Tag Archive: christian


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.

 

 

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If you read my blog, you know I can be a bit on the “churchy” side. 🙂  I a Continue reading

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

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.

Christmastime Is Here

Thanksgiving is over and the Christmas season is thrust upon us once again. I really love this time of the year. Our society shifts a bit towards being other focused.  Lights are beginning to be put and children are giggling over the possibility of what Santa will bring. Commercials are in full force,  I am still waiting to meet someone who actually does the Lexus in the driveway with a bow on it. We’re Americans so we’re over the top, it’s what we do. The ever-present fake culture war pundits are gearing up to make sure folks can say “Merry Christmas”  and the secular minded are just kinda annoyed we acknowledge the birth of Jesus. Families get together,  therapist appointments are made, we gain a few pounds and life moves along.

We have been blessed lately to have found a new church community at St.Thomas Episcopal Church in Overland Park, KS. It is a inter-generational community that is such a modern paradox, I love it.  There is a deep connection to the past at church. For most of our adult life we have attended the mega-church style and made many friends along the way.  It was a connection for years with community, coffee, bar style worship music, and relevant sermons.

St.Thomas is a bit different. The style of worship is the same as it has been for thousands of years.  It is quiet, ritualistic, reverent, liturgical, hymns (that few know the tune :)) from a hymnal are sung, the Eucharist is shared openly, scripture is read and a short sermon is given in line with the readings and season. The church follows the ancient church calendar so the readings (comforting and challenging) and theme are already set.  We sit, kneel, stand, and identify with the Trinity in the sign of the cross. Think open, inclusive, catholic. One could argue that this is not relevant to the modern mind and heart but I would disagree. There is something refreshing about church not selling anything, the focus being God and not us.

Anyway, I am super stoked for the season of Advent. It begins this Sunday. It is the beginning of the church calendar and lasts the four weeks up to Christmas. Advent is the season of waiting and patience. Oh, joy. I am a modern American and waiting is not something I am accustomed to and frankly makes me uncomfortable.  All things that can be “fixed” should be and do it now! My humanity wants a magic wand more often than a God who enters creation as a helpless baby. Nevertheless, waiting is a part of the journey.  I think this is more of an active waiting with a consummation that is known in the heart.  Like the alcoholic waits for the liquor store to open yet knows it will.  Our waiting full of hope.

May you find the time to disconnect from our matrix a bit this season full of pregnant hope and connect with the larger story you are already a part of.  Merry Christmas!

Recently, we have all been reintroduced to the idea of “Death with Dignity” otherwise known as physician assisted suicide. The high-profile case of Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old woman with terminal brain cancer who ended her life this past Saturday, has brought it back to our minds. First off, I in no way feel as if I have the right to judge or condemn anyone who makes this choice. It is truly heart breaking to have to deal with the questions those folks have had dealt with. I simply only want to ask questions and see where it may lead. Once again, no condemnation!

The difficulty this places within me is how we view suffering. Is suffering just bad and wrong, therefore to be avoided at all cost? Most of our issues in society are the results of pain avoidance. The majority of drug addicts, alcoholics, workaholics, food or sex addicts, t.v. addicts etc., I believe began their journey due to their personal pain and suffering.  These things are not automatically sought by those who a prone to bad choices, the reality is that these things alleviate suffering, even if it simply prolongs it and causes a different kind of suffering.

Our society doesn’t place much value in “suffering well”. Maybe it is our sexy, youth obsessed, ultra vital mentality. Or maybe our individuality being the focus to where we don’t want to bother others with our pain.  Maybe it is because suffering brightly highlights our illusion of control.

A sad thing to me is the slippery slope of suffering lacking value in our culture.  If suffering is inherently bad and wrong and thus must be avoided at all cost “Death with Dignity” is the road we will embrace. But what is the cut off? What if we begin to judge (as humans do) that to end misery is the most compassionate thing to do?

What about the homeless person suffering with sickness, sleeping on concrete?

What about the suffering single parent without enough food to go around?

What about the famines around the world that cause widespread suffering?

What about the suffering of the young women doused with acid across their face, guaranteeing  a lifetime of certain suffering?

What about the poor?

What about the disabled (mental or physical) war veteran?

What about the unemployed, who just can’t catch a break?

What about the hungry, the imprisoned, the sick, the naked?

 

So, does suffering have value? All of us have experienced suffering in our lives and I would say that suffering produces the truest character of our souls.  My challenge is to see that all humanity is suffering, all of us. It is a season we will all share in. Jesus shared it with us. What if His abuse and crucifixion was an act of total solidarity with human suffering? Even if you don’t believe, consider what I believe for a moment. The Creator allowed Himself to experience our deepest pain, He is not distant from us. In my suffering I have found Him to be close, very close.

I know it’s a touchy subject and I subscribe to a consistent ethic of life but my only aspiration is to cause thought and hopeful dialogue so that we can all lean on one another when suffering comes our way.

 

We have all heard those wise words of Jesus ” Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” Matthew 7:1 or the good old King James version ” Judge not, lest ye be judged.”  I have been struck by the wisdom of these words in a different way recently. It may have always been clear to you but to me it is new.  So bear with me a bit.

When I was around 21 I “rededicated” myself to Jesus and became a bit of a conservative, evangelical zealot. During this time I always drew a distinction between judging and condemning.  To judge; was to define something as wrong. To condemn; was to suggest punishment was needed (as in hell).  It is true that these terms can be synonymous. Seeing Jesus’ words more as an admonishment not to condemn, I felt quite justified judging the heck out of everything for several years. All the normal ones; Clinton, Disney, LGBT, liberals, the media, Democrats, folks from the coasts, Hindus, Muslims, Atheists, Catholics, Buddhists, criminals, and on and on. I felt completely okay doing this because in my mind I wasn’t condemning them. That was God’s job.  This was the camp I was in and bought it hook, line and sinker.

Thankfully, God is in the heart softening business!!!!

As I think back on my worldview in those days I only saw Jesus’ words in terms of condemning to hell. I would’ve clearly stated God’s grace was sufficient enough to “save” all those I was judging but “wrong is wrong”, right?!? I wasn’t judged anymore because I was under grace so it was my job to define what is wrong.   Huh?!?!

What I never realized was that Jesus’ words are simple facts about interpersonal relationships. Once we start judging or condemning we invite the exact same treatment and it is a vicious cycle. This is why (I believe) the Church has lost credibility. We (Christians) judge and condemn and so the world judges and condemns the Church.

Judgment implies perfect knowledge which by nature is exceedingly arrogant. I am not talking about crimes here such as; murder, abuse or rape. I am talking about assuming we know better than someone else or everyone else about anything or everything. It is the tyranny of opinion. All opinions are valid and should be heard even if we have no actual study in the subject. The need to be “right” over being effective. Therefore we become exceedingly opinionated and judgmental and completely miss the point of the Gospel.  Mother Theresa said ” When you judge, it is impossible to love.”

I am not judging or condemning where I came from. I am thankful for the journey. I am thankful it IS a journey. However, if this causes a person to be uncomfortable I make no apologies. The words and actions of Jesus are a judgment on the ways of the world, of every political system, of every religion (definitely Christianity) or culture. He always makes me uncomfortable when I think I know what’s up! Our call is love. Plain and simple. To love God and our neighbor as ourselves.

Next time you are tempted to judge, remember it bounces right back!

Do we want to be good? Does humanity have a want to be good? Does America want to be good? Do Christians want to be good?

These questions have been on my heart as I watch all the horrible geopolitical happenings in the world the past few weeks.

Do we ever ask ourselves this? Or do we want to be rational, logical and right?  Are we more concerned with a persona than persons? Are we blind to our own wickedness?

I believe humans have the tendency towards blindness.  The questions are not; do we do good? We (all humanity) do do good in this world.  I know and get the selfishness in the world.  There is evil.  However, is it possible to overcome evil with good?  Or must evil be fought, defeated and destroyed? And how is that done without becoming that which you are fighting?

Do we want to love our neighbors? Do we want to love our enemies? Do we believe the world can be a better place?  Do we ridicule the good as impossible thus settling? If goodness can’t attain to perfection should it just be disregarded?

I want to be good. Not to score a brownie points with God (They don’t play that game).  When God made each of us they rejoiced and said “Very good!” Life, culture, religion, family dynamics immediately disagree.  I have experienced more good than I ever would’ve thought possible growing up.  Love and goodness is all around. It is steady hard work on blind spots that enables me to experience this in the here and now.

Do I want to be good? Do I want love? These are the questions the children of the Father could be brave and really look at.  Do we look to God to lead, challenge and love us to a new way of thinking or simply endorse our views, keep us healthy, save us from hell and basically stay out of our way?

I think and hope the church is tired of being shallow.

Pie in the sky, Pollyanna thinking  is not what I am saying.  To be good and walk in love is the calling of the children of God, all of us.

 

 

First quick point. Spiritual, religious or unaffiliated are already included by breathing air. Here we go!

I love some the cool pics that come across Facebook that normally give the glories of being spiritual and poke fun at being religious. Such as; Religion is for those afraid of Hell and Spirituality is for those who have already been there. Witty and rings true to me.How about you?

What does it mean to be spiritual?  What does it mean to be religious. It seems to be more a difference in perception and words than reality. What I think folks are saying when they say “spiritual” is that they long and communicate with God but want nothing to do with any belief system that excludes others. Today our understanding of religion seems more of a in/out mega clique. The Latin of the word speaks more to connecting with God which sounds very close to our modern concept of being spiritual.

These in/out mega clique have rules and expectations as well as exclusions. Do this, don’t do that. The spiritual life appears more of moving in the direction of your intuition and trusting how God is communicating with you.  There are few have-to things other than seeking. There is an understanding that all humanity and the very cosmos is connected. Being born is your initiation. This past Sunday we caught Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday (pretty good show,BTW) and there were three panelists that were sharing about the spiritual hunger that is all around and how their various blogs and speaking schedules were being filled up.  I have been struck when I watch these programs that it appears as if there is an overwhelming acknowledgement that God is at work in the world.  Yet no one describes themselves as religious.

I believe this is because the religious framework has gotten so fixed there is no room for the Spirit to move freely in these institutions and the average seeker is able to see it fairly quickly. Some of us take a few years living spiritual in the religion box before seeing it for what it has become.

For what it is worth. Religion has had much spiritual movement as well and always will. Once you get down to relationships and away from the “rules” and the “clique” of it all. I identify myself  as a Christian and find what the religion has become most sad. The movement that saw the value of all people became a in/out mega clique.

Ultimately I want to suggest the spiritual movement IS the Gospel for those unable to hear it due to cultural trappings and our negative judgements on the history of religion. Let’s look at this and assume you (and everyone) is already in the club. I will be quoting some of the Bible to show what I believe was the original, holistic movement of God and how it compares with what I see as the spiritual movement today.

“I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh”  Acts 1:17 emphasis added

Pretty inclusive, right? Could this be when you are listening to your heart, that inner voice, your intuition. Could you be co-creating the life you want every step of the way with the Holy Spirit?

” He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.” Col 1:15-20 emphasis added

Ever think everything is somehow connected?  Could it be that it is true? Everything is connected.

“Jesus wept.” John 11:35

“It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings” Hebrews 2:10

This is so cool, amazing, and mind-blowing. God learned to identify with us through suffering. What?!?!?! God learned something? Say what now? Yes, God really gets YOU! This is what the spiritual get and the religious often miss.

Our Father” Matt 6:9 emphasis added

When Jesus starts out teaching how to pray these are his first two words.

Just think about that. Really think about it. Who is left out or excluded?

As much as it pains me to think about it. Maybe it is good for religion to be in decline? Maybe that is what is needed for folks to live and believe the Gospel without even identifying with the “official” Gospel? It pains me that the damage appears done and that anything tagged “Christian” will not be received as well as time moves on. But then again is this all about God connecting with His creation or protecting my understanding of how He does it?  I want to stop placing God in a box. The spiritual life recognizes this and I pray so does the religious.

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