Monday, September 29, 2008

letting it go

i am terrified to do what we dug into yesterday at journey worship. that's not true. i'm not always afraid. but this is one of those things about the spiritual path in many traditions, and in jesus' life and teachings and death and resurrection, that is central.
we've been doing a worship unit based on a training regimen that the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights used for orienting and preparing young african-american and european-american adults to demonstrate during the civil rights movement. they had to be made ready. like boot camp before battle. the list is rigorous and challenging. it's been screwing with all us journeyers' heads and hearts. like boot camp with jesus.
yesterday's was:
the issue of examining what my "personal wishes" is a scary one, especially when it gets to whether i should be able to have my personal wishes fulfilled.
it struck me as i was talking that i've let go of my attachment to my black pickup truck. i wanted a truck for years. texans like trucks. men like trucks. i grew up riding in pickup trucks with men - my stepfather, my grandfather, my grandmother's boyfriend (after my grandfather died) - all men with trucks. i've had mine a few years; i bought it from one of my very best friends ever. it's a bit beat up. one of the corners squeaks when i go over a bump. it used to be red and now it's black with a few tiny spots of red showing through. or maybe the red is from when it was repaired after a wreck, before i got it.
it's decorated with little stuffed cartoon characters and a bouncing jesus on the dash, and a buddha on a cell phone, and it's got bumper stickers. it bears my creative spirit. i'm taking me with me on the road. and austinites spend a lot of time on the road.
for years we were so broke that we drove whatever car we could get. so i was so, so, so happy to get my man-truck. i feel great when i drive it. and i have a right to it, dammit!
and god said, Do you really have to have that in order to be free, and help others be free?
my rationalization has been, "it was inexpensive, and i haven't bought a fancy car, and i can haul things for family and friends and for journey," which i have (a lot). jeff goldblum's character says in the big chill, "I don't know anyone who could get through the day without two or three juicy rationalizations.” i don't know how any of us in the middle - to - upper - classes in america could live any part of any day without rationalizations to keep all the shit we have. we're the richest culture ever on the face of the earth. who do we think we are to keep buying stuff we don't need?
AND - what about other personal wishes? status. achievement. comfort. safety. good health. time. fulfillment. luxury. control. we think we're entitled to this stuff. or, at least, it hasn't really occurred to us, down deep, that those things are not only not necessary, but potential impediments to our being truly free.
what am i doing that all men and women might be free? anything?
what if god is like marcellus wallace in pulp fiction, who says to butch the boxer, "The night of the fight, you may feel a slight sting. That's pride fucking with you. Fuck pride. Pride only hurts, it never helps."

i washed my truck saturday. made it all pretty and shiny and clean and laid it out there before the universe. "here's my truck" i said to god, although i was really talking about my life and my personal wishes. "do with it what you can. lemme help you." it was hard. but it was healing.
i try to do that with my heart, my time, my intentions, my willingness to serve. "but i just got this after all this time of wanting it so bad!" i think to myself - and then i remember: jesus said the only way to deep happiness and freedom is to let allllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll that shit go.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Phyllis Tickle and just another 500 year tsunami

so, Phyllis Tickle is this seminally important thinker about religion and culture and history and publishing, being the founding editor of the religion division of publisher's weekly. she knows stuff. lots of it. i'd heard her speak, from a distance, and had heard of her, of course, because - well - she knows lots of stuff. and she's a creative and insightful thinker. and has done important things in the world of religion in the western world in the last half of the 20th century - and this postmodern birthing process as well.

she calls this thing we're all experiencing The Great Emergence. and she's convinced it's not just a blip, or a fad - it's the real thing. it's big. she says, in fact, that these tsunamis happen every 500 years. seriously.
and we're in the middle of this one. and it matters.

i remember 20 years ago when i had started reading jesus' words and life. like, really reading it. asking questions. looking under and behind things. and then i looked around at the mainline, mainstream churches i'd been part of, and they looked a lot like culture and not much like jesus. i felt confused. and then frustrated. and then discouraged. and then pissed off. and then hopeful.

then i went to seminary, and i learned that there have been many, many, many thinking christians over the centuries that i'd never heard of, who have grappled with this stuff forever. and i got happy.

and then i went on staff at a mainline, mainstream, cultural american church, and i got depressed. deeply depressed. it wasn't their fault; it wasn't anybody's fault; i just didn't quite fit. i mean, i did fine - it went fine - we all got along. except for me and the power structure. i just didn't buy it. it didn't make any sense to me.

i met leonard sweet, one of the people thinking and teaching about postmodernism. i freaked out. i had hope again. i felt much less crazy. i studied with leonard sweet, and brian mclaren, and a lot of people who were talking about how our entire culture was changing, and there was no going back. and it wasn't the church - it's everything. economics. social dynamics. the roles of men and women. multiculturalism. diversity. the global village. i came back to life.

then i worked at a megachurch for three years, and got depressed again. it was about success. a church that didn't look like a mainline denomination, but looked like a different part of american culture. i felt crazy and sad. but i hung in there. and then we parted company and i had no idea what to do and it was the greatest thing ever.

god said, Hey, all that stuff you've been dreaming about? here we go. and my awesome wife and i and a bunch of people went, Oh shit. okay.

that's where journey imperfect faith community came from. god's dreams. cultural shifts. plate tectonics. everything changing. and god not being fazed in the least. god's excited! gimme some room, god says. it's stuffy in here.

so phyllis tickle is in austin and she gives a talk today at a big episcopal church and it's all about how the changes we're all going through in christianity aren't our imagination, and aren't a fad, and aren't a bunch of crazy people going off the reservation - this happened with the protestant reformation in the 1500s, and before that with the break between roman catholicism and eastern orthodox christianity in the 1000s, and before that with the fall of rome and the beginning of a different kind of christianity in the 500s, and with the destruction of the center of judaism in jerusalem and the spread of the new offshoot of judaism that would come to be known as christianity in the - well - in 0. and then 500 years before that with the babylonian exile of the jews, and then 500 years before that with the kingdom under david. before that, i got nothin'.

i felt happy. like what we're doing in this strange experiment in this age matters. that it's part of something that god is doing. i mean, i suspected that, felt it - but to see it as important - not only for ourselves, now, but for the 500 years to come? humbling and beautiful and inspiring.

thank you phyllis tickle! and bob c for bringing this crazy beautiful wise southern elder to austin.

Friday, September 19, 2008

SNL: Gov. Palin and Sen. Clinton address the nation

i've got a bad cold, so instead of writing something, i defaulted to posting one of the funniest things i've seen all week...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Randy Newman - A Few Words in Defense of Our Country

okay. let's just put the whole thing in perspective, a la the great and powerful and wise randy newman.

Friday, September 12, 2008

and if you don't believe me,

read all about it ... yes, as it turns out, everybody indeed poops, or at least, these authors want kids to feel okay about the whole complicated thing.

i think this is a lot like my post from yesterday - hey, kids: we're all in this together. you're okay.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

everybody poops

i thought about what to post on 9/11. instead, i decided to share with you something i've been reflecting on for months now:

everybody poops.

of course, there are some people who are exceptions - those who've had certain kinds of surgeries or other adaptations to their bodies' digestive systems. but in general, and even mostly in specific, everybody poops.
everyone on the planet, at some point every day or two, sits down or squats down, and expels solid waste from his or her body. wait. stay with me. i mean, everybody does it - it's like eating, or breathing, or blinking.
angelina jolie and brad pitt poop. barack obama and john mccain will probably poop today. gerard butler? pooper. nicole kidman, michael buble', don henley, tom cruise ... all will stop for as long as it takes and have a bowel movement. your mayor poops. dustin hoffman poops. so does barbra streisand. and all of the jonas brothers, right? and miley cyrus. and the pope.
yes. the pope poops.
a billion chinese people, give or take a few thousand, will take a break at some point today or tomorrow or the next day, depending on how things are going, and poop. every playboy bunny poops. every football player poops. (okay, that one isn't even strange-sounding.) the queen of england? yep. pooping today. maybe even right this second, six time zones ahead of where i am here in texas.
kids at school - at least, those who can't hold it til they get home. (i hear so many grownups say that they held it the best they could because school bathrooms were either a. disgusting, b. scary, or c. crowded.) teachers at school. yes, your english teacher pooped. and your principal. and chemistry, geometry, foreign language, history, p. e., and health teachers. all sat and pooped. terrorists poop. the person you admire the most. the person you can't stand.
all pastors poop, and professors. all manual laborers. all babysitters. nurses. inmates in prison. obstetricians. cowboys. pharmacists. politicians. gas station attendants. bus drivers. congresspersons. the ups guy or gal. gay and straight, christian and muslim and buddhist and jewish and unitarian universalist and atheist. democrat, republican, independent, green, communist, socialist, libertarian. your friends and those whom you perceive as your enemies. everybody you will see today.

every human being as being pretty much like every other human being. nobody's so high and mighty, or so unimportant, that she or he doesn't have to stop, just like me and you, and sit down for a little while, and do what the human body has to do, and then get on about their business. and rather than bringing people down to the same level, for me it reminds me that we're all "fearfully and wonderfully made" (psalm 139:14). that for all the clothing and makeup and uniforms and education and masks and roles we construct for ourselves, we're still very much in a human body, for a while, all of us, together. all the labels, ultimately, are only part of who and what we are while we're here. another part of who we are while we're here is an organism that takes in fuel and expels what's not needed.
which is, poop.

ps - what's the big deal, by the way, about talking about b.m.'s? is there some shame attached to poop? because nobody likes poop. it smells bad. it's pasty. it is, after all, waste - so maybe we're programmed to want to stay away from it. maybe that's why we make jokes about it.
and we all get together in public and eat, and drink, and read, and shop, and talk. but pretty much nobody poops in public. nobody even wants to admit that they pooped today. (although i did see an episode of oprah a few years ago that was, seriously, really cool because this doctor was talking about the importance of a healthy intestinal track and he normalized the whole thing. eat healthy. everybody will pass wind, on average, fifteen times a day. have a b.m. and then look at it. is it healthy, or not? he gave suggestions about what to look for - shape, texture, etc. ... at first i was freaked out and then i realized, yeah, good for you doctor - help us get over the weirdness and take care of our bodies. - and - oprah said, Yes, i've passed wind today.)
maybe it's because we're sitting down, and stuck, and vulnerable to predators. maybe it's because it's not like you can fake that you're really doing something else at the time ... "me? was i picking my nose? no, just rubbing something off my face." that doesn't work here.
i don't know. but it's okay. relax. you don't have to be ashamed. remember: the pope poops too.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

as with anyone else

here's the thing that's hitting me, this week, as i think and feel through politics: no candidate is the devil, no candidate is evil, no candidate even wants bad things for america. and i need to breathe more deeply and chill.

barack obama, and john mccain, and joe biden, and sarah palin. independent candidates. green candidates. the campaign managers. the marketers. the powerful. the ad brokers. the pollsters. the talking heads on tv.
they're all god's children. every single one of 'em. they are each, and all, the absolute beloved of the god of the universe, that thing that goes beyond anything i can imagine.

who are we to dislike a candidate personally? i don't actually know any of these men or women. and if i did, i'd feel compassion for and hope for each of them. as with anyone else.

i want this presidential election to be carried out in the next two months with grace, and with clarity, and for our candidates to embody the best of what our country is. i fear that i may not get that want. but i am putting it out there. and i am going to walk and talk in the manner of love and respect, and i will expect that other people will do the same. when they don't, they're not bringing what will help the greater good happen.

what if someone is choosing something that i believe is wrong? then i have the responsibility to speak into that situation, through words and actions. but with love, and humility. which can only come from strength.
what if it's really, really wrong? like a bad war? like hitler? like stalin? like global hunger? like racial hatred? i have the responsibility to speak into those situtations, through words and actitons. but with love, and humility. which can only come from strength.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Thursday, September 4, 2008

against every form of tyranny over the minds of men and women

thomas jefferson said, "i have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the minds of men."
this is one of my personal mottos as well. my role is to encourage and inspire freedom from enslavement, hope amidst fear, and courage in the midst of chaos.

i watched parts of the speeches at the republican party's national convention last night. i watched mike huckabee and rudy giuliani and then sarah palin. i was disappointed and sad and mad.
what flared up for me last night watching her deliver the message she was bringing and embodying for her audience, is that what's wrong is to appeal to, and play on, and descend to, the politics of fear and the fortress and the bunker and the us vs. them ...
it's wrong. it's low. it's a retreat into hatred. it's heartbreaking. i thought mccain would do better.
i don't believe that that's what obama wants. perhaps he's prevailed upon the voices in his party that encouraged him to play dirty, that that's not how to make true change and health and wholeness for this nation and the world happen.
everybody was wondering during the democrats' convention, when the strong message would come. hillary? bill? biden? nope. it was obama himself, who spoke with clarity and forceful support of what he believes is best for america, and not just america, but the world. and not just some americans, but all americans.
he spoke to the issues. he spoke up to charges that had been brought against him. and yet also spoke with respect, and openness, and never belittled john mccain or the republicans or anyone else. he spoke of possibility.
i didn't see that last night. i am sad about that. and i want to fight against smallness of mind - not by fighting back, but by standing and saying No.
when jesus talked about turning the other cheek, he was advocating not rolling over in passivity, but standing up. saying to the slave master, "you may hit me again, but i will not be moved. you may beat me, but i will still stand here and refuse to react with violence - and yet not run, and not play your game." which is how jesus lived. and how we who are following jesus --- which often has nothing in common with cultural christianity --- are to live just like that.
now i see that i was wrong in my post a few days ago. it's not the same shit only different politicians. we have a choice, a real one. we can choose fear, or hope. we can choose to be safe by demonizing and condescending to our enemies, or we can choose to treat people - even, and perhaps especially, those with whom we disagree - with respect as fellow children of god. we can be preoccupied with how we have been mistreated, or we can work toward healing and reconciliation. we can build fortress walls, and barriers, and division, or we can choose to find ways to hold to the center of what is good - and yet also allow for differences and complexity. it takes more courage. i believe we are capable of that courage.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

god said no

here are the lyrics to a song i blogged about back in april. i was listening to it again this morning and it just spoke to my heart so, so deeply, that i had to share it. dan bern is a good, good songwriter.
it says that now is all we have.

"God Said No"

I met God
On the edge of town
Where the wind meets the stillness
Where the darkness meets the light
Where the ocean meets the sky
Where the desert meets the rain
Where the earth meets the heavens
On the edge of town
I met God

I asked God
Do one thing for me
Send me back in time
Send me to Seattle
Let me go
Find Kurt Cobain
Take away his gun
Take away his bullets
Talk to him
Make him wanna live
Tell him how we love him
Help him see his glory
God Said No
If I sent you back
If you really found him
You would only ask him
If he could
Help you get a deal
If he knows a lawyer
If he can help you
God Said No

I asked God
Do one thing for me
Send me back in time
Send me to Berlin
Let me find
The one they call Hitler
I will stalk him
I will bring him down
I will bring along
A powerful gun
Loaded with bullets
Obliterate his memory
God Said No
If I sent you back
You would get caught up
In theory and discussion
You would let your fears
Delay and distract you
You would make friends
You would take a lover
God Said No

I asked God
Do one thing for me
Send me back in time
Send me to Jerusalem
Let me go
Let me go find Jesus
Let me save his life
As they try to kill him
Let me take him down
Down from the cross
Take the iron from his body
Try to heal his wounds
God Said No
If I let you go
If you really found him
Walking with the cross
You would stare
Your tongue no longer working
Eyes no longer seeing
Ears no longer hearing
God said Time
Time belongs to me
Time's my secret weapon
My final advantage
God turned away
From the edge of town
I knew I was beaten
And that now was all I had
God Said No