Sunday, March 10, 2019

The Mimicry of Christ

“Finally beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, Whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, thing about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and see in me, and the God of peace will be with you.”
Philippians 4: 8-9 (NRSV)

Mimicry is the basis of who we are. As children we mimic the behaviors of those around us. We learn our place in the world by seeing others and imagining ourselves doing what they are doing. We see the actions they do leading to a desirable response, and thus we imitate. Think of a small child who wants something from mom. He see’s his older sibling ask mom for something and usually he gets it. The child then learns to ask, as the older sibling did, for something he wishes to have. This plays out hundreds of times in a day in our lives, even as adults. It is so ingrained in who we are that we do not even realize we are mimicking anyone or anything, unless we walk in deep awareness of it. This is one of the reasons that Paul is telling the Philippians to keep meditating on the good things of the world. The things that espouse truth, beauty, love, joy – all the desirable things. If we meditate on things that are not honorable, the fruit of our mind and heart, over time, will be things of ill repute. This may be an oversimplification, but for the point we just need to remember the old adage “garbage in, garbage out.” That which we meditate on creates that which we are made of and the fruits that we feast upon.

Once we mimic what we see enough we begin to cooperate with it more fully. We learn the social situations and the way to manipulate outcomes in order for the best solution for us to be presented. The rules of the game, unwritten, have been socially ensconced into how we go about our lives. While we are cooperating with the rules of the game, we are not changing any rules of the game, we are simply consuming that which is presented, and using it to our social goals.

As we mature and gain more social stature, we begin to co-create reality. We are now the mom or dad mentioned above deciding what the rules of the game are. I can decide to block the requests of my children and deny them the “game”, or I can acquiesce and allow them to accomplish what they desire. This is where it gets interesting, because minus deep awareness of it we often do not realize how much we create or destroy the rules of mimicry.

Television and media have hijacked our creativity and alienated us from the understanding that we are creators with Christ. He gave us the ability to change that which we see do and feel. We need not be passive observers and consumers in other people’s worlds. He wants us to become creators, creators of truth, beauty, love. This is why The Apostle Paul admonishes The Philippian church to think upon these things. The more they think upon them, the more they create good things and engage in creativity. God is Love, and He created as a natural outworking of that love. The more that we mimic Him and those things that are outworking’s of His love for us, the more we are able to cooperate lovingly with Him, and become creators of love as well.

As a spiritual exercise I try and speak affirmations over myself on a regular basis. It is a little strange sometimes, but saying I am strong, or I am wise, and stating it out loud I begin to create the reality that I am looking to see. Often times though my ego, the voice of the enemy, cranks up and says “You are not” and this implies lack. I lack nothing because Christ provides for it all. Jesus the Christ made the way. Psalm 34:10 states “the young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.” (ESV) I intentionally ask as a retort to the feeling I am not a simple question – “Who says?” Who says I am lacking, who says I do not have this ability or that? The answer often reveals in me who or what I have let become an idol in my life. Television and the advertisements it has create a constant sense of lack in us. No matter how many things you have, it creates discontent and demands more. For me, and many many others, television is an idol. Apply this to anyone and anything. Who are you making an idol of? Often times I find myself hanging on the affirmations, or lack of affirmations, from a person I give spiritual authority to. This is a good indication of making an idol of someone, and this is where we need to be careful. We are to listen to each other and prefer one another in love, but we need to be careful we have not created wolves in sheep’s clothing. Many times wolves do not even know they are wolves, that is until something happens and spiritual detriment for themselves, and those they shepherd is a result.

When we meditate on something, and we always will by our very nature, we create it. The more we meditate on the good and the beautiful and the holy things of the world, of which there are so very many, we will become creators of these things. We are not broken, we are not lacking in ability to create, we are not lacking because of “original sin” or any other doctrine of man that says you lack. You do not lack, you do not need others to create for you. You can create, you can believe, you can become because Jesus the Christ made a way for you to do so. All you need to do is receive (mimic), acknowledge (cooperate) and then create in our co-creator capacities with our Father God.

Be mindful of what you see and hear, be grateful for the words and actions done that created who you are today. Be woeful of giving to much authority to those who wield it, and walk in the authority you are given. Mimic that which is provided by God, the good and beautiful, and go and create. The world is waiting, create truth, beauty, love.


Saturday, November 17, 2018

A Moment With The Holy

Well, once again the holiday season is ramping up and I can feel the urgency of the season pressing in on me. If you are like me, I start to have a harder and harder time slowing down enough to listen and abide in my creators love. There is always an urgent now calling me forward out of the well worn groves of my routines I have during the rest of the year.

A few days ago I was at work in the lunchroom where we have a very large flat screen television that is always tuned into a national news station. On this day I saw a whole segment on the border wall in Mexico and the pictures were all of men and women climbing over the border wall. The rhetoric was angry, the information scroll on the bottom of the screen was full of angry tweets, and honestly the whole story was geared towards one thing - making me angry. Instead of feeling a seasonal hope and sitting and enjoying a co-workers company, I was forced to see and hear an assault on my senses.

A few minutes after sitting down with my food and watching this go on, I became aware of a 4 year old little boy and his baby brother sitting by themselves right behind me while mom and dad were just a few feet away getting food for the family. All of a sudden, in a bid to soothe his younger brother, the 4 year old starting singing "I love Jesus, Jesus love me" over and over again in the innocent meter and rhythm that a child his age would know. I felt the spirit quicken in me and tell me to slow down and listen. As all this anger was being pushed at me and all this agenda I was being forced to take in was flying at me a mile a minute. But a small child reminded me of Jesus love, and that even if I am angry at what is happening at the border, or I am not, Jesus loves those involved, and He has the cares covered.

The crazy thing that happened in that lunchroom is that I am pretty sure it fell utterly silent for a few seconds with the exception of the child singing. I may have just entered my own little zone of pause and it really did not happen that way, but it was very fascinating to feel the spirit slow things down and make room for the voice of a small child.

As the holiday season speeds up I have decided to embrace the uncomfortable, to get out of well worn patterns of life and maybe be just a little more observant of the things around me. God is orchestrating little life lessons and messages all around us every-single-day. I know this in my head, but sometimes the heart knowledge does not come so quickly. Sometimes we all need a voice of a little child to point us back to the heart of the matter, and that heart is the heart of our Father God.


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

My Perfect Imperfection

I want to introduce you to one of my favorite items, his name is Captain. I will think of a better name, but this will do. I make daily offerings to him, and he responds in kind by faithfully holding onto the nectar I provide. It is a symbiotic relationship, we enjoy our mornings together quite a bit. 

Captain came to me a few years ago when I walked by a pottery shop and saw him and knew we would be best friends. He was not cheap, but he has proven time and time again a faithful companion. He is hand made and as tough as a pirate should be. In two years he has not changed a bit. One day my grandchildren may inherit him if I continue to be good to him. 

The thing about the Captain, is that as perfect as he is for me, he is imperfect. Like all hand made items you can see along the inner rim that his base is not perfectly round, his handle is a little bit weak, but his pirate stare has not changed in all the time I have had him. He continues to look back at me with that one eye as if to remind me that I must make daily sacrifice to his gnarled and awesome soul. 

As I sat with him today God opened a thought to me about imperfection. He reminded me that nothing in this world is perfect, and nothing worth keeping is ever going to have absolute perfection. We can and should see the imperfections as a gift, not a curse. (Sorry captain, no curses and invectives towards my soul today) 

I have been watching a church I know bust open at the seems over doctrinal statements and creeds. It is as if, overnight, some people who have an alternative vision for what following Christ looks like have cracked the cup of their church. I am sad to see this because the church is, and always will be, the open vessel of grace to be poured out on the world and the people of the world. I am also glad to see this, because the words of prophets are never going to be easy. The words of the prophets speak life to the dead, and crack open the vessels of death that are thrusting themselves upon the rocks of the world. 

What if we saw imperfections not as flaws or opportunities, but as the mark of a creator who knew what he was doing, and still does? The captain and I have a long history together and I can imagine that the creator sitting at the pottery wheel imagining what he would one day look like had the same vision for him. The creator created him, even if he does not pass a microscopic examination of his imperfections. For me, he is perfect. 

Every man woman and child that enters this life has an inherent imperfection. You can call it the flesh, or the culture, or the way they were brought up. It all means the same thing, glorious imperfections. It is because of the imperfections that I see in the cup that I can see the work of the creator building upon the pottery wheel. It is because of this that I can see the creator. I may not know his name, where exactly he was when he built it, but he built it with being used as the end goal. He was never meant to sit on a shelf somewhere sneering at those who pass by. He was meant to be used, enjoyed, and cherished. It was also built so that when the molding was done it could pass through a fire for hours upon hours and come out not destroyed, but rather imbued with the soul of the person who created it. 

As I sit with my captain and consume the nectar he offers back to me, I realize that it is better than when I poured it in. The glorious thing about the coffee I make is that as it sits, the beans that I carefully hand selected continue to release the oils and the substances that make the coffee so powerful for me. It continues to imbue the flavors and aromas that make it so darn tempting and enjoyable. All this is present in this perfectly imperfect vessel. 

Imperfection is the mark of the creator. Imperfection means that you are hand woven and hand delivered into a world that while imperfect, holds perfection in it's hands and makes certain that the thing which it holds ages and creates a thing of absolute beauty. You are the wine in the chalice of God's design. 

As a society we look for perfection. We are actually imbued with the drive in our souls and minds to see perfection and to strive to attain it. The often annoying thing that happens though is we strive for perfection and look at that which is not symmetrical and perfect and say "this is flawed" and then toss it to the side. We need to stop looking at imperfections as problems, and start looking at them as places that remind us that God made us on the lathe of his choosing, and that the fire we can and will go through does not create an imperfect thing - it creates a beautiful thing of worth that will endure and continue to provide substance for generations to come. 

My challenge to myself, and to anyone who listens to me is to see the imperfections as a sign you are created, not that you are flawed. As we realize this and we work together for the kingdom we can see the flaws as places of God's design as we work towards the perfection we are spiritually attuned to seek. 

May this bring peace to the house, may this bring joy to the broken, and may this bring courage to those who see themselves as imperfect and thus not able to see God. Do not worry, God sees you. God knows you, and he is head over heels in love with what you are, who you are, and what you are going to become. You are HIS creation and you are part of HIS story being written in the cosmos. You are God's victory lap. 


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Well-Worn Path

Lock step motion, moving down the path
Never looking sideways, to the rear or ahead
Always moving forward, never ever last
See the guy in front of you blocking your path
Speed right on over him, never ever look back

Want to get ahead in life – well here is the path
You an individual can be at the head of the class
Follow the well-formed road, never ever off path
Forward always forward, never ever look back

You are an individual, this we decree
Go and get your degree, your car and your life
Follow the well-worn path, this we decree
You are an individual, because that’s what we sure see
But never ever ever do you get off the path
The well-worn path to living happily

Others have tried it, that is for sure
The road less traveled is a gravel road to hell
Why would you want to go down that nasty way?
Here is a well-worn path, the path to victory!

Hearing that still small voice, the one saying follow me?
Come meet our doctor, the one to share your victory.
Come meet our scientist who will show you the way
Come meet our teachers, the ones who will mold your way

Always an individual, always free
As long as you listen when we say
“Come follow me”

~Carl Holmes

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Defining My Why

Defining My Why

When I speak with someone and we are working through a scripture together or some other concept, I am well known for reminding people that the most engaging, as well as prophetic question you can ask of what you are reading or doing is “why?” I am being serious. No other question can define the text or the discussion more directly. If you do not know the why of the situation, the who what when and where loose context. When you lose context you open up multiple interpretations. This is not always bad. However, most of the times you need to understand the why in order to best operate in the present moment, or to engage in what you are reading or learning.

I have been reading Simon Sinek’s book Start With Why and he has some very insightful looks into organizations that start out by defining their why. Why do they exist? Why do they prosper? Why do they have so many early adopters who push the business further? I find this a fascinating concept and one that I think needs elaborated on further in another post. I want to take it into a personal place for a moment. As I was reading this morning I heard God ask “Have you defined your why?” I was startled for a moment at hearing it so clearly, and honestly I can say I have not. Not recently anyway. I had a personal mission statement for a time and I still take it out once in a while and ask myself tough questions, but it does not really get to the heart of who I am and why I am who I am. Here is a few things about me that I think most people who know me know, but some of it will be a surprise. This is me working to define my why and refine the thoughts a little bit further.

1)      I exist in this time and space in order to champion the cause of those who are left on the margins and who are cast aside by economic and religious injustice. I especially resonate with those who are outcast and set aside not by themselves, but by systemic and unrelenting pressure from religious and governmental pressures. Those who are told conform, reform and be reborn. This is where I am passionate, this is where I live.

2)      Every book I read or scripture I exposit has this question in mind “Who is this marginalizing?” Most people hate this question because it can bring about uncomfortable feelings and conversations with one self. The entire Bible testifies to the goodness of God. Everything God has done, especially the sending of His son, was to upend the systemic you are in/you are out mentality and the spiritual poverty it brings. I John 4:12No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (NIV) We are ambassadors of love. Where love is, so exists Christ.

3)      I exist in the here and now to sometimes (maybe oftentimes even) be the burr in the saddle of the establishment. We as a religion, as a society, are diseased and are ensconced in the duality of life. Rich/poor, Good/bad etcetera. This is killing our society and I say enough. The Apostle Paul reminds the church at Ephesus in Ephesians to “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Again and again the Bible makes peace the priority. I struggle in keeping bonds of peace when all I want to do is go to war on behalf of the marginalized. I may not be able to go to war, but I do have a voice and I will use it passionately and persuasively on behalf of those who have been nullified by the current system.

Some of you know my current vocation. This has nothing to do with who I work for, and everything to do with it. What we do is awesome, but it is very limited on scope and direction. I aim higher and bigger. I want to see God’s love plastered everywhere. I believe my soul will not be at rest until I know it is done.

Some push around the label liberal when they think of me. That is fine, but it is just a label. Labels create duality, and it is the duality mindset that is oppressing so many millions, if not billions of people. What will it take for us to speak in a unified manner?

Organized religion will never answer fully for nor completely be able to beat the duality mindset. As long as there are organizations to maintain and a disembodied other out there that the organization must rally against in order to create unity, the point is being missed entirely. The answer is that each one of us makes the determination for ourselves, and we all set about radically and openly engaging with the idea that none is better than the other, money is not the object, religion only really divides – and that ALL people, ALL nations can and should pursue the love of the creator in any way they know how. We should get out of the way of our neighbors, and instead watch, love and learn.

I have a whole lot of work to do – a lifetime of work to do on this. I will fail, but there is grace in the journey. Will you go on the journey as well? Will you deem love worth working for? Will you begin to ask yourself the why in everything you do or say? It will take time, it will take honesty, and it will take courage that is rarely seen. But it is time.

I exist to raise the vibration of the cosmos with love. Love of God, love for myself, and love for all. Nothing else will do.


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Peace Be With You

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit,
 singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:15-17 NIV

As followers of the way we are called to peace. Radical and obedient peace. I find this extremely difficult because along with peace one can easily extrapolate that rest is part of this as a byproduct of peace. I will go as far as to say that peace and rest go hand in hand and you really cannot have one without the other.

We often hear people talking about the hard-fought peace. Men went to war and died for peace. We put our resources and lives on the line for peace, we fight for it. This is the peace of the world. Jesus states in John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, do not be afraid.” A heart that is at peace is a heart that rests. A heart that is at rest is a heart that can be thankful.

Gratitude comes up two different times in this short passage in Colossians and I believe it is the lynchpin for this section of scripture. A heart that aims at gratitude is a heart that can be at peace because it knows that God is the author and the giver of all that is. Rest is then a logical outcome of realizing that all that you have is from God and that we need not fight for it – we must only receive it.

I have been struggling with resting lately. Everything in the world tells us to fight. Politics, religion, education, our daily commute ad  infinitum. This is birthed in the old man mindset of duality. Right vs. wrong, good vs. evil, Christian against heathen etcetera. Duality of mind is a divided mind, and we are reminded in Colossians to put on the mind of Christ. Christ prayed in John 17 that we may be unified as He is unified with the father. How does one walk in unity? Peace. Walk in the bonds of peace.

History is replete with war. One nation bombs another, the other retaliates with a bigger bomb, the other gets allies with bigger bombs and the cycle is endless. This is true of any cycle, war is just a big example. But, what if one of the parties says ENOUGH ALREADY, we are not going to retaliate. What then? Will the other nation continue? Possibly. Over time though what happens when one does not fight back? The eventual outcome is peace.

God is so big on peace and rest because it puts us in a place to receive our security not from living in the biggest house, or the biggest nation, but from Him. As I write this God is showing me so many places that I still do not rest in him. I know not what to do except to “count my blessings, name them one-by-one. Stop and let me see what the Lord has done.”

Gratitude truly is an attitude. It is one that must be cultivated like any attitude. Amid the suck, find something to be thankful for. At the top of the mountain, find something to be thankful for. Do it again and again and the peace that passes all understanding and the rest that comes in that will be in your heart.


Sunday, May 14, 2017

On Toasters and Trampolines

On Toasters and Trampolines

 Let us take a moment and let our imaginations take the forefront. I want you to close your eyes and try and do what I am about to ask you.

Imagine you have been asked to host a family that is new to America in your home. You jump at the chance to build a cross cultural relationship with the ones coming to stay with you. You do all your homework, you clean the house and make it as nice as possible and the day finally arrives for you to meet this new family. You bring them home and help them settle into their new room, you work on language and all the other things you need to do, but you never stop to ask yourself one question; “Who are these individuals?”

Imagine this family is from a small tribe in Africa and they are now refugees. Do you know anything about their culture? Do you expect them to know your culture? Imagine coming home one day and seeing the children with the toaster in the back yard and putting it on a trampoline just to see it bounce. The children have no reference point for understanding what a toaster does, or why a trampoline can be so much fun. I encourage you to imagine explaining what a toaster is for to the mother of the family. 1) Take a slice of bread. But what is bread? They made only small cakes of corn for their meals. 2) Plug the toaster in. What does plugging a toaster in mean? Why is that essential? 3) Let the toaster burn the bread until it is golden brown. Why do you allow a potential fire in your home every day? Stay along these lines of thinking and take it as far as you can go with it. The cultural understandings and underpinnings of our culture are so assumed and so engrained in us that it is just about impossible to understand them all and how they impact you.

The rules and social norms of a culture are learned not in a day, but over a lifetime. From the time we are born until the time we die, humans mimic other humans. We spend countless hours watching other humans doing human things and deciding for ourselves if that is good or not. Children mimic those around them and learn the rules of the playground so to speak from those who are around them. Every person ever born is a product of culture. (For an excellent book on this I recommend Andy Crouch’s book Culture Making) Learning the rules of a culture gives you power and autonomy over yourself. As you grow you learn to abide by, or buck the social norms you learned in order to get what you want.

When we approach The Bible, or any book really, the first understanding we must have of what we read is that it is a product of a culture. There is so much benefit to reading books from different cultures. There are so many good books out there that are like a mission trip to a different culture all in the palm of your hand. If you read the book without at least an understanding that the cultural assumptions of the author are going to be different you will find yourself reading a confusing jumble of words. But if you take your time to read and research as you become bewildered you will find the payoff to be immense. The Bible is a product of many many cultures over many thousands of years. Most of the cultures are now completely extinct, and those that are still here are mere echoes of what they were.

A wonderful teacher in the church on cross cultural communication is a man by the name of Vigo Sogaard. He summarizes five relationships that need to be defined to begin understanding a culture. This is by no means all inclusive, but it shows some of the challenges we have when it comes to cultural communication of values. We must define the relationship of the individuals of a culture to God, to self, and to others, with creation and with the church.

I am not trying to write an academic paper, but I want to encourage you to think of some of these things as you read scripture. When you read those Old Testament stories that make you scratch your head and think that God must be crazy and that the words must be translated incorrectly. How might our approach to scripture change if we willingly do a little bit of work to understand the cultural assumptions of the people writing the scripture?

Most Bibles have a page of two at the beginning of each book that orients you to the people who wrote the book and about when it took place. I encourage you to start there. If it picks your brain and you want to know more a good Google search of the information presented will give you a bigger overview of the times and places of the words being spoken.

All this to say, please do not read a bible verse and assume that it explicitly backs you up and that you are right. It is an act of humility to dig in into the scripture and let it form you instead of forming the scripture to suit you.

Confirmation bias is the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one's existing beliefs or theories. (Source) Confirmation Bias is a heck of a drug as well. It rewards the pleasure centers of our brain when we feel we have been shown to be right. Like any drug, we work harder and harder to get more and more of it. It is a cycle that can be spiritually deadly. It is also incredibly divisive and destructive as the more and more you think you are right, the more and more you manufacture divisions and people and things to hate in order to be proven correct. Reading scripture slowly and in a culturally aware manner is an act of resistance.

As we mature as followers of The Way, if we are going to be impacted in our reading of scripture, as well as our engagement with people of other cultures, we must walk in deep and abiding awareness of the mystery of each culture and how they come to see and know God. We must walk with humility and do our best to drop cultural blinders in order to understand and to enter into their world. To commune with our brothers and sisters from the past in the Bible and then to commune with our neighbors across the street. Humility and patience are hallmarks of the multicultural life of a Christian. We all have work to do in this area. God is good though, and His throne of grace extends over the entire universe.


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

When That Which Calls You Wounds You

When That Which Calls You Wounds You

  James 1:2-4 (NRSV)

God is a God of promises. How many times have we heard that? How many of us can rest in it truly? I am the guy who when you tell me that will look for the proviso’s and the asterisks in the contract. Thank God, he is covenantal, not contractual.

What is less popular to say is that God will answer those promises in His time. If you are like me, I want it to be in my time. I am Chronos time – linear and if this then this will happen. God is Kairos time, He promised, and He will deliver. However, it will likely be in a manner we do not expect.
In 2005 God gave me a promise that I have held onto. I have worked towards it, laid a firm foundation, examined and re-examined my character and my heart and my life in preparation. But if I had my way, in 2005 that promise would have been fulfilled right then and there and I would be that which God has called me to be. The suck part of that is, I would not have the character needed to do that which he has said I would do. I would be a burned-up pile of rubble on the Roman road to their vision of progress. I would not even be a cog in a wheel on the stage coach using the road to progress. I would be a pile of ash the local farmers were using to fertilize the fields to empress the emperor as he rode by. Burned up, useless, a no-one.

The above scripture was given by James to the remnant of Israel that somehow survived the sacking of Jerusalem. In 70 A.D., the Romans had enough of the subversives and decided to be done with them. They did a remarkably precise job in breaking them down and demoralizing them to the point that some of those who survived just walked off a cliff to not need to deal with the consequences of Rome’s actions. And yet, here is James telling them to consider it to be joy. I would be reading this thinking James got himself some good reefer and was being ridiculous. Except, he was not. He was reminding them to endure, and the best way to endure is with joy in your heart.

Joy is an elusive concept because only you can decide for you if you are joyful. Only you can look at your life and say, “this is joy” – no one can or will define it for you. Joy is a slippery thing, and often the moment we say we have it, it gets slippery and tries to leave. We must continually and actively cultivate the heart of joy and gratitude. How do you cultivate joy while embracing the suck? I am not sure. I think contemplating eternity helps though.

I love reading about all the new discoveries we are finding in our galaxy. It is incredible to see what we are beginning to see and just begin to comprehend about the universe and our place in it. What I am learning more and more is just how old and how beautiful our universe is. God’s handiwork on display as the psalmist puts it. For me, this calms my soul. Knowing that God of the universe who has been creating for an eternity that we cannot even truly comprehend, made a covenant with me. Not a contract, no proviso’s, a covenant. God is for me always, and he will allow the pain to develop a covenantal Carl. One who will hold onto Him and His words, even when it does not make sense.

Israel has seen God’s faithfulness amid so much pain. Israel is still so much of God’s pleasure and He is creating a lover for Himself in them – but also in us. How cool is that? We are being shaped, molded, prodded, begged o change in character to be that which we are designed to be, all by the God of eternity.

I could go on and on, but I have an appointment under the stars with my creator. Want to come join me? Let us search His innumerable and incalculable universe together and talk about God’s promises to us.


Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Goodness of God

“Original blessing is simply what happens when God steadfastly decides to be in relationship with us. That relationship bestows goodness upon us, and also within us. We are steadfastly
And benevolently tethered to God”
Danielle Schroyer in Original Blessing: Putting Sin in Its Rightful Place

I have been adrift in the theological world as of late, allowing my mind to wander where God would have it to go and letting The Spirit speak to me in ways that it wishes. It is hard for me to do sometimes, it is a very contemplative exercise. I love and hate it. But God has met me every-single-time in some very unexpected ways. One thing that keeps coming to the forefront of my thoughts and prayers is the idea of Gods goodness and mercy. We talk about them all the time, but do we meditate on them much? Do we let that sink in?

The goodness of God is evident everywhere and all the time. Romans 2:4 states that it is God’s goodness (or kindness in some translations) that leads men unto repentance. God is good, and His goodness is what fulfills me every day, but can be a total terror for others. Goodness, like grace, abounds everywhere and for everyone. I did not make a grammatical error there, it is for everyone. Let that sink in….

When God hovered over the firmament in Genesis and was surveying all that He created He said, “it was very good…” Genesis 1:31 (NIV) God did not look at his creation and say aww nuts, fleas? I made fleas? He looked at them and declared they were good, just as He looks and you and I and declares we are good.

God’s relationship to His people and His creation did not change the moment we ate of the apple at the tree. The way man knew and related to God changed. God’s goodness did not stop in the garden, it continued, and continues to this day. What has changed is the way that we see God. Instead of seeing His benevolence and taking part in it freely, we see ourselves as flawed and unable to partake of His mercy and grace and love. Nothing could be further from the truth, He is still wooing us into a divine dance with Him. All we need to do is stop and listen to the rhythm and join in as he comes around the dance floor, and He is always dancing.

When I was in the 6th grade, I went to my first school dance. As a young and hormone ridden kid (I would tell you I was a man back then because I had a deep voice) I had someone in mind to ask to dance. I was so nervous that I went into the bathroom and almost threw up. I begged a breath mint off a teacher to not offend the one I had set mine eyes upon. Once my head was clear, my resolve steady, and my breath as fresh as it would be – I dove in. I asked Darcy, the young woman I had been on the hunt for, to dance. I never was so nervous up to that point in my short life. I had imagined her answer from the moment I decided to ask her. She was going to say yes, tell me she had been waiting all night for me to ask, and we were going to be steady from that night into eternity. Instead I got the firm NO, a giggle, and a look from her friend that told me I was shopping in the upscale neighborhood, and I was a trailer park boy. I was crushed. How could she not want to be seen with me, a newly formed man well ahead of the pack in puberty?

I tell this story because the dance we are invited to with God is like the awkward first school dance. God is that kid who gets on the dance floor and just has a good time. He does not look to another to validate that he is cool and that he is the best dancer, he-just-dances. He sets the tone for the rest of the night. As he dances a young woman may come along and step into his rhythm, and then another, and then another. Those who are too shy to immediately ask a girl to dance get in there and the dance continues. Maybe you line dance, maybe you do The Electric Slide, maybe you just shake your butt and have a good time. The point is, the prime mover, that first person starts the whole thing. That first person is the goodness of God.  He makes it okay to step onto the dance floor, and he woo's you to join in the goodness. But He is a gentleman and He will not make you join the dance. However He will overwhelm you with the sense of joy and love and grace. You can sit on the outskirts of the dance floor, nurse your punch until you are so hopped up with sugar that you brain is about to bounce out of your ears, and you can even leave. But the joy of the dance, started by that one kid who had the guts to dance, will still beckon you.

So often we all sit on the side of the dance floor and recount all the reasons that we cannot or should not be a part of the dance. We list our sins, our faults, our responsibilities that keep us from partaking in the divine dance. We give every reason, all-the-while seething with jealousy for that one kid that started the rave. What we should remember is that the kid who started the dance does not care what is going on in your life, he just wants to dance. Dancing is more fun with others, and he wants you to join. This is why God created us, to be co-creators of love, goodness, kindness, mercy and grace. When we decide to dance, those problems, worries and barriers tend to melt away. 

Now get out there and dance in the goodness of God. GO, STOP READING THIS – DANCE you freak, DANCE!


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Is it a Journey, or an Immigration?

I have been thinking about the Jews as they walked toward Jerusalem and the temple a lot, and I really wonder what the mindset of a pilgrim would have been like. Was the trip to the temple an act of devotion? Or, was it an act of obedience that had to be sweated through and done because it is just "what we do?"

Most of the people travelling to Jerusalem would have been on foot. Those who were lucky enough to have livestock they could ride such as donkeys were the few. Even if a person of moderate wealth had livestock, it is likely the livestock was press-ganged into service on the homestead and could not be taken away for the journey. Sore feet and cranky dispositions would have likely been the biggest battle. Reciting the Psalms of Ascent was likely a way of fighting of fatigue, as well as focusing the mind and spirit during those times it would be easy to fall prey to bad attitude.

We love to think of life as a journey like the journey the Jews would take to the temple. So often though a journey is defined by a time frame. Can you imagine leaving for the temple and telling your family and friends that were not going that you would be going and not having any idea of when you will return? Most people would have at least a good idea of when they could get home. I cannot imagine leaving the house and telling my bride that I will be back whenever. I usually can give a close approximation of time. But here is the thing, our spiritual lives are an immigration. An immigration is different because you leave your place of comfort in hope of reaching a better place. The ticket you buy is a one way ticket with a general direction and no planned return. You intend to settle and begin conducting your affairs in a new place.

If we view our lives as believers as an immigration and not a journey, what would change in us? What would be the defining characteristics of our Christian lives? Immigration instead of journeying is permanent and as such a few things will be needed.

1) All of your essentials. You may get rid of many different things and cut down your supplies, but ultimately you are taking everything without plan to return.

2) Your family. In view of it being a permanent move, one cannot leave family behind.

3) Your ability to adapt. When you migrate you will be in a new culture, a new place, and often a whole new set of cultural assumptions and priorities. You must be willing and able to adapt.

These are just 3 of many things, but this sounds a lot like the Christian life does it not? While we are living in a culture, we live as aliens (Heb 11:13) with allegiance to the culture and country we are raised in, but with the ultimate allegiance to Jesus of Nazareth. While we are on this earth we are not journeying with the plan to return home (or to our old ways) - instead we look with faith at that which is ahead of us and never looking back. We live a life as an alien, we have left home and are on a Christian journey towards that which lays before us in faith.

When you are Immigrating it is so very easy to want to hold onto those things that defined you as a person before. Culture infers status and symbolism of importance. To leave your culture is to leave behind all that is familiar. In order to truly thrive in a new culture you must leave much of what you know behind. You may carry the wisdom of your elders and culture with you, but in order to adapt to a new culture you must be willing to leave much of it behind.

Jews who were travelling on a journey to the temple traveled with hope. They looked forward to the revelation of God and to being with God and one another on the journey. Hope was imbued in everything they did. They were "forward looking in their faith" as the book of Hebrews states. As Christians, can we follow their lead and have a forward looking faith? Can we look with optimism at the road before us with faithful knowledge that the road will eventually lead to the feet of the Temple?

I do not say this to be political, but if you are a Christian, you are an immigrant. You have one foot in the culture of today and are working in it as an exemplar of hard work, but you live with the understanding that your ultimate destination lies not in this culture or this world - it is greater, and oh so very worth the journey.


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Psalm of Ascent #2

"O LORD, my heart is not lifted up. 
my eyes are not raised to high;
I do not occupy myself with things to great and 
to marvelous for me. 
But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned
child with it's mother; like a weaned child is my soul
within me. 

O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore."

Psalm 131 is a short but poignant reflection on the God of Israel. I can imagine a traveler on his way to Jerusalem beginning to work out the internal heart workings of worship and starting to address the humility needed in order to enter the temple properly and with respect. It is hard to genuflect if your heart is not in the right place. We are all great at lip service, most of us not always so great at having a heart to match the lip service. 

"My heart is not lifted up nor are my eyes raised to high." This is the pilgrim examining his heart and making sure he is not to proud of himself, nor that he feels he can look high and see and speak for God. He is preparing to hear God and praying the Psalm like it is a Psalm of examine. Stop and close your eyes for a minute and enter into the Psalmist shoes. You are dusty, dirty, tired and hungry. You likely have walked for days, or are preparing to walk for days. You are blistered, sore, yet fulfilled and energized by the thousands of pilgrims you are on the road with going where you are going. There are no strangers on this path, only fellow friends and pilgrims. 

"I do not occupy myself with things to great and marvelous for me." I cannot but think of the pilgrim clearing his mind and focusing only on that which is before him - a long road and the big unknown. The future is to great and marvelous, the past is already done. How often do we bind ourselves up with thoughts of the past holding us back, and the thought of an unknown future keeping us in fear? The Psalmist knows the long road can lead to much introspection, as it rightfully should. But he is clearing his mind of those things that so easily bind. He is calming his soul. 

The Mimicry of Christ

“Finally beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, Whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendab...