My Jesus Question

My Jesus Question

jesus-question-copy So…I’m considering this question.  I work at a church and there are a lot of things a church might be about.  But in my mind one of those things, maybe the most important thing…but maybe not (I’ll grant that possibility to someone that might have a better answer)…is to better follow Jesus.

I’m submitting this question to whomever might choose to read this little post.  I’m not necessarily looking for public comments (although they are welcome).  I’m not interested in laying a guilt trip on anyone.  I’m not wanting to convert anyone on this post.  I’m simply asking this question of myself and inviting others to consider it as well.  Grace and peace.

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Assuming intimacy, dignity & beauty. 

Assuming intimacy, dignity & beauty. 

I ran across this article while digging deeper into a topic in a book I’m reading.  Krista Tippett, the author of the book, who had been living in Berlin for quite some time and whose job it was to keep her finger on the pulse of relationships on both sides of the wall, observed: “…it was possible to have freedom and plenty in the West and craft an empty life, it was possible to ‘have nothing’ in the East and create a life of intimacy and dignity and beauty.” While the politicians and bureaucrats had some influence, it was ultimately the people who assumed and acted upon their freedom that brought down the Iron Curtain. Giving politicians power is akin to turning a 3 year old loose with power tools. It is ultimately people assuming and claiming the lives of “intimacy, dignity and beauty” for which they had been created that brought down the wall. I fear we give the political process entirely too much credit. To believe the rhetoric and live our lives by it is foolish at best. It is toxic for us to allow the narrative by which we live our lives to be defined by 3 year olds fighting over the power tools.  It paints everything in a dualistic way that creates division and discord. We were created for so much more than that.

Peace On Earth

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It’s been a difficult Advent to try and speak about peace.  Every where one looks the evidence of its absence is overwhelming.  I would write a few sentences here summing up the news headlines of late but I’d rather not. We all know them far too well.

If I turn from the headlines toward my expanded neighborhood of friends and acquaintances on social media, it seems there is an election looming.  In fact, there seems to be one looming 365 days a year.  And a cursory look at the posts on my feed seem to imply that one particular brand of politics or the other has the solution[s] and/or “leader[s]” to remedy this chronic lack of peace we’ve all been experiencing for quite some time.  Call me cynical but, I’m not really buying what they’re selling.  Seems as though this has been the claim by all sides of every issue for as long as I’ve been alert enough to pay attention.

So, what to do?  Do I give in to the cynicism of the age?

I don’t have an answer.  But I do have my faith.  The faith I have is rooted in a God who loves.  Call me naive.  Call me idealistic.  But, the older I get, my cynicism toward the powers of this world only grows and my faith in this loving God is continually confirmed.  Even when someone throws the turmoil of this world at my “loving God” saying the chaos is proof that my faith is in vain, I realize that I would rather live my faith in this loving God than in the false hopes and unfulfilled promises of the powers that be in our world.  It’s simply a better way to live my life. I would rather live in that love of God than in the fear and frustration offered by the alternative.

One of my favorite quotes about peace is by Nicholas Wolsterstorff:

“The state of shalom is the state of flourishing in all dimensions of one’s existence: in one’s relation to God, in one’s relation to one’s fellow human beings, in one’s relation to nature, and none’s relation to oneself…An ever-beckoning temptation for the [American] evangelical is to assume that all God really cares about for human beings here on earth is that they be born again and thus destined for salvation…  [However], what God desires for human beings is that comprehensive mode of flourishing which the Bible calls shalom…God’s love of justice is grounded in God’s longing for the shalom of God’s creatures and in God’s sorrow over its absence.”

—Nicholas Wolsterstorff

If the system you subscribe to isn’t offering this type of peace…this shalom…then, well, it might not be worthy of your faith.  And it just might be contributing to the absence of peace we’re all enduring in our world.

I think my favorite Christmas song is Christmas Bells and my favorite rendition is by John Gorka.  Check it out here.  (Here is a live version of the song.)

Peace.

Facebook Fast (2)

facebook fastI’ve tried this once before.  A Facebook Fast for lent.  It wasn’t easy and I wrote a couple of blog posts about why. (You can read those here.)  I know some folk have begun to get down on Facebook (too many “cat videos”; “who wants to hear/see pictures of someone’s dinner”; “it’s all Humblebragging; etc.

I for one am not ashamed to admit that I LOVE Facebook.  Still.  Whether it’s cool or not, it’s fun, mostly informative, and has reconnected me with people I knew in high school, college, past churches, past jobs/careers, long distance family.  It’s been an extension of community in a very profound way for me since I first started my Facebook page back in 2007.

This practice of giving something up for lint has been mostly a fail for me for years.  (If you’re reading this, I hope you’ll say a little prayer for me for strength and discipline to not merely sign off but to pick up a new awareness of God’s presence in my life.  You’ll probably still see an occasional post show up on my time line (I have some things set to automatically post…like my occasional tweets and blog posts like this one.) I’ll have to log in occasionally to post something to my youth group FB pages.  However, I’m going to ignore the addictive little red number that shows up in the top of the window and on my Facebook app…(note to self: you probably should delete that app for the time being.)  This was very hard to do last time (I wrote about that here.)

Peace and blessings to you during this time of lent!  See you Easter Sunday!

Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & SaintI LOVED this book.  And that’s odd because I probably can’t recommend it to all my friends.  Many would be strongly offended by it.  They would quickly react to Nadia Bolz-Weber‘s application of sailor language to godly topics.  Many would take offense at her welcoming and affirming stance on LGBTQ issues.  And I’ve come to a place that it’s ok if they are offended.  I can’t control that.  Don’t read the book if you fear you’ll fall in that category.  I honestly don’t want to be the one that riles you up and disturbs your peace.  (I would like to point out that LGBTQ is about people long before it ever became an “issue”. Like every “issue” out there, when it’s your starting point, you often end up somewhere Jesus isn’t and you walk on a lot of people whom Jesus loves on your way to the smug destination you’ll find at the end of such a path.)

Because of my reading of Pastrix, I recognize the smugness of that last sentence.  It comes across as if I’m the one enlightened and all who disagree with me are intolerant and bigots.  Now, don’t get me wrong…I absolutely stand by the sentence I wrote above.  However, there is a heavily underlined paragraph on page 57 of my copy of  Pastrix that says:

Matthew once said to me, after one of my more finely worded rants about stupid people who have the wrong opinions, “Nadia, the thing that sucks is that every time we draw a line between us and others, Jesus is always on the other side of it.” — Nadia Bolz-Weber

To further quote Nadia, “Damn!”  Pastix shined a light on all the lines I’ve drawn between me and people with whom I disagree.  And in so doing, it shined a light on Jesus that I’ve needed turned on for a while now.  What I continually discovered in Pastrix was resurrection.  It was a continual stream of stories of death and resurrection.  Persons and lives dying deaths large and small only to encounter the risen Christ and be raised to new life again in profound and graceful and loving ways.  It’s a resurrection that one can and should experience daily.  (That’s what Jesus meant!)

Reading Pastrix was something of a cathartic experience for me.  It was hard to put my finger on what continually resonated with me as I turned page after page.  But as I reluctantly put the book down this morning I recognized a long lost itch (p. 204) that I had continually and unconsciously been scratching all these years but had slipped from my awareness.  I realized that I had rediscovered a distant call to ministry that animates my life.  It’s a call we all share and it manifests itself in all sorts of different jobs and vocations and roles.  But it’s absolutely a call.  It’s a call to discover who we were created to be.  And its a call to death and resurrection.  Thanks Nadia.

Image“There must be a time of day when the man who makes plans forgets his plans, and acts as if he had no plans at all. “There must be a time of day when the man who has to speak falls very silent. And his mind forms no more propositions, and he asks himself: Did they have a meaning? “There must be a time when the man of prayer goes to pray as if it were the first time in his life he had ever prayed; when the man of resolutions puts his resolutions aside as if they had all been broken, and he learns a different wisdom: distinguishing the sun from the moon, the stars from the darkness, the sea from dry land, and the night sky from the shoulder of a hill. —Thomas Merton from “No Man is An Island”

It has been sort of a distracted morning, but in a good sort of way. I was down stairs pretty early…4:30ish. I lit the fire, got my coffee and settled on the couch to read. Upon opening my bag I recognized the number of I-want-to-take-time-to-read-but-never-seem-to-get-around-to-it magazines accumulating there were more than a little telling. I was probably never going to get around to reading them.

I pulled out a week-old edition of the New York Times I had purchased at Starbucks to read while waiting on a car to be serviced. Instead of reading that at the dealer, I think I played “FLOW” on my iPad, a challenging little puzzle game but a game nonetheless, and truly a waste of perfectly good waiting room time. I pulled out two issues of the Economist, an issue of Motley Fool Stock Advisor, the December 2012 issue of The Atlantic and finally the Dec. 30th issue of the New York Times Magazine. That was the one that sort of derailed my intensions for the morning.

On the cover was a photograph of Adam Yauch (1/3 of the Beastie Boys) and the words, “The Lives They Lived.” It was a collection of obituaries of notable people who had died in 2012. I’ve never been one who reads obituaries, although [Mr.}Tony Kornheiser says “[the obits] are usually the best writing in the paper.” I think that’s probably true, as a rule. Rather than some words about a forgettable story rushed to the page to meet a deadline, an obit is an attempt to communicate a snap-shot of a life. The fame and/or notoriety of the famous persons in this particular issue of “the magazine” are merely context. The writers are trying to distill meaning from these lives that have ended. Sometimes there is a clear rendering of the protagonist. Other times, the obit seems to be as much a window into the psyche of the writer as it is about the person who died.

I thumbed through the pages of 2012’s obit collection stopping on: Teri Shields (mother of Brooke and quintessential “stage mom”); Maurice Sendak (author of the iconic children’s books “Where the Wild Things Are” and “The Night Kitchen”…Brilliant piece done with 9 illustrations with bubble quotes from an NPR interview with the writer); Nora Ephron (journalist, screenwriter, playwright, best known popularly for “When Harry Met Sally”…a collage recreating “Meg Ryan’s soliloquy [from the diner] using letters cut from Ephron’s obituary in the New York Times.” (…yes…yes…oh God…”); Don Cornelius (creator and host of Soul Train pictured in full 70’s regalia of massive afro and equally massive silver silk tie. Interesting quote: “Long before the Huxtables…Vanessa Williams [1st black Miss America]…the Obamas…middle class white teenagers [were getting] their first glimpse of popular black culture…and…a peek at the future; by the 90s, black music and dance was the culture”); Adam Yauch (interesting take of his growth as an artist…but I could never get over the Beastie’s frat boy smirks and frat boy party/rap anthem from the 80s to take them very seriously).

My morning started with the Merton passage at the beginning of this post. It set the stage for my dip into the obits of 2012. On this morning, the obits provided a moment to put aside the plans, propositions and resolutions and do a little of that distinguishing work…”distinguishing the sun from the moon, the stars from the darkness, the sea from dry land, and the night sky from the shoulder of a hill”…life from death. It was by no means morbid. It was a pause that facilitated some much needed reflection. And while I do not aspire to a mention in the New York Times Magazine, I recognized the legacy that is my faith, my family, and my life’s work will ultimately be my obit. Even more than that, I was able to distinguish between “routine” and “extremely blessed” and give thanks for the blessing.

a little Thomas Merton to chew on…

It’s funny how Thomas Merton always challenges me at election time…

The aggressive and dominative view of reality places, at the center, the individual with its bodily form, its feelings and emotions, its appetites and needs, its loves and hates, its actions and reactions.  All these are seen as forming together a basic and indubitable reality to which everything else must be referred, so that all other things are also estimated in their individuality, their actions and reactions, and all the ways in which they impinge upon the interests of the individual self.  The world is then seen as a multiplicity of conflicting and limited beings, all enclosed in the limits of their own individuality, all therefore complete in a permanent and vulnerable incompleteness, all seeking to find a certain completeness by asserting themselves at the expense of others, dominating and using others.  The world becomes, then, an immense conflict in which the only peace is that which is accorded to the victory of the strong, and in order to taste the joy of this peace, the weak must submit to the strong and join them in their adventures so that they may share in their power.

— Thomas Merton, Choosing to Love the World

Peace!