I have to stop what I normamlly talk about to talk about a problem I'm seeing everywhere.
I don't think too many people decorated with sleds when I was a kid. The main reason was, if a misguided person tried to decorate with an honest-to-goodness winter vehicle of fun, at the first sign of snow, that thing would be a gonner!
This year, I've counted at least 12 decorative sleds. Actually, I've lost count. What I mean is these are REAL sleds adored and propped up on porches for decorative purposes only. People! THIS IS WRONG. I have half a mind to save these poor sleds myself and give them a proper life on snow. I want to wax up their blades with a little candle, like I did when I was a kid, and jump on their backs and whip down a good hill.
You see, these sleds are in no danger of being stolen for purposes of fun. Kids play guitar hero now and get very fat. They text message each other, and stay on Facebook. They don't care about cruising down a fast slope on a blade sled that's just standing out on any number of porches in the neighborhood, looking like it's gift wrapped just for me, I mean them. They probably would have NO SKILLS AT ALL! They would let the pull string go under the blades and grind to a halt, fly off sideways, or wouldn't even know how to steer one very well, and smash into a tree or something. It'd be nothing like a WWii game, so how would they know what they were doing? Well? Well?
What is happening to blades sleds should be stopped. They aren't merely a winter decor option! Find something else to put a bow on that seems wintery. Try a fake snowman or something. Ugh.
Some will tell you it's to get us out of the terrible economy. We almost have a responsibility to SPEND. How else can we put people to work, and help companies, than to buy the goods and services that keep people in the jobs they have? Don't we HAVE TO be consumers at this point?
Some people will tell you the reason for the season is THE CROSS. My mom sent along a song in four part harmony that coaxed us to remember it was not the presents under the tree, but the cross, that was the reason for the season. Jesus' death, not his birth is the reason for the season.
Some will tell you, it's not religious, that's all hype. Jesus was really born in April, and this is all a bunch of pretense. We pretend he was born in December, but it's all just another load of hooey.
Some will tell you the reason for the season is Santa, or the Festival of Lights, or the Winter Solstice, or Kwanzaa, or being with those you love, or you own personal reason.
I think it's just simple. God became flesh. The Incarnation. Yes other things happened, and they were important, but without the miracle of the Incarnation, the glory of this fact, and the grace of it, we don't have as much, in a sense, because so much is left out.
You can weigh in . . . maybe your reasons are different.
Maybe you like Frosty the Snowman, or listening to the Chipmunks this time of year. Have you found the Reason, reason enough?
They are people of prayer. They go to God in times of need. They make intercession for others. They’ve seen prayers answered time and again, and we take our needs to them when we have them. It’s almost like we feel they have a better, or more direct, line to the Almighty. Maybe they’ve gotten some brownie points for putting in major time with God. (if he was that type of God, but he isn't) For some reason, these types are warriors of prayer, and everyone knows it. Maybe you fit in this category? Maybe you know someone who does?
You may have heard of prayer warriors, but have you ever heard of prayer ninjas?
What about prayer aces? What about prayer paratroopers, or prayer foot soldiers? Oh, they’re real. They are very real.
A Prayer Ninja is, of course, impossible to spot at first. You’ll be having a conversation with a normal seeming person, and suddenly they will say, ‘Let’s pray about that, right now!” And you will think, “Right here, in the check out line?” And twelve minutes later they will finish their prayer, but you will have only been thinking about how caught off guard you were by their prayer ninja skills.
A Prayer Ace is the type admired by all. One doesn’t want to follow a Prayer Ace at Prayer Meeting on Wednesday nights. Somehow they always have the right things to say, and can use fairly flowery language. Their only weaknesses are going too long, or throwing in a “thee” or “thou” to sound religious. Everyone knows God can’t stand Elizabethan language in Bibles or prayers these days.
A Prayer Paratrooper is the type to add noises, words, and comments while others are praying. They say things like, “Thank you, Jesus,” or “Yes, Lord.” Sometimes they mummer, sigh, or make other affirming sounds, or audible signs to show they are involved or profoundly moved by what is happening.
A Prayer Foot Soldier will always be willing to take a personal hit for the team. Often at their own social peril, for lack of gifting or preparation, they will sort of bungle their way through a prayer when asked to do it on the spot. Often they pray rather quietly because this sort of thing has happened before. Nevertheless, they will do it time and again because they are good people.
You might be one of these people, and that’s okay.
It’s good to remember that when it comes to prayer it’s not up to you or me. Prayer is not voodoo. It’s not magical. Prayer, in itself, is not even what changes situations. It’s the God we pray to that makes the difference in our lives. It is God that helps us live with what ever the situation turns out to be.
I’m writing a book on prayer right now, so stay tuned for many more ideas, (including ones like these that aren't going to be super serious) about prayer.
Now it's your turn: Which prayer person would you admit to being sometimes? Can you think of other types? (be creative)
I am putting my Outsourcing Jesus book on the back burner to simmer for the moment, and fast-tracking a shorter but more paradigm shifting book, to the fore.
Using the life of Brother Lawrence as a motif, I want to show how life can be "changed into prayer."
I'm in the process of building some networks to help me with the material, garnish support, and endorse this project.
If you are interested in the subject of prayer, growing closer to God, or like Brother Lawrence, "practicing the presence of God" (being aware that he is with you all the time and communing with him continually) please be in touch.
Then, you can be in the loop for sneak peeks, specials, and updates. We can also dialogue together. That makes it all more interesting for everyone.
Lawrence had a beautiful way to see the world, blending the sacred into the secular. He saw God and his glory just about everywhere, and the joy and love of God overflowed in his life, lowly as it was.
He was famous for saying that the world is "God’s book” that may teach us many things, if we have the eyes to see it. (42 Practicing the Presence of God, Lawrence)
I can't wait to share more with you!
What about you? What have been your thoughts about "praying continually"? How has it worked or not worked for you?
Stayed tuned for more on prayer, and seeing life from a different vantage point. thanks. Lisa
(this was pilfered from a facbook entry of mine and edited a little...)
Taking a person's life is a crime for which one can never repay or compensate. Imagine! I think that is why only God can atonement for that, and why the OT atonement sacrifices didn't cover those. Temple infractions (ceremonial/ritual), court issues, and national sins are lumped up and confused sometimes by most people who don't study the bible. That's what sacrifices were for, never for individual sins.
Eye for eye stuff, was a court issue and dealt in money (an eye's worth, of course) It was to curb revenge as well. Crimes against others (which are against God) It seems they cannot be repaid once something is taken.
This is why Love trumps karma (there is a book with this title) --karma meaning cause & effect, as we know and experience it/ or sow & reap, some call it. Forgiveness, or grace can cancel debt. That is what is at stake- or true, I believe, when it comes to us and God. The eternal Mind, the Source of Good, and Justice and Truth, is not compatible with us (bridged to) until something is reconciled.
It seems to me that if you keep things very basic you stand a much better chance at survival.
The plans of expansion, or conquering some domain, a big organizational process, and so forth all fall to realize the simple relationships that hold these sorts of things together.
In the end, it is people that make up and carry out the complicated ideas in ministry, or anything else, so the simpler the better. The break can often be chalked up to people not getting along. It's just a simple thing, though they are caught in a complex web of structures. We get lavish ideas sometimes thinking that the more sophisticated they are, or even the more efficient, the more our problems will be eased. The systems are not, in fact, the true problems, it mostly boils down to people getting along well, or not getting along well. No matter which template you plop into place, when things go wrong, or not the best mainly you have people you do not know how to behave well, and love well, and do well together.
I would wish for a tiny budget and simplicity over a big budget, big plans, and complicated systems that overlook the nature of the basics, and the nature of people, any day.
Today our pastor (Jeff Byerly) said one of the traits of God's family is that it says "I won't give up on you."
God, though fully Other (not a human being, though once incarnated) manifests all the traits of the perfect parent.
The community of believers has the chance to be the prefect functional family of God. Not that this really happens, or can because we all fail, but through our imperfections, and God's love, his power and love is perfected in our weakness. Our brokenness can be mended, our hurts healed or lessened.
I believe "community" is a work in progress. You can haggle over the part of speech that it is formally, of course. But I think 'COMMUNITY" can take the form of a verb, noun, or adjective in how people that follow Jesus seek to do good to each other. Not giving up on each other plays into this.
I posted this at a friend's blog and I thought I'd like my readers to take a peek too. He posted a great question about suffering. I encourage you to check out his site and his books. Jim is an amazing human being. (Jim Palmer divinenobodies.com)
My response: what a fantastic question.
I doubt the answers are easy... not simple...
In an abstract sense, from my purview of reality, I think it becomes painful to realize we live in a world where great suffering exists. We have a chance to be "the hands and feet of Jesus", but the structures that cause evil do not get fixed. We also participate in our own injustice each time we fail to be kind, or we pass judgment, or we, even in a small way, participate or support unfairness. As we continue in the spiritual stages of development (see E. Liebert's "Changing Life Patterns") slowly we learn to integrate the contradictions and competing truths, not enjoy them, but learn to balance them in tension, so we can live in hope, and do our best in Love.
In a practical sense, I believe, the council of God's Work as narrative, seen in four parts speaks, to this terrible conundrum as well. Within most of the narratives, but in the whole biblical work, the themes surface of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation. Creation is perfection and goodness and beauty. It tells us how good we are to God, and also how things were once, before they broke. Fall tells us the "why" of all that has and will go wrong in the world, the suffering. It does NOT excuse it, but it helps account for it. Redemption is seen right away in Scripture, in the garden in fact, we don't even need to wait long. God redeem us and loves us, and likes us. He wants to be with us.
Consummation helps us understand that there is hope to come. Redemption does solve all the problems of this world. It may not remove our suffering, and heal every wound we may encounter around each bend. A new physical earth is promised in which wrongs will be righted, all justice will reign. Sometimes this may help us bear the horrors of this world. I think this dependence on God, this faith and giving our heart to a good God in the mist of competing realities can make the difference between hope and despair.
Love to all of you.
(this is still a messy situation. but it does give a little context that can be helpful. I think it's a journey, not a destination)
I've been reading the very academic book by Elizabeth Liebert "Changing Life Patterns: Adult Development in Spiritual Direction".
She speaks of the phase that happens once you realize that two contradictory statements can be true. Or, a statement can be true and not true at the same time. Living with paradoxes sets a person into a "more advantaged" (though not necessarily more holy) spiritual stage, and this can be disorienting for a while. For some, they are filled will doubts and they resist growth, or lapse in some way. Other struggle badly and come out into a new spiritual stage, after a bit. It helps to have a spiritual director or guide at times like these who is there to walk with you.
When one understands the world differently then before a "meta-logic" is needed for understanding contextual situations. old answers, simple ones, don't work any longer. Life is more nuanced and requires understanding of a differently reasoned sort.
Liebert notes 6 stages of spiritual development. Most overestimate their stage. Christians, stack up overwhelmingly in stages 3 and 4, and remain there, rarely making forays beyond in a permanent way.
In reading the writings of John Wesley ("A Plain Account of Christian Perfection") I can see how much his heart, mind, and strength was directed to serving God. For Methodism, he developed methods for this to play out in others, most times in groups.
The desire was to help others love God and be holy.
But what struck me is that many of the methods involved the outward modes to reach what he called "Christian Perfection". (fasting, prayer, bible reading, chastity, church attendance, group attendance, and more) What struck me was how this could degenerate into religion made up of mainly behavior modification, albeit well-intended. At worst, it could be very oppressive, legalistic, and judgmental. In other words, not God-like.
We can still see traces of this in Christianity, and in what atheists rile against.
God isn't trying to modify our behavior. He is trying to love us. No, wait! He DOES love us. Sin bars that. But not behavior (that's not the whole picture). That process means we get cleaned up, but loving him is really the true aim. We think it could be about performing suitably. It's sad to see things misplaced, especially Love and reconciliation.
Christians sometimes tend to push their agendas. People with bad experiences with Christians and church have poisoned views of church, religion, Christians, and God. But really we all long for love, beauty, truth, justice. In our attempts to dialogue, I contend we should builds bridges, and realize our common longings, not pick at other's wounds, or pound them with apologetics.
Here is some interesting dialogue I encountered. Weigh in with your thoughts.
------ from x: lisa—you’re absolutely correct that [certain] reality is in the eye of the beholder. Seeing a perfect rose one day might impress upon me the beauty of the world at large one day and the next depress me because of the shallowness of what is accepted as “beauty”.
I don’t read Craig as being any less insistent upon his version of reality than anyone else, but perhaps I’m wrong. Each of us experiences the world and crafts our own reality from it. The dinner I just ate was “okay” to me but “great” to my husband. These are, I suppose, competing versions of reality and neither of us will be able to change the other’s mind. There may be no “neutral standpoint”, but that doesn’t mean we can’t discuss our experiences and both come away richer for it.
I’m not sure that science produces elitism any more than any other discipline (talk to any theologian, philosopher, or historian—or their armchair varieties). I’m not certain that science & religion are so at odds, I just think they describe vastly different matters. Just as philosophical logic is ill-suited to maths, mathematical logic is ill-suited to philosophy. Religion and science are similarly compatible but separate. I think a scientific approach to the Divine is idiotic—and a religious approach to science is criminal.
So we’re left with experiences. My experience of the Church of my parents is one of oppression, violence, and hatred. I’ve met wonderful people whose experience of that same religion is uplifting, peaceful, and holy. I’m baffled by that, but I respect it. My experience of atheism has been a community of disaffected ex-religionists who, in community, find solace, comfort, and safety away from the violence that religion has done to us.
Personally, I think it’s irresponsible of AA to preach God as a way to get over addiction. That’s not getting over addiction, that’s replacing a physically damaging addiction with a mentally damaging one.
I agree that there probably isn’t an “absolute truth” or definite answer to life, the universe, and everything (unless it’s 42), but I also think that you can touch truth, beauty, and perfection to know it exists. Sometimes, knowing that Justice is out there is the only thing that gives me hope. But I don’t pray to her, or worship her. I find it difficult to believe that any god needs my worship and adoration, or cares enough about my puny human problems to intercede & change the universe so that I’m happy. I think meditation/prayer are useful tools for me to get a grip on my own psyche and that ritual serves a need for routine. Just about every other aspect of religion (besides community) seems inherently dangerous, disingenuous, and, for want of a better word, evil.
26Craig // Nov 2, 2008 at 8:51 pm
x, it’s actually “47″.
But other than that, I agree completely.
27lisa // Nov 3, 2008 at 6:29 am
I just loved your post x. I totally agree with your “touch truth” sentence.
I’m surprised that you say that your atheist friends are made up of people who are just people who been hurt by religion. I should say I’m not surprised, too. I’ve been hurt by Christians too, and churches. Not good ones, though. Problem ones. It is a broken world. Free choice = potential problems, but also opportunity to do good freely as well. It so sad when people fail the God they supposedly love. It does much damage, I agree very much.
I guess to me it just seems like an emotional reason to not believe in God, not a very logical one, though the logical reason I guess get thought of later. I thought your group would be more thoughtful, coming from a more neutral spot. That’s so sad to hear, and my heart goes out to you and your friends. That totally sucks. If I had the chance I would love to speak to those who hurt you and tell them a few things.
I’m so sorry those things happened. They did the opposite of Love. In a community of love, those things are fought against. I experience the best and closest, most beautiful friendship you could imagine. My family was screwed up, but now I get to experience true Love, and I can tell you it’s very life changing. It’s not based on a rejection of another group for bonding and solace though. I truly hope you can find healing for the evils done against you.
Have you forgiven them?
28 x // Nov 3, 2008 at 3:20 pm
I guess I wouldn’t say that my atheist group is “just” people hurt by religion but that, having been hurt by religion, these people left it. My husband, as I often say, is the most a-theistic person I know, having been raised in an environment that never mentioned God. He’s also one of the most well-adjusted when it comes to religion. But he has no need of the atheist community like I do.
The apology on behalf religionists who cause injury is something that I come across rather frequently and I respect the place from which it comes, but I have to say that I find it rather disingenuous, since I would bet money that the people who apologize participate in the same hurtful actions that those who should apologize do. And as a sister once told me, an apology means nothing if there is intent to do it again.
Forgiveness is a very religious concept; one of many I’m trying to get out of my psyche. I can say that they acted in the way that they thought was right and that, when they stand before their God in the Court of their Heaven, they will have nothing to answer for. This does not make my wounds any shallower, but it helps me in my daily interactions with those who caused them.
Religion as a thing of beauty can exist only in the mind of one of its adherents. As soon as it enters two minds, its beauty is destroyed and it seeks only to cause pain. Jesus once said that he is there, wherever two or more are gathered. I think the real Truth of religion is that the Divine is only there in the silence of our hearts—in Beauty, in Love, and in Truth. But never collectively.
29lisa // Nov 3, 2008 at 6:57 pm
Well, x, you bring up an interesting point, and I also think a contradiction.
You said, “I think the real Truth of religion is that the Divine is only there in the silence of our hearts—in Beauty, in Love, and in Truth. But never collectively.” You also spoke of Justice in a similar way earlier. I think you are speaking of ideals. Yes? I think that you understand these to be something that you consider to be real, not fictitious. Yes? Things to give hope, to aspire to, and these things actually point “off the map.” Really they are not just found within. For instance, if you extinguished human life and creation, in an instance, Beauty and Truth and Justice and Love would not cease to be real.
Many people consider this to be spiritual language for that reason. If these things are beyond us, and infinite, perfection, and not fictitious, what are we really speaking of?
To know of these things and then to box them down as only infinite, and not powerful enough to be both infinite and also personal, smacks as ironical.
Beside that, I think people do share these ideals between others, not just in the silence of their hearts, but also within them as well. Part of loving someone can involve a deep shared love for these things and increased intimacy that grows between the two. My experience reflects the unity of community toward the divine, I believe, enacting the Trinity, in fact, if done properly.
To forgive really only means to cancel a debt. I’m not sure I understand why you think it is religious. Do you think people should not forgive each other? people should not apologize or offer others forgiveness for wrongs? Maybe you could unpack that for me, I guess I don’t understand your take on that one. I think, “Why carry a grudge? It’s like carrying around poison, no? Forgiving never validates an offense, but it does release the victim from more pain.”
There is a lot of hurt out there. christians and church has done a bunch of it, too I've heard the pain first hand. What are ways we can reach people with God's love, in ways that really matter?
I'm excited for the election!!!!!! .... to be over.
But I think it'll degenerate into dismay and lawsuits. I hope not...but this time things have gotten very weird. Obama is not the Messiah. McCain is not who we've all ben waiting for either. The answers don't come quickly. The people in office are not magicians, and they can't keep their promises, and by can't, I mean are not given that power. And also, they often don't expect to keep them all. This is reality. Nov 4th can't solve too much.
Politics runs by the engine of $, power, and fear, really. If you get people afraid of something, they can vote for you, and calm themselves.
I remember hearing one of the best things ever... "Perfect love casts out fear." That's what I'm taking to the polls. Yes, I'm voting. I'm not endorsing. I'm not confident about how this election cycle is going, or how this country is thinking. There are a few crisis 'out there", not least of which is that we think the President should solve our problems. I read a bunch of 4th graders essays tacked to the wall, and they all said what the would do if they were President. Most of them would "be kind", "help the earth", "lower taxes", and "give people money"... but are they learning what the job entails? No. Most of us don't know all it entails. We find it's easy to complain though.
Bigger than that, what is our "job", our mission, in our corner of the world? I really think we don't get beamed up to heaven once we become reconciled to God because we are the hands and feet of Jesus. God uses us to get things done.
I just bought this image (over there) for the book I'm working on called "Outsourcing Jesus: Culture, Emerging Christianity, and the Stained Glass Ceiling".
It's about the nature of how we come up with an understanding of reality...how it unfolds, and why we all tend to pair off the unpleasant things of Christianity, and other aspects of life. In what ways does our experience help to love and understand our Creator, and in what ways may we attempt to "study" such a mysterious Being? How does the Narrative of God express his uncompromising goodness and love, and the ongoing longing and cry of our heart, which is, in reality, God's longing for us, (since he loves us first). And what has Christianity (on the left and on the right sides of things) failed to take into account about what is very crucial to living our spirituality, namely, redemption?
Maybe Hilary Clinton and Sarah Palin aren't the only ones who should shatter glass ceilings, I'm ready to weigh in.
Stay tuned for many more bits of info coming. And please, I welcome your thoughts!
Ed: I took a swing at this one at the Emergent Village blog, but I'll swing again here. You don't have to read a lot of theology books to know they're not accessible for average people in the church, even the emergent books that claim to be easy reads. So I set out to pull together the various ideas out there for theology, but to also make them as accessible as possible. In addition, I wanted to help Christians move toward greater unity in the midst of theological diversity because we are united in our common love for Christ our Savior.
me: As a means of knowing God, Scripture isn't minimized in your book, it's given primacy. In postmodern times, where authority in general is seen with suspension, why do you posit to view Scripture with such authority, over experience, and other means?
Ed: Ha! I'm glad you asked the question that way. I use the word "primacy" to avoid the word authority. Scot McKnight just gave a great talk at Biblical Seminary on October 10th where he spoke about scriptural authority contrasted with the centrality of relationship, stating that God wants us to obey out of relationship, not out of authority. So scripture is primary, but it's primary because it leads us to a relationship with God. As we discover the love of God and love God as well, we'll obey scripture and we won't need an authoritarian view of scripture because it's leading us to obedience through a relationship with God.
I start theology with God at the center because the Holy Spirit is the one who teaches us from scripture. So we ultimately look to God, though scripture is primary over our traditions and other Christians. Our traditions and fellow Christians provide insights to guide our readings of scripture, meaning that scripture is primary and connects us with God, but we always need to interact with perspectives outside our own. As we interact with other perspectives and the Holy Spirit empowers us to live in the truth of scripture, we are better able to stand up under the suspicion of postmodern times.
me: Your take on lived out theology seems to be that a number of factors play into how we live out our belief and knowledge of God, and that’s it's important to see several things well to love God, understand him better, and live out our calling. How do you think we should rate their importance? (i.e. Scripture, culture, tradition, church, and so on.)
It's hard to really rate these things since it's an ongoing dialogue where we're always learning, interacting, shaping, and then reshaping our theology. I begin the book with culture not because it's most important, but if we don't understand culture and how it influences us and how we need to fulfill our prophetic calling in the world, then we are severely limited in our theology. So I wouldn't say culture is more important, but it can be a problem if not understood. Having said that, I'd say that we being theology with a relationship with God, then follow that with scripture, and then the traditions and global church.
me: I appreciate your perspective about an "ongoing dialogue" which is involved in continually reshaping our theology. It seems these are dynamic, not stagnant, factors, and their interplay is what causes growth and lived out faith.
One common view of our times is that we can't arrive at truth solidly, (this occurs in Christian circles too). As we live out our theology (with the factors you’ve mentioned) what can we know?
Ed: As far as truth goes, we can know quite a bit. However, there have been shifts in the way we know, and the amount we think we know. Instead of digging into the Bible with an ahistorical approach seeking out absolute principles that are always true (I'm painting with broad strokes for the sake of brevity), we face the challenge of entering the Bible as participants in a theological conversation over 2000 years and across continents. We're not the only ones doing this, and our perspectives face the limitations of our context. Therefore, I'm interested in understanding my context, and the ways it shapes me so I am prepared to be relevant and prophetic, but also so I can seek out the perspectives of Christians throughout history and the world in order to bring balance and help sharpen my ideas. Perhaps my take on the truth will change, maybe it will not.
All that to say, to say we need to be humble about our take on the truth is not giving up on truth. If anything, I'm affirming what the Bible says about seeing only in a glass darkly and God's ways being higher than what we can conceive. God sees the big picture of truth, and so we seek out the Holy Spirit's lead within our Christian communities as we seek out God's life-changing truth. We don't give up because we can't be 100% certain, but rather we live by faith and continue to read, study, converse, and embody God's revelation.
me: Can you explain briefly what you mean by "global church" how this plays into contextual theology?
Ed: [I mean] Christians throughout the world who offer different perspectives that we should consider for our theology. For example, Christians throughout the world opposed the Iraq War, while many Christians in America supported it. That strikes me as a situation where Christians in America need to ask why Christians throughout the world didn't support the war.
me: To you, what things determine integrating global church perspectives to our own?
Ed: We look to Christians outside our own context because we'll never get the whole picture of the truth on our own. They will inevitably see things we will not. For example, in the book I talk about a study of Christians in Eastern Europe who made some striking observations about the famine and xenophobia in the parable of the prodigal son, points that Americans missed. I could read that story over and over again, but probably miss out on the nuances picked up by these Christians. Now I can see that Jesus is addressing fair wages, our treatment of foreigners, and feeding the hungry. How I live out my theology changes radically once I interact with these Christians, even if the core of Christian orthodoxy has not.
However, as we interact with Christians outside our own perspective, we should be careful to keep our central creeds in mind and always run our findings by trusted Christians who can help us process these perspectives. It's not a matter of simply dropping the evaluations of another context into our own, but rather comparing our theologies and letting these other theologies sharpen our own beliefs. Perhaps they'll merely affirm some of our beliefs, while in other cases we'll find ourselves needing to broaden some of our understandings or narrow them. This is always a matter of conversations, not a matter of making American theology win over Asian or Latin American theology. We all have limitations and have something to teach one another.
me: What one nugget of wisdom or vision would you hope to pass along from your book, if nothing else?
Ed: I think we can't overestimate the importance of making God the center in our theology. Jesus said the scriptures testified about him, so while scripture is important and even essential, scripture's main role is leading us to Christ. However, many churches make the Bible their foundation or starting point, which means disagreements on the Bible can divide churches. It's been this emphasis on pure doctrine derived from scripture over the person of Jesus that has caused so much division--we have a hard time dealing with doctrinal diversity because we have made the Bible our foundation, not Christ. While doctrine is important, and I would never leave behind the doctrines passed down throughout history in the creeds, it is the triune God we meet in the Christian faith. That means we cannot have any other starting or ending point than Christ Jesus.
me: Thanks for expounding a bit more on your book, and some ideas about knowing God. I hope the dialogue continues.
I'm really enjoyed going through Ed Cyzewski's ideas in Coffeehouse Theology", and I think you would too.
Ed is open about his vantage point as being post-conservative and emerging. He approaches the topic of the lived-out knowing of God, or as he puts it contextual Theology (i.e. Coffeehouse Theology) not with the pre-fab answers Christianity, (read: evangelicalism) has grown accustomed to. He understands the post modernity cultural purview, admits the vast mystery of God, but also appreciates and unpacks the vehicles helpful for greater understanding and growth in Christian spiritually.
A graphic he uses called "a web of theology" illustrates how interconnected the sources of Christian sources and context are. They comprise, God (as a revelatory source and guide), Scripture (the primary source of God's revelation), Tradition (informs and add insights...), and the global church (informs and add insights...), and these resides within the cultrual/context and also within the purpose of the Mission of God. The Mission is the reason we do theology.
I may argue that the primary source of revelation is Jesus, the Incarnation, and scripture is the revelation revealed through the Holy Spirit, and the record of the revelation of God's revelation, and primary only in the sense that we access in this way, and not Christ in flesh. But this minor point is hardly an area of contention.
Ed gives us a lot to think about, and a ton of further reading resources. For those with little understanding of how culture effects belief, his book can be eye-opening. It also helps to better know and use the various spheres that enable us to better understand what is difficult to fully know-God. Surely we can love and know God, but fully comprehending him, that is a life long journey that won't end until the veil is gone. This entire effort is our practical theology that builds the framework for our life and mission when we are lovers of God aware of his love for us.
Instead of just typing up a review of this book, or a fully-orbed summary, I thought if I could actually pick Ed's brain with some questions, it might be more fun and interesting. If you have questions about the topics, the book, or anything discussed, chime in.
Even love unrequited has an entity of affections. A beloved in fantasy and imagination, though supposed, is still an object that is other.
We can never forget that to love, we cannot be alone. God, then must be One and also three persons. Before creation, the One could be recipient as lover and beloved as such. And with creation that love could continue should the creation be aware of love bestowed, and indeed, even better, give it back.
Is love the greatest thing? Yes. St. Paul says... "The greatest of these (faith, hope, and love) is love." It may be the single thing that proves we are not alone.
It is the sole thing of communal relationship-unity and harmony.
She said discernment helps to perceive self not as central, but as a gift we can abandon to love others properly. The learner is the "light" for the eye, needed to illuminate so we love with God's love, and not be blinded by our self love.
It's an idea of ministry not in keeping with our times.
-Edited from "discernment and truth" , Mark McIntosh, herder & herder 2004
1. Jesus MIGHT have not looked too much like a guy.
Yikes. Don't freak out. I know this could be hard to take. But let's think about this for a second, okay. He might have looked like his mom, Mary. Joseph wasn't his dad, correct? Everyone was really short back then, but depending on the genetics the Spirit used, (maybe the Spirit mirrored her genes). Jesus could have had all her genes, and then just add the needed Y chromosome. If so, then he was REALLY short, and maybe sort of girly, and maybe he couldn't even grow a good beard.
Granted, his hands would have had calluses from hard labor, and he could have been wiry! We don't know for sure, but it's possible. (Is this a let down for wildman John Eldridge, oh, and macho Mark Driscol? He's still God though, maybe that will soothe any wounded manly pride on this issue.) No worries.
2. Jesus wasn't a Christian. He was Jewish. (Remember that came later. Sorry, it's just history, people.)
3. Jesus wasn't Republican, and didn't run for political office. (He didn't have that kind of social standing or money! Oh, and it wasn't his MISSION. He was here to die for us.)
4. Jesus wasn't an American, a Boy Scout, a Freedom Fighter (or warrior), a Passivist, or a Police Officer (We'd like to think he would have been, or that he likes those things. But, let's stick to the, um, you know, facts. Narrative. Official stuff.)
5. Jesus wasn't white skinned. (He was brownish. Think about the area of the world we are speaking about, the Middle East. It's actually gotten lighter skinned in the last 2,000 years.)
First I should say, I'm under-whelmed this election cycle. There have been ups and down, yes. But my faith in politics and the "system" just doesn't hold the glow form. People are flawed (often drunk or twisted from power too) and it takes cooperation to get things done, not just a President (with bad or good ideas).
So, let's just say the idealistic me from youth is gone. Yes, I vote. I vote every time. But I'm not so concerned anymore, and so vocal about particular people, by way of promoting them, etc. That is how to embarrass one's self, I think. Or worse become distracted by thinking politics actually solves many things. People, in the trenches, are usually the people who do that.
Now that I've said that preliminary stuff, I wanted to point out that I noticed that neither candidate articulates his core values, philosophies all that well. It's really about strategy. It's a shifting thing. It's two men, from shifting places, speaking in vague terms about assuming a concrete job position in troubled times. McCain has said the place he lived the longest in his life growing was prison camp-5 years, and Obama, moved all over the place too from Hawaii, to Kansas, to elite school after elite school, then ended up, after a bit, in Chicago. I've never seen anything like it. It's really weird, and it doesn't inspire my confidence.
It seems in the quest for the "big title" there has been a misplacement of something very important.... MEANING.
We all need it. It isn't enough to have a goal. We have to have the undergirding in and through the framework of our efforts. This might be true somewhere under the mess of the electoral campaign, but it didn't come out when you would wish to see it the most. The first debate is the plug toward the undecided voter-the commercial. And it underlined the lesson for each of us just how vacuous even the most important of pursuit can look without a sound framework.
It looks like unsightly ambition, grasping... or floating, vanity, even silliness. I'd like to see some meaning.
Reading the desert Abbas and Ammas I've learned something profound, that the desolation of our deserts illicit from within anything that which God needs to purify. Here many battled demons. They ate little. They owned nothing. They lived alone.
These people would seek the empty places searching for wisdom and union with God. They as saints would find it, not easily. Through prioritizing, renunciation of the world and its values, obedience to God and their spiritual guides they became revered. They had purity in heart, simplicity, and a true centrality of a life devoted in prayer.
I don't suggest we transform into ascetics, but giving heed to what the desert can call out of us will change us into something much better. It may refine us quite well into single-minded, unencumbered devotees of the Savior. It seems being stripped down to only us and God draws out our dependency to God in ways we cannot know otherwise; in ways where we cannot so easily hide, among our things and habits and self-aggrandizing obligations.
Perhaps this is why -silent retreats and prayer retreats- are gaining in popularity and priority, and perhaps we'd do well to make way for one, at least a mini one.
NavPress sent me one, and it still smells lovely, right off the press. It's called Coffeehouse Theology, by Ed Cyzewski. So far it looks really solid, very applicable, and and I'm really glad to have it nearby.
It's fantastic timing as I'm in the middle of my Christian Theology class right now. We are really unpacking how theology PLAYS OUT. This book speaks to just that. Kevin Vanhoozer in his Doctrine of Drama presents Theo-drama, and it's very inspiring for those of us who believe God is not just the scriptwriters but the star of this created world. The trouble is reading Vanhoozer, which I love, is like swimming through pudding. Not many will last through it, or want.
I'll be commenting more on Cyzewski's book here periodically as I piece through it. If you pick up a copy, chime it! What has stood out to you so far? Let me know.
I have a thesis in mind, and here is the short version.
The fact is Evangelicals have no idea how much culture they bring to their hermeneutic. They way they understand Scripture and the roles of women. as women have gained respect in american culture, women have gained more responsibility in the church.
Is this because God's word says so? It's because they find it in there. They mine the text for truth.
All Evangelical women should vote for Palin as VP if they want more prominence in the church then, because the visibility and stature of of Sarah Palin, will have a ripple effect for them.
What is the truth? how does God feel about it? What does the Bible REALLY say?
It's not, I believe hammered out in perfect detail by Paul for women in the year 2008 in America. It seems God settled in back in a garden, when two people still had fruit juice on their lips. He sewed them leather garments. He redeemed them both. He did not have to. He covered BOTH their shame. He made it right. consequences happened, and yes, blame started, but God redeemed women. Man just forgot, conveniently. God reminded humankind in his Laws. Man forgot, conveniently. Women forgot too.
How strange for secular culture to remind us of the rightness of things, and that women are not less than men.
I had the chance to press charges today. I didn't.
I'm hoping to redeem a neighborhood situation. And not just a situation either. It's about investing, I hope, in healing, which sometimes looks like letting people get off the hook. Redemption ---working it out-- can be an ugly process, too, until it's through.I'm praying more, too.
Many people don't take the chance when they have redemption given to them. They just opt for the corruption.
Is undertaking all this community organizing? No, not really. But building bridges is the redemptive work for every Believer, and yes, this can be community organizing. Those words are buzz words, that will play out in terrible ways too soon, and used to sledgehammer, when a tweezer would do better.
It's all a work in progress. We can't give up. We can't hide in our Christian bubbles.
Recent politics shows me how wrapped up so many get in amusements. Since this is a BIG ONE, and it carries a lot with it-- power, control and all the rest.. it makes for great spectators sport. Everyone has such strong opinions. Everyone thinks they are so very right. Everyone has to be heard and wants their team to WIN!
It's just an amusement. When the roar tones down, many will go back to their lonely, uninteresting, and self-centered lives. They will think about their futures, their wants, their love life, or (even) their appearance.
They will forget the Drama of Redemption, and that God is there, so close. This is really because they never saw life that way in the first place. They have only been seeing that the world was about them. A dream world where they win, or at least they want to win. They can't seem to wake up... into a new story.
For those people, the election won't last long enough. They will need another amusement, and soon.
I'm getting very tired of politics. It is very shallow to me, it's spin. I wish it was about important issues, for real. But too many chefs are in the kitchen, and important work is done in backyards, coffee shops, hospitals, and across tables, in ordinary life. Not on the stages, or within the amusement, and amid solipsistic dreams.
What has meaning.... many ask. Many sort. Christians too. More so all the time.
Does God seem distant? sleep at the wheel? unconcerned in your life? Do you suffer from functional theologies that don't match your theoretical theologies Biblical or otherwise?
What do you use as a reference for your beliefs...which are in fact your Doctrines?.. yikes what a word. Everyone is afraid of the word DOGMA... but every one ends up functioning on some kind of one, like it or not.
If we use ourselves --really our experience-- as a gauge for verification of our theology, our beliefs, we end up stranded. Eventually. Well, how could we not, really.
It's amazing how many Christians start with themselves to figure out life, and then feel so desperate, and still have no idea why. It's not entirely their fault. Christianity has been co-opting with modernity for its theology for a while, making it human centered and increasingly futile to sort out among the pervading view on ontology and millions of competing messages bombarding us. So many Christians feeling miserable, or something like it. That is a vapid life, and no wonder.
Some time tested spots for verification are- Scripture Devotional Classics Church History (tradition) Wise/trusted counsel of honorable friends or ministers Propositional theology combined with Narrative theology
I got a chance to see why Christians don't influence culture much anymore. I mean Christians are seen as harping on things, (naughty movies and books etc) but as far as being redemptive ambassadors for God's loving Kingdom on earth in the U.S., those are days of long ago...well not sure that happened in the U.S. like it did in the 1st century, or ever will. It is a myth that this is a Christian country. This is a Consumer country. Pop culture wins the day.
Our segmented lifestyle chops off God and spirituality into a bitty section and keeps it there.
Also- It seems like this happens by fourth grade. I found that out as I taught Jr Church today. I would suspect to find this among secular (unchurch kids). And why not? They've been raised on a diet of tv. They haven't been imbued with the Scriptures and so many hours of Vacation Bible school, church camp, Bible teaching, and biblical values and at home. How wrong I was!
I taught the kids a short and fun (I hoped) lesson about "God's math" being that it was a back to school theme. All the kids begin school tomorrow. I told them that we would make backpack tags with their names on them and the math formula 1 + 1 = 3, because when we are with someone else who loves God, Jesus is right there with us. If they felt sad about something at home, or nervous about a test, they could ask a friend to pray with them or for them. They understood the concept, but they really balked with the idea of the tag. I got a lot of lip! They told me this plan wouldn't work for all kinds of reasons.
They couldn't have anything with Jesus on it at school, said one girl, (not that the tag had that on it anyway). Writing that on a tag wouldn't be the correct math answer said a fourth grader, and it would make her look stupid. She wasn't interested in telling others that Jesus was with her anyway. School was school after all. They weren't allow to have things hanging from their bags anymore, said someone else. Those were the rules several piped in. I had a lot of resistance to the idea of taking a spiritual idea outside church. These responses were all from children whose families had brought them to learn about God since they were babies. You would think being a Christian, outside church, would be a high priority, but in reality spirituality just fit into a little box saved for Sunday, as it may for their parents, and for so many people in contemporary life. It's not so surprising how it trickles down.
What is really informing them in a week? How much time and money is spent on secular video games and entertainment compared to their spiritual formation to integrate their christian worldview?
How much television is educating them, internet diversions, ipod, etc. POP CULTURE wins and so Christians make little difference in their surroundings.
I guess I knew it, but it was surprising to see it so well-formed so early on!
Are we ever done learning and growing? It can not be!
Our dogma--beliefs-- are never really (whether we are aware of it or not) fully explored, or vetted.
If we feel so certain we have come to a good spot, then either our eyes are closed and our ears are plugged, or we have a bumpy road ahead, perhaps even a crisis of faith to traverse around the bend.
God pulls our hand into deeper water where we cannot touch bottom and must try to swim,(doggie paddle) and then when we think we are so good at swimming, he will show us how to give up and float. It was, in fact never about swimming. Our energies fail-they are suppose to-and he alone can rescue us. Our energies will fail us and he will be right there being God, should we let him, and become truly mature, in any real way.
We can always go back to school. Many Christians are dropouts, but I really believe in life-long learning!
I love men's diving, gymnastics, swimming volleyball, water polo. (well, fit men. I like sports too.) All these great sports feature excellence, beauty, strength, and show people (both genders) who sacrificed SO much to do their very best in the world arena. I find it very enjoyable.
There is a lot to be proud of when watching the Olympics. I don't mean just for the home country one roots for, but for humanity. It's a joy to see people try and do well.
But what about not winning? We prize winning, and we REALLY REALLY don't show up to lose. If we were going to just show up to give up, what would be the point? Right? Very silly.
What if instead of coming to be King and kicking butt, some One just came to be misunderstood, falsely arrested, and executed? Anti-climatic? What if we had new eyes to see losing? Weakness? Mental Retardation? Illness? Dying? It can turn our world up side down.
1) Business Cards with good info on them. Lots of info. Even if it has to be in 5 point type to fit on the card. AND - Title designations by their names, so there is no confusion. Which there would not be because the church name is there. The custodian doesn't get a card, who else would have one? But these thoughts come to their minds---that confusion could set in---for outsiders. Maybe "the lost". It should say at the least "Pastor" by their name. "Rev." or Reverend if possible. But, if that designation has not been earned at school. "Pastor" can be used, because it's "general". M. Div. is a craved add on by some. PhD if qualified, and so forth.
2) Glitch-free power point visual aids. After all the trouble they went to finding their stuff online, sermon illustrations, graphics, photos, quotes, sermon topics, heck, sometimes even sermons themselves, they can get really stressed when the power point doesn't cue right on, or worse, genuine software bugs and projector problems crop up!
3) Testimonies. It shows God is at work. Sometime people shoot a compliment their way. It's especially helpful if they massage the folks ahead of time to speak on how great it is to tithe!
4) Vacation to an exotic place that looks like it's a missions trip. Let's face it, these folks are judged by how busy they are, not by their quality of time spent with people--their relationships-with God or people, to be honest. That stuff that takes time. They truly need Sabbaticals and real rest. Who can blame them for burning out and wanting to escape the flock. They may plan a getaway how ever they can, even if that means dressing it up a bit, right?
5) Enough church attendance to go to a second morning service, but not enough to go a third service, (unless the congregation is willing to pay for another pastor to help out and share the load.) What starts out as a cool ego rush as the numbers jump, quickly turns into a bummer of a burden. . . .. . . [daydream sequence] Wow we could see real growth here... will the funds match the turn out? Will it work to get them on board for that leap of faith for more good help? Doing the same sermon three times every Sunday. That might STINK! Maybe I should tone things down. Talk about sin more, that sort of thing. Um. It's not all about numbers, I'll just tell them that. What we need is quality not quantity. . . .
I've had the strange, but interesting, life experience of meeting two professional federal prison guards, and hearing their worldviews, up close and personal. Both men worked the tough job of watching some of the most wretched men behind bars, but their takes couldn't be more opposite.
One saw the men with contempt. Him versus them. His job, at the local Federal prison in Frackville, was to treat them like the animals, for he saw them as--subhuman. If they served their time, and stayed out of his way, they could count on decent treatment, but they probably wouldn't because they were, of course, scum--low life losers. To him, that's why they got there in the first place. Thinking he was upstanding, he saw himself as an agent of God's wrath. (This mentality is secular obviously. The God of his mind was a false god, a manmade idol, of course, but that's for another post.) He mentioned some stories of the inmates who wouldn't appreciate the privileges given to them, the ones' who would act like perverts and children. They would do the obscene. They would trash their cells. As punishment, he and the other guards would fill the cells with water and plug their cell doors with towels, to teach them a lesson. They would continue filling the cell until the prisoners would have to climb up to the top bunks together to escape the water. They would leave the cells full for a while, because to him it was important to give them what they deserved. They should know who was in charge.
Recently, I met another former Federal prison guard from Camp Hill. His work and life was redemptive enough that later when he ran across a former inmate, the man said, "Do you remember me? I was your inmate." He had been changed by this guard and the love of God flowing through him. Soon they began a ministry together for the purpose of changing lives and discipling others, in the way of Jesus. The redemption could continue, and pour into others. Healing, growth and change could flourish. Ego wasn't part of the equation. God could be glorified instead.
What are you doing with your life? Are you trying to prove a point, and letting ego drive your decisions? Do you think you are better than "low life types"? Or are you making difference by leading a redemptive life like Jesus did? People are not temporary, but almost everything else is. What a joy to impact the the world for eternity. I implore you to please make your life a sweet fragrance that draws others into the way of Jesus.
Tony Snow died at age 53 a few days ago. One of the things I read that was both inspiring and memorable was that his colleagues said he was a joy to work with, even when his was ill.
It made me wonder if Christians you know are like this? Do people in general think of Christians this way? According to Dan Kimball, in general, no. There are a bunch of adjectives--most of them are really negative--and "joy" doesn't make the list.
If I went to interview the colleagues of first fifty people to read this, would they say you were a "joy to work with". Would someone say of me? (I hope so. Yikes.)
Joy can be the endangered specie character quality in our day and in our culture, and with the luxuries we've come to have as ordinary, it is a bit odd. I can begin to figure out, and elaborate on all the reasons why this is so, but if we can access more joy and express more joy, and be more of a joy to be with, like Tony Snow was in his short life, then how nice!
If what we originally know about Jesus comes from the Bible, and he is recorded as saying, "take up your cross and follow me," and also, "narrow is the way," it's a wonder why we ever think his way will be whatsoever easy or that heaven will heavily populated.
It's a wonder he had followers at all. However he did, so they thought his words were accurate, and his ways were worth it. They, as first century christians were eaten by lions, and they could have changed their minds.
How is it that we put this way on par with other spirituality? Are all faiths the same? They share some common themes, but some claims diverge quite sharply as one dips the toes in to any one of them for very long.
Holding on to "unkowning" is still believing as a certainty. However that "certain" uncertainty seems to be the kind that may cause a great sinking feeling after a while. It seems we all we to be sure of something, even if that means we are sure that we are not sure. But, too much of that is just vertigo. I've tried it. It felt like I had to throw up. Once in a while I did.
So, what things can we be sure of? What things are you sure of?
You, yes you can read writings from many leaders and figures throughout church history. ccel.org It's free. If you haven't read from primary sources for yourself, there's no excuse now! St Gregory I, Kierkegaard, Luther, just about anybody. Browse by author, title, or subject. Quite interesting!
If you've never helped someone in secret before... it's a great idea.
Start it like a habit, I say.
It's biblical. That's a plus. It's spiritually formative. Here are some reasons why.
It keeps you humble. It blesses others. It answers prayers. It rewards the giver as much as the receiver, (or more.) It makes one's life a ministry. It makes us the hands and feet of Jesus, God's kingdom. It helps a hurting world. It lives on, (and doesn't end with recognition.) It makes you want to do it again. It takes on its own lives as it inspires the same. It harbors and shoots off goodness. It's old fashioned, in a good way, (ever notice how old time Christians in your church, or elsewhere, were delighted or were expert in this behavior?) It gives, or points, the glory to God for good things. It makes the Kingdom come, here on earth as it is in heaven. It makes life about "not us," but rather about the good life, (goodness), giving, and God.
Will you do it?
If you do, leave a comment just to say so, (but, of course, don't say "what".) : )
So, a man was on a ship and the captain grabbed him as they were passing another ship and he said, "I have to show you a wonderful man. There, he is, the most honorable, wonderful man I know." And the man said, "Why do you say that?" And the captain said, "One night my ship was sinking and this man and his ship were nearby, and this captain jumped in with no regard for his own life and saved me. Now every time I see this man, I make sure I find whoever and I point out my rescuer, the one I owe my life to."
I heard a version of this story on Sunday, and how I should point out my Rescuer Jesus, and it made me think. I suppose I don't much think about Jesus in the term "Rescuer". That is an urgent term. Maybe urgent isn't an adjective I distinguish with my walk with Jesus. I suppose I would encounter people differently if I bore this story in mind.
It is not too old fashioned to remember we are rescued from ourselves, our sin, the maladies of our culture, our future alone without the glory and goodness of God, without the precious Rescuer of our soul - Jesus Christ. Does the pride of thinking "Rescuer" is over the top back us down from this simple and humble following path of disciple in this way?
How important to remember that american justice, and democracy and capitalism was not, and is not, and could never be something handed to us from God-- a gift from above. What we have is a secular system. It is mainly based on a "violent ontology" according to John Millbank. "Justice" so-called, relies on power and overpowering someone else. What is one person's justice is another's imperialism, today.
Most often we say want want justice, and "retribution" is what is truly wanted. This is secular. Social justice involves a peaceable centrality of hope and healing. All justice is social justice.
God's justice is one of healing, restoration, and reconciliation with him and within his Bride, the church. Apart from community, justice is not found. We only have alienation, isolation, further greed, or sickness of soul.
The church's call then is to be the beacon for and bastion for justice in all realms. True justice. That of God, not man. The America way is the secular way. We've held up democracy and capitalism as our virtues, but these virtues apply justice with an violent ontology as they impose a self, rather than other centered focus. God's message is love centered. God applies his mercy. His worship and reverence comes first in a worldview that keeps him central. As American consumers, most tire of a God in this form, and shop around for something more to their liking. The American way is to change the channel, and make God, or church, and church community disposal, like last year's fashions. Secularized capitalism mentality is but no means just, and does not lead to justification, or spiritual formation.
After all Jesus saved us TO something-- the church as a body. As individuals we can devote ourselves, of course, but it is the church universal that is saved, not the individual merely. Americans have too far been made to think independently to the point of silliness. Our idea that we each choose, or ever should choose, all sorts of spiritual things as individuals is perilous, if not in grievous error. It is in the midst of community that we are safer kept from our tendency to self-deception, and invigorated with the Spirit among us, and well as within us.
If we look at the words of Jesus, and we don't gloss over them, Jesus he spoke of his way--the way to God--as a "narrow path." Few would find it. Also, it he said it was a path that a rich man couldn't get to without a miracle from God. With a rich man's wealth, he would be so satisfied and distracted with himself, and with his possessions he would not be able to, would want to, or would find the Kingdom of heaven.
Sound like an American predicament? A bit.
"We" think we are a Christian nation. Funny, to think. But we are not. If anything, we are post-Christian. But were we ever "Christian"? Debatable.
Americans who like to think they are Christians, often shop for Church and for "jesus" or a spiritual pick-me-up, like any other consumer good. Sadly, the material and the holistic human creature don't fair well with a consumer capitalistic approach.
The way of Jesus (Christianity) is not fire insurance, it is a way of life. It is also view of the world through the Reality of the one who designed life-- with the Designer in mind, at the center of life. HERE and NOW. Not later.
Many Americans think they are in fact Christians, (in a sense following Christ). This is because they would say they are not Muslims, or Buddhists, or something else. But do they love Jesus? Are they devoted? Is he their prevailing Reality apart from which they cannot be? Um nope. But, if not, they are not true disciples.
Jesus' way, according to his teachings, is about true love for him and the Father. It's about first love, sustained love. It's not about getting a fix. It's not about making the right connection, to scratch the right itch. The Jesus way can be very humbling and painful. Uphill, with a cross daily, no less. It's also the way of dignity, and love filling us from the inside out. People forget that without God as center, we can only borrow dignity from another spot, it cannot be inherent. The way of Jesus is one of immense purpose, freedom with responsibility, justice within a reconciled, restored, living, and growing community. And too, hope of new life beyond the tumult and ills of this present world.
Jesus is the light and glory of the Greater Story, the one beyond the images and words we can muster, to the truest Reality we only begin to fathom, and more joy than we can tolerate.
Here is the invitation to the very narrow path. It is not where you think, up-for grabs or "purchase" at church. It is not the easy way. It comes when we forget ourselves to be found in God, and Jesus. It is not part of our American heritage, authentically, but it we can be authentically recreated and known.
Yes and no. For one thing we can't even know people that well. We can live with a spouse for years and find out new things about them. People are deep wells of information, experiences, natures, and characters... but through time and devotion, we can get to know them....
BUT- what about God. God is SO different, right? He is UNFATHOMABLE. He created everything, and is everywhere, all-knowing, all-powerful, says Julie Clawson (at the emergent women website, thanks Julie) and says the Bible, right? How can we REALLY REALLY possibly KNOW him, right? He is beyond language. Correct? Well, the short answer is "yes, kind of."
God made it possible for us to have an amazing book in our reach called the Bible which talks all about him. It can't capture him fully with words, but certain language can loosely give a good contour. We can't sketch a sunset with pencil, but we can get some shapes down. We can't use words to describe what tasting coffee is truly like, but with words, we can outline a bit what the aroma is like and how good a warm cup tastes and feels when it is drank. One can imagine well what it is REALLY like based on a word description. So too with God. The reality of him can be known, but not fully grasped. He is knowable, but not fully comprehendible. It is limited knowledge, but entirely useful.
Let us not dismiss some of our best ways to encounter God by calling them shoddy when we use and trust language for so much else. It is on the basis of language, words, and propositions, that we first encounter all our initial ideas before they are incorporated into our lives. They are a starting point, not the end all be all to knowing God.
Do you know God? How have you encountered him? Feel free to leave your comments.
Perception does not equal reality, only individual reality. What is verifiable reality? This is the question we search for in discerning truth. We can determine that God is the source of truth. Not just truth, but goodness, love, perfection, and joy. God is, in reality, Reality and ultimate Truth. Centering on him gives life meaning. Abandoning him voids meaning. We don't just add him to our life like adding flour to a cookie recipe. We seek him out to make him our everything, the very essence of our reality... not just a part of our perceptions.
Sometimes, it may be tempting to think of God as an "idea". He is not that. God is a "personable" Being. One we can KNOW him. We cannot comprehend him fully, because he is God, but one can become acquainted with him, and his is the One who draws us to himself relationally and theologically. Allowing His Spirit, in our hearts, free reign to speak through the power of Scripture, we may have a sumptuous life with him. When we read the Psalms, for instance, we see the wonders the Creator God. We don't have to trip on the details to realize who the Words are about, and what the essence of them are. The Word of God, the weight behind the scripture has authority to tell us what is meant. God is Almighty! The God of the passage, and the God behind the passage comes out, and we encounter him.
We are known, and become aware of his knowing us. And surely we know him better too through it. Is this perception reality? God is GOD. What more can one say?
It seems the most common tendency in the human experience is for people to equate pain and suffering with something negative or even something evil.
What if it were one of the only ways to a kind of lucidity? What if pain where a kind of grace?
What if the question of suffering didn't have an answer except that it lead to another question about reality itself, and choice, and what the human heart decides to do with what happens in this world?
Not being able to account for great suffering has turned many away from God, but also from sense, eventually. And that is not to say suffering is pleasurable in itself, or we should dole it out, or hunt it down... but nevertheless, it will come to us. It will find us anyhow.
I doubt whether what we cannot reason about suffering ever makes God unreasonable, but it certain makes us finite-unable to grasp. And I think it's the part out of our scope that we hold the grudge about. It's no sin to ask "why?", only to say "God, you are not good" which is at the core of the blame of suffering, and pain.
There are things I'm upset about, and I wish God had intervened in. There is suffering around far too much, and I'm not in on the why of it. I use to be far more upset about it. It seemed mad. I still have my bouts of frustration, but I think also I have to put it all down again too, and in some way say, "I just don't understand. I'm going to have to concede this point, but in trust not doubt you, because you have revealed yourself. And You have laid yourself out too.
Dallas Willard calls on Christians to see their church as a hospital, a spiritual hospital. It should be a place to care for other people. Some are hurting. Some have been wounded by the world, and by others. Some need medicine and all need good refreshment and rest.
Hospitality... the share root word of hospital also. . . that's where we can gain our inspiration from the culture of church and church fellowship and community.
If we've lost our sight as people of God in community... we have to gain it here first I think. It is time to get well.
Neitzsche (1844-1900) defined truth as a "mobile army of metaphors" and it seems this the way we have "deconstructed it" or perceived it. However if this is truth, or actual reality, it is a moving not a fixed point. If that is true than you or anyone can pick a point for truth arbitrarily. If truth is arbitrary as Neitzsche believed, a train plunging into a dark tunnel never to emerge, then meaning itself is arbitrary and meaningless. Life is pointless and absurd. It has no set value. Philosophers should stop their work and we should all kill ourselves, right? This mindset's verdict claims truth and reality is meaningless. But doesn't it seem like there must be more to it than that?
Beauty and goodness point to something more. Our dreams, hopes, and stories beg for more. Our songs, arts, histories and epics have heroes that triumph over villains. We must ask why? It cannot just be vain hope. That's too simple an answer. Reality seems to have an ideal, and an ideal indicates a fixed point, not mobile army of metaphors. The mobile army explanation is helpful for cynics and a way to band-aid one's despair, but it takes us literally nowhere. It does not take us to reason because it doesn't really make sense. It does not take us to reality.
Deconstruction can be very helpful, but we've hardly attempted to deconstruct the history and culture that has deconstructed the nature of our current perceptions of reality and truth. Most of the time we take these paradigms and beliefs for granted like fish in a bowl who do not know they are wet. After we notice how we have been reduced and were we have been carried by our mobile army we may discover Socrates is closer to the truth than we are.
I will be studying Lectio Divina for my 8 week personal and research project. If anyone is interested in learning more about this spiritual disciple of the early church, we can journey together. You can write and let me know.
This has been wonderful discovery of focusing on a scared text of a few lines and reading it while allowing God to speak into it and through it. There are 4 movements to it. And the prayer life that happens from this communion with God I've found very intimate and restful.
I wondered something as I went to the mall with my family for the first time in a few years. We all went together this Saturday and walked around-- and we ended up without making a single purchase fortunately.
Since then, I've wondered if we believe, somewhere inside, that something outside, something we can purchase is going to fill up that empty spot. Something shinny and new will make us shinny and new. As if the activity of shopping makes us more not less "human".
As social creatures we are hoping for connection. Not just hoping--we must have it. We were made for it. The sales adverts reach out to us, they offer something alluring. They offer prestige, better associations, sex appeal, and other things. They make promises.
On Saturday, each store had ceiling to floor banners, window graphic, manikins, decor, monitors, or music to seduce, or combination thereof. Business is business after all. It's a pseudo-social activity if you think about it. You can be alone and feel like you've been with others. Why should we bother sitting down and connecting with people when we can just shop? We can bargain hunt and we can pretend we aren't trying to numb something.
Or we can be face-to-face for a while and start being real.
Community starts with admitting what idols really are, and where they turn up. Culture is bent to push the NEED to consume (acquire goods), but the this is a false assumption. The true need is to connect in loving and honest ways, and been known and truly loved.
The strengths of community are also its weaknesses. Since the journey is our lives and the destination is the evermore how do we harmonize consistently with what is essential for the journey?
As much as I want to and as much as my heart is there I sense the drifting of the church body to become like me academic, closed off, theoretical, and become weary of or discouraged about the shortcomings of their brothers and sisters (other human beings) ... which is so terribly ironic, and really sort of sad.
I don't believe their is a formula here, a quick fix, a button in the mind to simply tweak. It seems a reorientation about community that lasts beyond a few rounds of Bible studies, and a sermon series, has to transform our hearts so we see each other differently.
Is this possible? If so, How has it happened before?
If times get dry, if he seems not to answer, we are left with the feeling that feelings are just feelings. So we have to know that knowings are what has been part of the balance. And the balance will ground us. The experience will enrich us and the moorings will sustain it.
I saw a quick video of Rob Bell's new book "everything is spiritual" and it was great. he explained how the physical and the spiritual cannot be separated. What is "non spiritual" is actually then misnomer. Hebrew language has no word for spiritual. People by nature are fused with spirituality. In modernity we tend to fracture ourselves into different "lives" sections, arenas, natures... very unnaturally it seems.
I don't know much about Rob Bell. I know he's polarizing. He shakes things up. Some scream he's a heretic. Some think he's just what we need. Some think he's too much of one certain thing. I'd like to meet he, chat for a while, and see for myself, his brief video was though 100% true. We are Gods. We are spiritual in physical shells.