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Christ the King Sunday is celebrated this week. It is the last feast day before the new church year begins with Advent.

Here is the Collect of the Day:

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Side note: My commentary here has NOTHING to do with the mystery of salvation and our reconciliation to God in Christ or God’s love for humanity. I am examining what it means to choose to call oneself Christian.

I have been thinking lately about being a Christian. What does it is mean? Why become a Christian?  In a large part of the western narrative the primary reason folks normally become Christian is fear of hell. To say a “sinner’s prayer” and be “saved” from hell when we die. That’s it… now go tell people so they won’t go to hell either.  Is being Christian about listening to an overbearing loudmouth preacher from Arizona who has as much concern over American conservatism as he does getting folks to say the “sinner’s prayer”? Is it being offended  by coffee cups?  What sucks is this faith is often where it ends, being “saved”. What’s awesome is many times it doesn’t end there. God can be annoying in how he challenges us, right?

Early on in my journey I chose to write off most of Jesus’ words as hyperbole or unrealistic this side of heaven. Not lessons He actually wanted me/us to grow to understand and have transform us in the here and now. Is our faith something to be jettisoned (as practical in helping decide our actions as a nation or individual) if it challenges us?  Is it low on your hierarchy of needs? Maybe, that’s okay. At least be honest.

Is faith just a psychological crutch that comforts us yet never changes our thoughts , opinions and actions? I hope not but understand my atheist friends who believe so.

Why would we want to be Christian? Is it more than being about heaven/hell?

If Jesus were speaking today would he be a leader you would follow?

Would you want his ways to be sovereign?

Would we believe His ways can change this world?

Which is more important, the way of Christ or the way of our governments’ and the way of politicians? Who’s voice do you believe? Who’s wisdom?

Most of the heated discussions I get in with folks would end immediately if I heard an awareness of the cognitive dissonance of being a Christian that advocates for war, vindicates scapegoating, and the protection of what’s “ours”.  Basically, we trust in humanity and not in God.

Jesus’s words are extremely tough and I personally wrestle with them. I don’t like some of what he said  for instance stories of separating wheat/weeds good fish/bad fish at the harvest, some girls being SOL after letting their lamps burn down,Pluck your eye out or cut your hand off if it causes you to sin and so on. I definitely don’t always track with the Gospel message I am sure. My more conservative friends would say my LGBT views aren’t in line with God.    I do want to be honest about it all though. If I call Him Lord, Lord and don’t listen to how he challenges my jaded perspectives. How can I honestly say He is my Lord?  Increase my faith and understanding, Lord!  A part of my understanding of being Christian is that Christ is King,my king, I am not. Neither is Obama, Russia, ISIS, China, the U.N.

This world is a complete mess (at least in the news) Love and beauty still pervade. I pray for Christians to be honest in their questions. I pray for us to submit to the Holy Spirit convicting us. I pray we let our pride be laid aside. I pray we ‘hunger and thirst for righteousness’.  I pray we let love cast out fear. I pray we live as God is actually real. I pray we see Christ The King.

 

 

I saw a quote from a friend of mine on Facebook this week that said “We need a leader like George Washington, not Dr. Phil.” I found this interesting. What is wrong with the straight shooting approach of Dr. Phil? I imagine Washington would get along fine with Dr. Phil. Apples and oranges? I have utmost respect for Washington and the fact he wouldn’t allow the newly formed government to make him king. However, I do think we need leaders more in step with 2015 than 1776, that was quite awhile ago. The image of a leader coming in on a horse to kick ass reminds me more of another world leader I don’t particularly trust.

Disclaimer: I don’t personally think the machine of politics and business can be easily broken. It may never be. This doesn’t mean we don’t want to work towards a better more inclusive world.

The comparison of Dr.Phil and Washington got me thinking. What if we did have a nation led in a more inclusive way, understanding psychology and sociology.

Are individuals that different from nations? In my journey I have chosen to spend many hours looking at the issues that have helped to make me who I am. The good , the bad and the ugly. Sharing the junk in vulnerability.  I have made many mistakes, outright sinned against God, neighbor, family and myself, also endured many a negative thing and suffered from what was beyond my control. I have come through these processes realizing I am a pretty awesome guy, an over comer and adventurer! I have also played the part of selfish prick as well. I want the better. I want to be transformed into all I have been created to be. I am also comfortable with the imperfection of the journey because I am held and guided by Love/God themselves. God sees the good and not so good and I am still His beloved. His judgement/conviction in my life burns away the crap and it hurts.The more I try to hold on to it or justify it the worse it hurts. The negative in my life had/has to be acknowledged consciously otherwise it works itself out unconsciously.

What if we had this attitude as a nation? What if we collectively dropped our defensive posture and honestly acknowledged our sins? What if we all got excited about the possibilities and opportunities we possess? What if we stopped looking for enemies within and abroad? I believe Jesus only gets lip service in our society because His ways contradict all we “know”. What if bravado and pride blind us from being able to heal the multi-generational sins? We, as Americans, all have guilt by association. If we lay claim to the greatness, let us also acknowledge where we have fallen short. We can no longer expect people to “get over” slavery and discrimination, extermination of native peoples, only country to nuke another, homophobia, chauvinism, xenophobia, self-righteousness, avarice, shaming the poor, etc.. Anymore than a victim of abuse can just “get over” what they experienced be it physical, mental, sexual or spiritual. When folks fool themselves into thinking they can do it all alone, without help from community, counseling, friends, they swallow down the pain and act in destructive patterns of addictions, abuse,isolation and judgmental ism towards self and/or others. Putting themselves on God’s throne as the arbiter of what is ultimately reality.

If every one would only agree with me, it will all be okay (Please see as sarcasm).

This is where the ultimate problem lies. We have no idea as a nation to live in humility. We (no matter the side) are always RIGHT!  Acknowledging our issues as a nation doesn’t mean hating or not loving our country. I have issues, yet I don’t hate myself! It means acknowledging reality. I believe God’s love for our nation is more about the people than how we do it, it is also a universal love of the peoples of all nations.

We are manipulated on every side to blame. We can change and move forward in this nation if that is what we want. I am afraid we would rather be right than effective. As I began the scary work on my own life and issues, pride would’ve gotten me no where. May we allow ourselves to be humble. Then we can truly Love our neighbors as ourselves and allow our land to heal rather than kill. Can we be vulnerable?

9but he (God) said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 2 Cor 12-9

If you read my blog, you know I can be a bit on the “churchy” side. 🙂  I a View full article »

Our culture and world have been in such an uproar with doom and blame around every corner,  So what’s going on?

The problem is…. everything we know and everything we don’t. The traditional Christian answer is that “sin”  is the main problem behind everything and does have some merit when looked at beyond the surface of the word. Most of the time it brings to mind a disgusted god who is watching and judging by a pure moral code that no one matches up to. This is the normal Billy Graham understanding that most American Protestants see as part of the Gospel. The word “sin” is more deep and it has more to do with setting up wrong priorities in life and the main goal and target. Priorities that are dead ends. Priorities that are rooted in self-interest and self-preservation. The other Bible words we gloss over as archaic are “iniquity and wickedness”  these both are a part of the problems in the world once we look beyond the surface. Iniquity is very similar to inequality. Wickedness comes from wicker and it is a twisting of what reality is good, think of the difference between love and lust.

I think theologically so track with me for a moment.  These things are a part of the problem in our world because they hurt and destroy our neighbors as well as ourselves.

We always want something to blame that simplifies the issues and removes any universal fault from the equation. We are still not “our brother’s keeper”.  I’m slowly learning from Rene Girard that scapegoating is the ancient , primal response to damaging things in a society. When a scandal occurs we must find a person to blame, then eliminate that person or cause and we can all go back to feeling “normal”.

Common things to blame these days: guns, being “crazy”, cultural decay, No official prayer in schools, culture of death, avarice, the poor, the rich, Republicans, Democrats, Muslims, Israel, religion, Christians, welfare, capitalism, socialism, communism, ignorance, too many prisons/prison as industry, lobbies, drugs, cartels, terrorism, Putin, slave labor, pornography, prostitution, sex slavery, poor schools, inadequate teachers, inadequate parents, too much discipline, not enough discipline, rap culture, the suburbs, the inner-city, ghettos, the 1%, the 99%, inadequate health care, laziness, LGBT, racism, white privilege, slavery, animal cruelty, broken homes, crack, self-righteousness, atheists, alcoholism, police, culture wars, climate change, pollution. greed, school loans, government corruption, personal responsibility,  warmongers, southerners, political correctness, video games, Bible-thumpers, churches, too much/not enough regulation, mental health, The Patriot Act, ISIS, abortion, death penalty, domestic violence, rape, stand your ground, “sinners”  NRA, NOW, Unions, business owners, taxes, homophobia…..and on and on it goes.

Some of these things are clear-cut and others follow an ideology.  The ideological driven are what cause most division and the most comfort. Find some folks who agree with you and sit back and judge the world. Ideologies are also a subtle way to keep self-interest hidden, as well as bigotry and to be as judgmental as one wants because they are on the “right” side.

This is why I love the old story about the tree of “knowledge of good and evil”. One could call it the judgement tree. Originally, EVERYTHING was good. Then we became the judge. Judging ourselves internally, then judging everything around us.  Still, I think a society can rally around the biggies (murder, rape, kidnapping, etc.) and then choose to acknowledge our limited view thus our inability to judge rightly. Humility is the quality we all need, (myself especially) The list above will continue to grade on society. As long as we get in our little groups and continue to judge “the other”  our society won’t evolve to seeing our neighbors as those made in the image of God and worthy of the benefit of the doubt.  We personally do not hold all knowledge, I encourage us all to hold opinions loosely and love tenaciously. Judgementalism inhibits love, every time.

The problem is…all of us.  The solution is in the mirror. Can we learn to love? I believe so. As we learn to love ourselves, we genuinely grow in love for our neighbor. The Kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven.  This Good News is for the here and now. The Kingdom of God is present within you, right now. When we love, forgive, encourage,co-suffer alongside/have compassion, leave all ultimate judgment to God (who knows the whole story), fight for justice and mercy, feed the hungry, visit the sick, visit the prisoner, sing a song, go for a run, go for a walk, hike, go fishing, make love, meditate, pray, mourn, live in empathy, read, rest, party, have fun, worship, put down the phone,grieve injustice, rejoice in mercy, learn from our elders and our youth,  have a picnic, eat something new, plant something and help it grow, be a shoulder, lift up the fallen, share hope, cry for lost dreams of your own and the lost dreams of others, give life to new dreams, smile at a child, smile with the aged, have a beer or tea with a neighbor.

Life is NOW, live eternal life on this side of the grave. If you don’t feel loved now, know this, YOU ARE LOVED!  Find community, we are not meant to be alone. To love and be loved is the Kingdom come.

I love that faith is weird and beyond pure logic.

This Sunday, the Church celebrates Pentecost. This is when God showed us another component of how the Deity relates within themselves and with us. Our Advocate, Jesus promised was being poured out upon all flesh. The disciples were anointed by this Holy Spirit and were given boldness. So much boldness they seemed drunk. The miracle that happened shortly after the Spirit came and indwelt them was the ability to communicate. A supernatural thing happened where they spoke of Jesus to a diverse crowd and all heard in their own language. That is a pretty practical miracle wouldn’t you say?

My pentecostal/charismatic brothers and sisters experience a unique version of prayer language called tongues. I do not fully understand or get it, but I honor their tradition.

So….what is this Spirit of God? I believe She ( original language use the feminine sometimes ) is the active communicator of God. The Spirit speaks to you in language you understand. Beyond conscience, more towards intuition.  She guides us into all truth!  Jesus called the Spirit, Paraclete, One who is alongside us and inside us, our Advocate!  Pointing us in the way of Jesus.

Here is the mystery I embrace; We don’t even have to be aware of what the Spirit is doing for it to be occurring. I believe the Good News is for ALL people and God will speak in a language you “get” and understand. Scripture says the Spirit intercedes with our spirit with groanings beyond words. You get that? Your sigh, your exasperated groan, the ugh, all this God is communicating with your very soul!  Your whispering intuition. God is speaking and God doesn’t yell! This communication has nothing to do with being religious unless that is a language you respond to. It can be the nudge to enjoy your kids playing or to live in the moment of a party or planting a garden and feeling the breeze.

The ancient word for spirit and wind are the same. The Spirit is the Holy Wind of God  blowing where she pleases. The Spirit does what she wants and can’t be controlled or manipulated!  Yet She doesn’t control or manipulate you! You don’t have to listen though. But what if you did?

That inner voice that IS Truth and doesn’t lie! That says quietly “you’re precious” “you got this”  “go for it” “Is this really best for you?” We often have a couple voices in our minds, the repeats of old lies and the voice of quiet assurance. Which do you choose to give weight?

What if your intuition is the Voice of God?  What if the the breeze is God kissing your cheek? What if the Spirit prays for you even if you don’t get it or even want to? What if God is Real and the myth is the fake ass world systems we live under?

One time I was outside feeling a mix of down and up. I was praying with my eyes closed. When I opened them a butterfly was resting on my foot. The Spirit in an insect.

The Spirit is mysterious. The Spirit dwells in you. The Spirit points you toward love. The Spirit is subjective experience. The Spirit speaks through intuition.  The Spirit is abounding love toward you. Embrace the mystery.

Paradox.

Holy Spirit who is here and our very breath, come fall afresh on us.

Amen

A modern telling of a classic story.

A political know-it-all asked the Teacher “How do I get the into heaven?” The Teacher replied, ” Love God and Love your neighbor.”  The know-it-all didn’t really like people different from himself so he sought clarification. “So, in this globalized world, who exactly is my neighbor?”

The Teacher told a story

A man was walking through the plaza in Kansas City one evening when suddenly he is attacked. He is beaten badly by a group of men who rob him, steal his cell phone, shoes and jacket and leave him for dead. He is leaning against a wall behind a dumpster, almost unconscious and bleeding. He can be seen but also can be overlooked.

As he is laying there a local pastor is out with his family, heading to dinner. Seeing the man, he fears for his family’s safety and crosses the street to the other side, shields his wife and children’s eyes and heads to dinner…

Again a successful businessman was walking by saw the man suffering and kept right on moving, this wasn’t his problem. He considered a call to the police but got distracted.

Then a retired, baby boomer couple, on their way to a movie passed the man and found themselves afraid of him, and quickly crossed the street. “What if he attacks us?”  “It’s just not smart to get involved, you never know these days.”

As the man lay there, giving up hope, he saw a young middle eastern man with a long beard coming up to him and then he passed out.  The young man was a Palestinian immigrant. He took water and cleaned his wounds and bandaged them the best he could then he physically picked the man up and put him in his own vehicle. Then the young man found a local hospital and took the man inside. He explained that he did not know the man but gave them his credit card information to insure he was well taken care of as he had prior commitments he needed to attend to that night. He said he’d back to check on the stranger in a few days.

Tell me this, who was the beaten man’s neighbor?

The one who showed mercy to him.

My modern take. Originally, The Good Samaritan parable Luke 10:25-37

Our society is in pain.

I’m a white guy in an middle-upper middle class suburb. I was raised here and really enjoy living here. We have awesome opportunities for all people to enjoy. Low crime rates, lower unemployment, good schools, shopping galore and jobs. We do have people that struggle and have money issues, poor folks but in general,  it’s a fairly successful area. The American Dream.

As a white guy in a dominant white culture, I don’t have any real idea what it is like to be a non-white person but I can share what my perspective has been. It has definitely shifted over the years. Growing up I was aware of the evil of slavery and in the Civil War that over 600,000 lives were lost to settle the issue. I was aware of discrimination in the south and the courageous work of MLK and that generation to bring about the civil rights movement. My schools in KS had maybe a handful of black students but I did have a black friend on my block as a kid.

All I’ve known is white culture. As a teen the music scene was embracing rap and I was a metal head which kinda annoyed me. Why? I don’t know but somehow I felt a sense of unfairness. I actually liked rap but something within me was afraid so I made fun of rap as not talented and “black” music. Once again, why?  Looking back, I can see some horrible popular music at the time helped me develop a slight racist attitude.  I was a big Guns’N’Roses fan. They had and album called Lies that the popular song “Patience” was on, a top 40 hit. There was another controversial song on the album called “One in a Million”. It had a smooth sound and was easy to get to know. Here’s the lyrics;

“One In A Million”

1,2,1,2,3,4
[Whistle]
Guess I needed sometime to get away
I needed some piece of mind
Some piece of mind that’ll stay
So I thumbed it down to Sixth and L.A. —
So I thumbed it down to nine o six ten L.A. (“90610”)
Maybe a Greyhound could be my way

Police and Niggers, that’s right
Get out of my way
Don’t need to buy none of your
Gold chains today
I don’t need no bracelets
Clamped in front of my back
Just need my ticket; ’til then
Won’t you cut me some slack?

You’re one in a million
Yeah, that’s what you are
You’re one in a million, babe
You’re a shooting star
Maybe someday we’ll see you
Before you make us cry
You know we tried to reach you
But you were much too high
Much too high, much too high,
Much too high, yes, ow!

Immigrants and faggots
They make no sense to me
They come to our country
And think they’ll do as they please
Like start some mini Iran,
Or spread some fuckin’ disease
They talk so many goddamn ways
It’s all Greek to me
Well some say I’m lazy
And others say that’s just me
Some say I’m crazy
I guess I’ll always be
But it’s been such a long time
Since I knew right from wrong
It’s all the means to an end, I
I keep it movin’ along

You’re one in a million
Oo, you’re a shooting star
You’re one in a million, babe
You know that you are
Maybe someday we’ll see you, Oo
oh, Before you make us cry
You know we tried to reach you
But you were much too high
Much too high, Oo, much too high
Yeah,
Much too high, huh, no, no, oh
Ow!

Radicals and Racists
Don’t point your finger at me
I’m a small town white boy
Just tryin’ to make ends meet
Don’t need your religion
Don’t watch that much T.V.
Just makin’ my livin’, baby
Well that’s enough for me

You’re one in a million
Yeah that’s what you are
You’re one in a million, babe
You’re a shooting star
Maybe someday we’ll see you
Before you make us cry
You know we tried to reach you
But you were much too high
Much too high, ow, much too high,
Much too high, much too high
Yeah, yeee, yeah, yeee, igh!
Ow! Much too high
(Oh, much too high, ah,
much too high, ah, much too high
much too high, ow, much too high)

I remember there being some controversy and negativity about the songbut no real challenge. On the other side Easy-E and NWA were promoting a real thuggish culture with “Fuck tha Police” and “Boyz in da hood” etc.  Music may not seem like a big deal in the grand scheme of things but I believe it is important to pay attention to what we feed our minds. Our pastor said our liturgy is an experience of marinading in what we believe. Music can be the same.
This music and being sent to live outside of LA as a partying teen right after the riots added fuel to racism within me. Once again, why?  I had never really experienced anything negative at the hands of black folks. One time my black friend and I were in an actual fight and his Mom angrily broke it up and jumped my ass about it. Looking back that may have been a seed but I was beating up her son in his own garage. I clearly was wrong. My family wasn’t overtly racist growing up but said I should be thankful to be white. Maybe another seed?
I was ignorant as a teen and am ashamed of the racist culture I was a part of.  Thankfully I moved a few times and my Dad, the genius that he is, sent me to Job Corps in D.C., 500 folks about 15 white. This experience changed everything. The lie I had come to believe was that I was racist in response to black prejudice. During my 6 months at Job Corps, I heard one anti-white comment, one! Kinda forced a shift in my opinions and removed the chip on my shoulder.
I have since repented of any and all racism and prejudice, recognizing it as the evil it is. I think it is easier for me to recognize the overtly wrong parts of my journey. The harder parts are the subtle, cultural influences that helped fuel it to grow such as the music scene, differences in urban culture,etc.. I am a white guy but my call is to embrace the family of all humanity, regardless of difference. I think this is God’s call to all people. Jesus is behind the eyes of everyone you lock eyes with, he shares our common humanity.
All lives matter, but if my black brother doesn’t feel as if his life matters as much as mine I want to do my part to stand in solidarity with him so I agree #blacklivesmatter.  Just because of the progress we’ve made doesn’t mean the work is done. I don’t know how to fix it but I know how to love. If us white folks can slow down in our defensive responses and learn to listen rather than accuse. Healing can occur. If we all cling to our pride, no progress can be made. Justice must be equal. Forgiveness can only be given (culturally) if the truth of the wrong is admitted.
Lord,
Give me eyes to see and ears to hear.
Show me my blinders and quiet my noise.
Return my heart to flesh and break its stony facade.
That I may know the Real.
Amen

Guilty As Anyone

Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.”- Jesus

I’ve always loved this saying of Jesus. It is in his classic way of encouraging us to deal with our own crap before we sit on a high horse, judging another person. Jesus is a master at drawing moral equivalence. This is not something our western culture likes to examine. We have come very far at removing the logs in our own eyes, yet we still have work to do. I am afraid, at times, that my criticisms are seen as bashing the west, my culture, patriotism, Christianity, white folks, Republicans, conservatism, capitalism, etc. and that I don’t see the evil in the world such as ISIS, Boko Haram, Putin, Chinese authoritarianism, dictatorships, etc. What my criticisms are aimed at are the “tribe” in which I was born and belong as well as myself personally.

What if we truly focused on healing and wholeness first within ourselves, our families, our churches, our culture, our politics, our own systems before we judge the “other”? This isn’t very sexy and definitely doesn’t allow us to look down on the rest of the world.  I recognize that the world is systemically evil but what is sad is the inability to see it and thus make changes. In my tradition there is a Deceiver and his power is in lies and wickedness (root wicker= twisted truth). We often see evil as good.

When we attempt to judge self-righteously the “other”, we fall into exactly what Jesus is saying. Hypocrites without true standing and the only way of “peace” is through domination, power and the threat of violence. Could there be a better, more excellent way?

My friends, please remember my criticisms are also directed at myself. I am as complicit in the evil systems of this world as anyone. May we all humbly see the logs that rest in our own eyes and gently do the surgery to have them removed together.

Thought I’d share what I’ve been chewing on which I think may be an encouragement? 🙂
In light of dealing with my Mom’s care , this thought has been going through my mind; Intentions without actions are worthless. It feels harsh to say out loud but it is what I am feeling.

In my early adult journey of faith I  would normally avoid the book of James in the Bible because I was stuck in a heaven/hell understanding of Christianity. In this book, he declares “Faith without works, is dead.”  My immature mind only saw fear of hell in this book and dismissed it. I always was pitting James vs. Paul and you know Paul wrote most of the New Testament so I don’t need to take James seriously.  The passage I am referencing, has much to say to say to us today.

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? 17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.  – James 2:14-17

Let’s  just take the normal heaven/hell understanding out for a bit. You can place it back later if you so desire.

What if this statement is more about whether or not faith is “something you believe” only or something meant to actually form us? What does faith infused with action do to “save” us? I believe it gives us eyes to truly see and ears to truly hear. Otherwise we only hear the noise of our own ego and desire to keep ourselves as primary in the universe.

I think this passage also has a strong message to our political climate but lets not go there today.

What if being “saved” is more of being saved from being sucked in to the worlds system? What if it is more counter-cultural? I believe it is.  I believe nothing can separate us from God’s love. I also believe we can be completely blind to it. What if salvation is meant to be here and now as well as later?

It is weird  to me to have that thought about intentions without actions being worthless. But isn’t it true? Think about any time you’ve broken an agreement with someone. Or if someone broke an agreement with you? Did their/your intentions stop the pain or disappointment? Or did your/their intentions get what needed to be done fulfilled?

Believe me, I DO NOT have this mastered at all! I don’t always follow through, just ask my wife!  It is a journey to get our hearts, minds and souls to combine with our physical body to actually accomplish what we ultimately so deeply desire…. To see love in action.  It is happening. It is about conviction not condemnation. Our actions do not affect our ultimate value and worth, they do show what we ultimately value and love.

 

“Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”- Jesus

Ouch! This little bit of scripture has always felt heavy. Early on in married life, I would proof text it as a way to guilt and shame my beautiful, young wife (who thankfully was new to “churchy” life and forgave me being an ass) as a way to show her she would always have to be second and she should put me second too. What a drag?!!? This was my ego “doing what I should”, and my own insecurity. She naturally rested in God’s love far more naturally than me.   Have you ever been beat up with these verses?(sorry babe) Or beat yourself up?

What does Jesus mean? Under the influence of reading Robert Farar Capon (amongst others), I have found new insights on these hard words.  Let’s dive in!

Is there ever a time when so much is demanded? Think about it…it sounds so exclusive and limiting then becomes all-inclusive.

There is a time, not one we like to ponder. Ash Wednesday and Lent begin this week which point there. The most demanding thing is our eventual physical death. The journey Jesus is pointing towards is the first death of our ego which as we let go we can eventually face the physical death without clutching and grasping against inevitability.

I always saw this verse as a way to hate on myself for loving those close to me. What?!? I don’t think I am alone here on this. What if Jesus is suggesting our entire way of holding on, is more a projection and attempt to control? I can almost see a twinkle in his eye and a grin as he could say “You know you will die, right? Why not let me show you a less grasping way so when it comes, you’ll be more ready. It will feel like your dying, but you’re not, not yet anyway?”

On Google, ego is defined as a person’s sense of self. I am not a psychologist so anything I write is my opinion and experience :).  I would say the ego is who we think we are, not really who we are…deep…right?! It is our self-image, the mental projection of who we are. Our job/career, country, religion/spirituality(or lack), our family, our kids, our political opinions, intelligence etc. are how we experience the ego much of the time, unaware of its influence.

Here’s the rub…while those things are good, NONE of them define your worth! Not one. Look at little children. Any pretense? Any proving? Any ego? Jesus also said “Unless you become as little children, you will not see the kingdom of God”  The ego-lessness  of children shows the reality of the Kingdom in the here and now! Then we grow up and together with our environments fabricate our ego or false self  and it becomes harder to see the Kingdom.

This part of you will die, it will. The good news is, it’s NOT you! You are more than any projections! You are more than your image! “You cannot offend the True self. Any offense is the false self/ego.” – Richard Rohr

Learning to let go of who we think we are is the daily taking up of the cross.  The True Self is who we are “Hidden with Christ, in God” We can’t live aware of that all the time. It is the necessary work of suffering and dying. I don’t like it! But I also don’t like the ego’s lies of separation and alone-ness!

You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.” -Jesus

This Lent may you find you are more than you think, so much more. May you find lies dying in the Light.  May you see your true worth and the true worth of all you lock eyes with.  May you live loved. May you learn let go.

 

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