Friday, May 30, 2008

here's a post from last september. for some reason i woke up with the idea of deleting all the blog posts. then i found this one.

journey imperfect faith community began in fire and storm. i was fired from a high-profile job at a famous megachurch. it was a really low moment in the life of christianity. god was not pleased. it rained and thundered and stormed, literally. it was of course one of the greatest things ever to happen to me in my career in ministry. but that's the god we listen to and the jesus we follow: meaningful sacrifice always brings resurrection. but the crucifixions are always ugly and bloody and a mirror for everyone involved.

a bunch of people had been opening themselves spiritually and emotionally to what was happening in my ministry, in their own lives, in what they wanted for themselves. other people were looking for an alternative to the kind of religion that was empty for them, or didn't speak their language. other people weren't churchy at all - they were just spiritually open and hungry. that group of people got together in the midst of this storm and felt god calling to them. they became committed to something: a community of people gathered around a simple principle:

  • what if a group of people helped each other go out and love the world.
  • what if a group of people gathered every week to remember that their lives had meaning.
  • what if a group of people shared their resources and gave to the poor - not only in money, but in making sandwiches and loving their neighbors and giving out clothes and hope.
  • what if a group of people helped raise each other's kids.
  • what if a group of people cared about each other more than about having a "successful" church organization/institution.
and so that's what journey has become. we started three years ago.
along the way some people left. they were looking for something else. other people came, attracted to what they were experiencing and invited into.
there's been more and more to learn. we had to learn about trusting god in many scary ways - about money, about having a fluid structure, about not having a building and then having a building, about continuing to give our money and resources away. and we have learned. and we continue to learn.
we have not arrived. there is no arriving - there's only the path.
that's good.
the energy in the fire and the storm didn't go away; the energy was transformed, and became spirit and power.

we've been in the warehouse god gave us as our tent for about nine months. we've been growing in numbers and in depth. we've learned a huge amount about what is important to us in following jesus and learning to love.

and i started wondering, a few months ago, So ... now what?
"okay, god, we're in the warehouse," i said. "we're reaching out to more and more people. we're loving each other, loving our neighbors, giving our resources away, giving the warehouse away. we're reaching out. we're learning to help more and more people in need - people in poverty, people in slavery. is there something else?
what is it, god?" i asked. god said, "just keep doing what i tell all of you."
i keep saying, "what's next?" god says, "just keep doing what i tell all of you."
i have wondered, "is there something you want us to be about that we're not yet?" and god has said, "just keep doing what i tell all of you."
i realized something. it's not something different, it's just something even more beautiful, scarier, bigger, more earth-changing.

there is a world in pain. pain. pain. human beings are in pain.
some of them have plenty of money; some of them have none.
some of them have plenty of loved ones; some of them have none.
some of them are journeyers; some of them are not.
some of them are in austin; some of them are not.
some of them are sick; some of them are well.
some of them see that they are in pain; some of them don't see their own pain.
some of them are sober; some of them are not.
some of them are ready to be healed; some of them are not.

all of them are the beloved of god.
human beings will always be in pain. that's part of the human experience. it teaches us. it grows us. there is healing and power in what we do with our pain.
but that's the point: what will we do with our pain and the pain of the world around us? we are being healed; how can we heal? jesus was a healer. journey is not a club; it's a mission, an outreach, a tool. it exists to heal. to transform pain with god's love, god's power, god's courage.
we journeyers have been in the process of learning to be wounded healers. we have been practicing. we have been learning. we have been gathering our tools - recovery, women's work, men's work, small groups, youth and children's ministry, a spacious place, spiritgift, missions and outreach, warrior work, therapy, and on and on and on.

we are ready.
i'm almost afraid to say that. it will not be easy; it's not easy already.
but we love, love, love god. we love, love, love each other. we are even learning to love, love, love ourselves as god loves us, and to give that love to others.

i feel it, deep down. i want to give this healing love to everyone we can, in ways we can't imagine.
i'm scared. i'm joyful.
it's not something different.
it's exactly what god is doing, has been doing forever, will do forever until all creation is reborn.
it's exactly what we've been learning.
we are part of that work of god.

oh - and - if you're not a journeyer, what are you doing about the world that is in pain?
let's do it together.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

at first i say i don't know, but that's not true. i know.

a friend of mine was arrested sunday. i heard about it yesterday afternoon; a journeyer heard it on the 5 o'clock news. we're all in shock. it turns out, the police have charged my friend with episodes of ongoing sexual assault of children and adults. and they say they have video that my friend had hidden in his house.
i am just sitting with this. breathing. hurting. my heart hurts. my head hurts. i'm afraid. i'm heartbroken.
their family and our family have known each other for a few years - high school club friends, that sort of thing. all of us watching our kids at the football games. church friends. so, i know this sounds like a cliche, but this is the absolute last person i would ever, ever have imagined would have such a dark aspect in his personality. this is a good, caring, servant-hearted person. but if he did these things, there's also a part of him that's deeply twisted and addicted and toxic.
hurt people hurt people. i don't know what happened. all any of us knows so far is what we're hearing and reading in the media, which is all secondhand from the police statements, which are secondhand from those involved in investigating what happened. which is also secondhand - because my friend is the only person who can ultimately know what happened. i'm careful about jumping to conclusions about what my friend did or did not do. but it sounds bad.
so, i'm praying.
praying hard.
when i prayed last night off and on, i received peace. i believe i connected to god and god connected to me. that's not theory; it actually happened. it kind of surprised me, actually. i pray a lot, and talk to god, and listen. but it's still a mystery.
i would say i don't know what to do or how to respond to this devastating news. but that's not true. i know.
reach out to this family - this man's wife and children. love on them. reassure them. comfort them. provide for them. do not judge them or stigmatize them. surround them. god's love does that.
reach out to journeyers - there will be all sorts of emotions we'll have: anger, sadness, betrayal, worry, confusion, fear, brokenheartedness. we'll need to work them through together. god's love does that.
reach out to the victims of whatever happened. whatever we as a faith community can do to give god's love to them in healthy unselfish ways, i want to do that.
reach out to my friend. he's a human being, a child of god, someone i care deeply about. he's innocent until he's proven guilty. he's my brother and friend. if he did these things, he just got very, very lost and he did great harm. he'll have to face the consequences of that. but he doesn't stop being god's beloved.
journeyers practice what we call "radical inclusion." that means that every human being is god's beloved. because of that, we keep working to give our lives to serving god, and receiving god's love - and then giving that love to the world. we have to work through our emotions and filters and shit in order for that to happen - and god helps us.
i know what to do. keep doing what we know god has called us to. if it is true when times are good, it is true when times are difficult.

Monday, May 26, 2008


when my mother was a little girl, her father was in the war. a young man from farmer/builder stock, wide-eyed. he could make things with his hands. he was from nowhere special - texas, small towns (which were, seventy years ago, very different from the post-eisenhower-interstate-highway-mcdonalds-disneyfication-mallizing-wallmarting-of-america that all small towns have been changed by). and he was just another young man who said yes when the country went to war with some strange people a million miles away. his name was Olan Smith.
Olan left home in central texas. he left his wife and his two little daughters. everyone was helping with the war effort - doing without things, pitching in together, working extra. raising little daughters alone while daddy's across the world.
i wonder what it must have been like for olan. far from home. boot camp. yelled at. prepared to go to war. and then told that he and his fellow new soldiers would be heading across the atlantic ocean, and engage the enemy. get shot at. and shoot. and kill. and maybe be killed. i wonder if his experience looked something like "saving private ryan," young american men over their heads confused scared courageous human fighting the nazis wondering if they'd live. i wonder what olan did to pass the time. if he was loud or quiet, did his chores, cleaned his rifle, slept well. i've seen pictures; he was tall and skinny, like i was at his age. my face isn't as long as his was. but i never met him. he went into battle with his company. and there were lots of gunshots.
my grandmother got a message. if i remember the story right, it was a telegram brought to her by her little brother, who was working at the post office.
her husband had been killed. in battle. in france, or germany, godknowswhere, someplace far away, where she'd never go, that was just an abstraction, might have been mars. but he had served bravely. and had died.
my grandmother ---- what was she supposed to do now? raise two daughters alone? grieve? how? would she have to work, get a job? between the details swirling in her head, and the faces of her little girls, and the presence of her family, and the weird stretching-ahead-with-no-direction-now future, it's no wonder that my grandmother went a little crazy, and life was scary and hard for the daughters, and life wasn't the same as it had been before.
on memorial day today i remember and honor all those people - the fathers and mothers, the children, the friends, the threads of lives that were cut off, the craziness and sadness and strengths that grew out of the telegrams and letters and messages from the front. all those who have died in battle because their country told them to, and they said yes. i don't say, "who defended their country's freedom" or whatever because just because america makes war doesn't mean it's righteous or defensive or that there's not all imaginable kinds of political bullshit involved. there is. and i speak against, and teach against, complacency in the face of sickness in giant corporate systems that dehumanize.
but if a soldier signs up to do what s/he is told, and that person is killed, i can do both. i can be angry at, and fight against, political systems that aren't healthy, that are corrupt and self-serving, and i can oppose the breakdown-in-human-reason-and-hope that is war --- and i can nevertheless honor and thank and remember those who signed up and said Yes, I'll help. With my body. I relinquish my personal freedom. I will follow orders.
including Olan.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

yeah, i know - i sound like a pain in the ass

i love americans. we're a giving, hopeful, ambitious culture and we want good things to happen.
we also have been brainwashed to care about shit that doesn't matter.
in china, because of a devastating earthquake on may 15, 51,000 people in china are dead; 30,000 are missing; 300,000 are injured; 4,000 children have been orphaned.
there were 97 million votes cast for last night's american idol finale.
guess which event most people in our country will be talking about this morning.

Monday, May 19, 2008

not building a religion

i really love the alt rock band CAKE. their lyrics and arrangements are interesting and melodic and complicated but not pretentious. just cool.
here's some of the lyrics to their song "Comfort Eagle" from the 2001 CD of the same name. the song's about building something - something impressive, important, big - and marketing it so that people will join. i think they said "building a religion" because it's such an ironic thing to be building as an empire. or, maybe they mean it literally. either way.
the lyrics talk about the man who symbolizes the message that's enrolling people; he's a salesman with an ever-burning cigarette and he's so cool that his hat is on backwards and he calls you "dude." the product he's selling offers limited-edition key chains, and security - and if you ever lose your way, he'll send a car to find you.
i bet he will. once you've bitten the apple, and you're in, the system will make sure you stay in.

We are building a religion we are building it bigger
We are widening the corridors and adding more lanes

We are building a religion a limited edition
We are now accepting callers for these pendant key chains

To resist it is useless it is useless to resist it
His cigarette is burning but he never seems to ash

He is grooming his poodle he is living comfort eagle
You can meet at his location but you'd better come with cash

Now his hat is on backwards he can show you his tattoos
He is in the music business he is calling you "dude!"

He is handling the money he's serving the food
He knows about your party he is calling you "dude!"

Now do you believe in the one big sign
The doublewide shine on the bootheels of your prime

Doesn't matter if you're skinny doesn't matter if you're fat
You can dress up like a sultan in your onion head hat

We are building a religion we are making a brand
We're the only ones to turn to when your castles turn to sand

Take a bite of this apple mr. corporate events
Take a walk through the jungle of cardboard shanties and tents

He says now do you believe in the one big song
He's now accepting callers who would like to sing along

He says, do you believe in the one true edge
By fastening your safety belts and stepping towards the ledge

There's no need to ask directions if you ever lose your mind
We're behind you, we're behind you and let us please remind you
We can send a car to find you if you ever lose your way

We are building a religion
We are now accepting callers...
For these beautiful...
Pendant keychains

god and soul, protect me from ever becoming this. in my case, it's being a writer and speaker and pastor. but it could just as easily happen if i were in advertising, or a corporation, or government, or the military, or just as a parent or friend or partner.
protect us, o god. kick our asses. jesus and the prophets hated the big machine. help us recognize it, and refuse to be part of building it.

Monday, May 12, 2008

yo, teletubbies -

yeah, i know it's stupid. but life is tough! enjoy!

i want you to hit me as hard as you can

it's in there. the soul. it's watching out for us. it conspires with god - whatever mysterious beautiful strange powerful subtle thing god is being all the time - and they, along with our bodies, send us lots of messages. but the messages are weird. not like talk. not like memos. not like billboards.
sometimes we're at places in our lives in which we're in a pattern that's leading us one direction, but our souls/god/bodies know that's not where we want to be. so they help us see what we're choosing - and they help us see that there is something else.
this process, in my experience, is often very, very weird. and hard ... because it usually doesn't make any sense to the part of me that thinks and hears in the talk/memo/billboard model of the universe.
maybe it's depression. or migraines. or a gnawing sense of something. or a fender-bender. or a series of things we keep heading towards which we don't know we're choosing - to undermine the choices we THINK we're making. (that's actually the one i think is the most interesting.)
last night we were watching a gift my daughter had given my wife yesterday for mother's day: the wonderful movie Waitress on DVD. this saturday night i'm showing Fight Club at the jifc warehouse and facilitating a discussion about it afterwards. i also want to add
Lars And The Real Girl to the movie night list; leslie and i saw it a few weeks ago and it is SO GREAT. amazing. and then there's The Matrix to add to this list, even though it's not on our lately-watched DVD list.
these are all movies that are built around someone feeling something deeeeeeeep inside her/himself, which isn't what they think their life is about, but their head doesn't know what they truly want and hunger for, and so their soul and god help them see it. it's different for every person; that's part of the beauty.
the narrator of fight club calls tyler durden into his life. and when tyler says, "i want you to hit me as hard as you can," it's as if the narrator's soul is asking tyler for the same thing. hit me. wake me up.
jenna, the waitress, consults dr. pomatter. he's her healer - but she's really the one healing herself.
lars's real girl arrives at his garage apartment. so what if she's not a real girl? she becomes a deeply transformative presence for everyone. (no, seriously. see it. it's lovely.)
neo keeps asking himself "what is the matrix?" so long that morpheus and trinity hear him and find him.
I CANNOT RECOMMEND THIS KIND OF MOVIE HIGHLY ENOUGH. i think there's something absolutely beautiful and important about affirming that The Soul Knows. in this culture of busyness and the story of stuff and consumerism and electronica and competition, The Soul Nevertheless Knows. and god's in on it with the soul. and i trust the soul - especially in the last few years of my wonderful life, in which i've seen that the soul and god know best - much better than my talk/memo/billboard head does.
and, yeah, sometimes it hurts. but if my talk/memo/billboard ears just keep blocking out my soul/god messages, then the soul and god will take drastic measures within me. in which case, i'm saying to my life, "i want you to hit me as hard as you can." even though i don't know i'm saying it.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

brrrrrd and chatterchatterchatter

daffodil the white cat was staring out the back window this morning - the usual - looking at birds under the big pecan tree. she was doing the i'm-looking-at-a-bird-or-a-varmint chatter. emily dickinson called it a "chuckle." do you know that sound? when our cats see a bird or a squirrel or lizard, their mouths open and close really fast and they make a sound like "chatter chatter chatter" or "click click click" or something like that. it's not a meow; it's like it's coming from the back of their throats. their eyes focus, like a hunting dog pointing. but then daffodil, the young cat, looks around frantically at us, then back at the intruder, then back at us again. frantic. or just fired up. (olivia, the old cat, doesn't look back at us; she just chatters.)
we think it's adorable. we all say "is it a bird?! get the bird! get the bird!" only it sounds more like "git thii brrd!" because for some reason it evolved that way. and we pet the cat in question.
i don't know if the cats think the i'm-chattering-at-something-i'm-instinctively-wanting-to-kill-right-now moment is adorable. they look a little panicked, or like they're in an altered state. they may feel really awful. or it may be exhilarating. or confusing. they can't get out there - they are both inside cats - they can only look through the window. and - what's the emotion during a purr? or a hiss? or an "i'm going to sit on your lap now." or "get that other damn cat away from my bowl." i wonder what they'd say to us if they could talk. i wonder if they even know.
have you been there? "i'm feeling something about where i am right now, and if i could figure it out i would tell you but i don't know what it is!" followed by "aaaugh!" or "shutthefuckup and leavemealone!" or maybe it's "i? do i look unhappy to you? why, that's not true. i'm perfectly fine." or there's blaming. or shaming. or asking lots and lots of questions rather than sitting with what's bothering you.
all ways not to articulate what's really going on - and probably because we don't know. we're chattering at an invisible opponent or mysterious stimulus. there's something over there! i can see it! i can't get to it! i think i need to attack it! but i don't know how!
sometimes olivia and daffodil will just turn away from the window, like they're a little dazed. head rush. sometimes we say, "oh, it's okay - it's just a bird. it's okay" and pet them, reassuring them. the world is still safe.
i think i've been there too. and maybe i'm there a lot more than i realize; maybe LOTS of what i think i understand, i don't at all. and then later i feel dazed. or dizzy. or i get an emotional head rush. it takes me a while to rest up and look back out the window. (although sometimes the cats just have to keep looking and chattering - it's instinct - they can't stop.)

i don't think god is saying "git thii brrd!" to us; i think god turns us loose in the back yard and says, "go get 'em." i think what god wants is for us to go. that thing that's driving you crazy? go get it. learn about it. pray. dig in. look inside yourself. what's happening.
if we don't have the awareness or tools (olivia stays inside partly because she's de-clawed. it'd be unsafe for her to attack a big bird) to deal with it - there's a spiritual or emotional glass pane separating us from the thing we're compelled to react to - instead, i think god scratches the backs of our heads and says, "it's okay. it's nothing you have to fix right now."

Monday, May 5, 2008

a blessing and a curse

here's the problem, for me, with having a bad cold.
yes, i can barely breathe - but that's not the worst part;
yes, i have body aches and am exhausted - but that's not the worst part;
yes, i feel like crap in general - but that's not the worst part;
yes, all i want to do is just pull the covers over my head and sleep - but that's not the worst part;

the worst part is: i really, really like my life - being a dad, being a husband, being a pastor, writing, hanging out in my home office aka man-cave, working in the yard, laughing with great friends, being a part of a wonderful faith community, living in austin texas.
having a bad cold means i'm missing out on a lot of that. this is bad cold day 3. ugh.
and, yeah, yeah, yeah, all the things on the above list are still true about my life and i'm grateful, i know - i'm just tired of lying here. my life is too great not to be participating in it.

Friday, May 2, 2008

iron man starts today ... and ...


iron man terrific
acting shows its special effect
downey gives iron man strength
even the grumpy chris garcia likes it