe it's that people fought around us when we were small and it scared us because we didn't have any way to respond or protect ourselves, and in our cells there's still that fear that we can't protect ourselves. but i can. i'm a grown man. a large one, in fact. and i've learned that i'm not only tall, and grown up, but also that i am able to say what i want and don't want, and set boundaries, and not implode or explode. not die of guilt or fear. not have a breakdown. (and what if i did? the world would keep turning.)