Human Too

Ok, first, for an update. This week Katie has had steady work which is great. She is filling in for a maternity leave all next week, then the following week she’s supposed to fill in for a different maternity leave throughout the rest of February, through March, and I think into April. So, while it’s substitute pay, so it isn’t much, it’s going to be steady. So, it will be something. As for me, I’m learning to play as Katie’s brother Will calls me, Mr. Mom. So, we’re adjusting, but it’s really not going too bad. For Christmas we had gotten Cari tickets to see the Imagination Movers, so we go to do that tomorrow, which we’re excited about.

Now, on to the thoughts for the day section. As I’ve been reading various things I’ve been forming this idea, but it’s still really fresh for me, so it’s not well packaged and polished. But, I figure this is a blog, not a book, so it should be ok. I just hope there’s enough to kind of follow the idea.
I finished rereading a book by Mark Kurlansky called Nonviolence 25 lessons in the history of a dangerous idea. To say it’s thought provoking is a massive understatement. It challenges me in a lot of ways, but those are the kind of books that are so much fun to read. In any case, in it there is a quote from Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu from the funeral of Steven Biko. He said, “Pray for the leaaders of this land, for the police – especially the security police and those in prison service – that they may realize that they are human beings too.” Now, I know that Jesus said to pray for your enemies. I try to trust that prayer can work wonders in both us doing the praying and the enemies for which we are praying, but what he is asking people to pray for is odd. I mean it seems like he would encourage people to pray that these “enemies” would see that the people they are oppressing are human beings too, something like “pray that they would see that we are human beings too.” But, no he says pray that they, “realize that they are human beings too.”
Now, I’m also re-reading Rob Bell’s book Sex God. Which is quite an odd name for a book in the “Christian” genre (but it makes for a lot of fun to call bookstores and ask about copies, “Do you have a Sex God?”). But, this book is about the connections between our sexuality (much more than simply sex) and its connection with our spirituality. At one point he begins talking about how whenever we treat other people as things or commodities, it doesn’t just do something to the person being objectified, but also to the person doing the objectifying.
See, the idea is that the Garden of Eden Creation story shows us how we were created to live, what it looks like to be truly human. Part of that is the connection with each other. When we see the “fall” take place, the two lose their connection, their ashamed of their nakedness, hide, and begin to play the blame game. To be truly human is to see the divine image in those around us and to connect on a deep level because of that. When we objectify and abuse, when we fail to see the divine image in those around us, something happens not just in them, but within us as well. We become less human, less than what we were created for.
But, what if your “enemy” was to begin to, “realize that they are human beings too”? Connecting with the divine image within themselves, “they” would also begin to see it in you. If “they” can become more human, then this is good news for you as well. If “they” can become more of what “they” were created to be, only then can “they” begin to see the divine image within you as well. Now, you may be wondering why all the quotation marks around the word they. One reason is that I’m not sure that an us/them mentality is actually helpful because really in the end there is just us, everyone is we. We all have this divine image no matter how scarred or fractured, we are all human. But, the other reason is that if we have an enemy, then chances are that we in some situations also are a “they”. So, suddenly the question becomes flipped. Who is it that I am likely to miss seeing the divine image within? Who is it that I villainize, demonize? Maybe it’s time that we turn around, face up to where we lack, return to the garden state, to what we were created for, and in so doing see the divine image within our enemies.
We need to pray for our enemies. Maybe we even need to pray that “they” see that “they” are human too. But, maybe we also need to pray that we see that we are human as well. Because, when we objectify others we lose a part of who we are. We lose a piece of our true humanity.

Ananias and Sapphira

As I write this the month of January is winding down. It’s hard to believe that 09 is already 1/12 done. I don’t write tonight because I have some special insight of inspiration that I simply have to share, although I have a few thoughts I will share. Really, for me it’s more of trying to develop a discipline of blogging. I’ve started a couple others in the past, then let them fall away. I’m really hoping to keep from doing that with this one. Bear with me as I continue to try to work toward getting the design to where I want it.

As far as things go with the family, we’re beginning to get adjusted. We’re getting into some rhythms, which is great (especially for the kids). Since the positions we were hoping on for Katie have fallen through we’ve been a little bummed about that, but she did some substitute teaching this week, and she’s been given a long term sub position for a maternity leave beginning mid February, so we’re excited about that. She’ll be working with older gifted kids, so she’s really excited about this opportunity. And, believe it or not, we got to go out on a date last night. We divided the kids among family and went to see Paul Blart Mall Cop. So, that was a lot of fun. Also, this weekend is a youth weekend at the church, so it’s been fun being a part of that this evening.

Now, my spiritual thoughts for the day. I’ve been re-reading Velvet Elvis (something I like to do every year/ ever other year or so) and Mark Kurlansky’s book on Nonviolence. As a “secular” author he sees Jesus as the introducer/creator of the concept of nonviolent resistance, which is an aspect of Jesus’ life and teachings that I think most churches tend to ignore or spiritualize to make it not about nonviolent resistance. But, as I’ve been re-reading this book and just turning it over in my head while reading the gospels I’m beginning to see all kinds of dimensions to the crucifixion event that make it even more meaningful and powerful. I think there’s some significant things going on there from that perspective that are really helping me get a deeper handle on it. I’m also reading N.T. Wright’s Following Jesus, and through it rediscovering books of the New Testament. His insights on Colossians and “forces” are brilliant. I’m also enjoying rediscovering Matthew through this book.

Now, in devotional life I’m now working through Acts. One of the big things that stand out to me is the boldness we see. They know what the Jewish leaders are capable of, and yet they still speak boldly and unafraid. I guess when you follow a guy you saw rise from the dead you figure they don’t really have anything on you. I really admire their boldness, and personally struggle to find ways to be bold while at the same time being humble. There’s also this theme of caring about what God thinks rather than men, you see Jesus talk about it some in the book of John, then Peter and John really get in on it when they’re told not to teach in Jesus’ name anymore. Then it carries over to the story of Ananias and Sapphira.

You have this great Pentecost moment, 3000 people join the movement that day (a reference to the Golden Calf debacle?), they hold everything in common and we’re told people are added to their number daily and there was no one needy left among them. So, this couple sells some land and they give some of the money to the Way/Jesus Follower Community/Church/whatever you want to call it at this point, and they keep some of it for themselves. Peter confronts them, and they die on the spot. Hopefully, you can understand why I’ve struggled with this passage. I mean, is the message here not to give some of your money to the church and keep some for yourself or else you’ll die? I mean, I don’t give everything I have to the church, and I don’t know anyone who has. Even Rick Warren only gives 90% (and yes I meant only sarcastically, although I think it’s fantastic that he reverse tithes). I mean they die on the spot, what do you do with that? Is the moral don’t mess with Peter, the church, what? See, the tendency is to think it’s because of what they did to the church, but Peter gives a different reason. He says it’s because they lied to God. And this is something that I think is more common than maybe we’d like to admit.

I remember going to this funeral and there was this person there who was very close to the deceased. So, I went and asked them how they were doing and they said that they were doing great, that they know their loved one was in a better place. And it was as if they felt like they weren’t allowed to mourn. Like if they did they would show a lack of faith or something.

And there was this other time when I was flipping through the channels one day and I happened across a TV preacher who informed me that when I’m having a bad day I need to smile and act like everything was going great because as a Christian I’m representing Christianity and I’d be doing it a disservice if I was honest about how I was feeling. I mean who would want to sign up for a religion where someone who followed it had a bad day?

It’s like there is this lie out there that we have to be super spiritual. It says that we can’t doubt or question, we can’t mourn, we can’t be honest about our faults, and whatever we do, whatever the circumstances we have to do it with a smile acting like we’ve got this super faith through which we’re trusting God with whatever is going on, lying not only to everyone else, but also to ourselves and ultimately God. I mean I couldn’t count the times I’ve heard people say, “you can’t question God.” To which I say if you can’t question God then your God is too small. See, God is bigger than our questions. Actually it’s through honestly exploring our doubts and questions that we draw closer to Him, gain insight and understanding. If we don’t grieve, we don’t find healing. If we’re not willing to admit our faults we wind up isolating ourselves, cutting ourselves off from community. And guess what, when we have a bad day, people see through the fake smiles and cry impostor (although hopefully not to your face, despite how funny of a skit that might make). In my experience, whenever you can admit your pain and struggle and at the same time not give up on your faith or on God because you’re still working on it, or He’s still working on you, in you, even in the midst of this, people take notice. They appreciate the honesty.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that Ananias and Sapphira were the fake super spiritual couple. They wanted everyone to think they were something they weren’t. They wanted everyone to think they were super generous, even though they weren’t there yet. But instead of saying we’re just not there yet, we don’t feel comfortable giving all of it they kept some and told everyone that they did give all of it. Peter explanation for their deaths are that they lied to God. And I think maybe the point for us is that when we pretend to be super Christian what we’re really doing is lying to God, which in many ways kills us. When we refuse to mourn we miss the opportunity to connect with God in a special way, we miss the growth that comes through the process, and all the stuff that we won’t admit to hides and festers inside of us. It’s the same with doubts, questions, and the lying with the smile that we’re just trusting God, when we know that we’re really struggling. See, being super spiritual isolates us. It cuts us off from others and the world around us. It places us in denial with ourselves, separating us from both ourselves and ultimately God. Which, if you notice parallels the consequences or “curses” in the Adam and Eve Genesis story.

So, I guess the point of this story might be that we’re all on a journey, and none of us have arrived as followers of Jesus. We lose loved ones and we grieve, we have bad days, we struggle with doubts, questions, the future, and with becoming who God created us to be. But rather than pretending to be something we’re not we need to be honest about it and have real faith, the faith to continue on the journey. Because this is how we continue to become who God created us to be. This is the direction toward life, the other kills us from the inside out.

On a personal note, maybe that’s part of the key to the boldness with humility thing. Caring more about what God thinks than others we should simply speak honestly and be willing to listen in case we’re wrong. I mean isn’t most of the super spiritual stuff because we want others to think certain things? And whenever we’re bold and arrogant isn’t it usually because we want to convince someone we’re right and they’re wrong? And if we’re being super spiritual, if we’re faking, if we’re lying, doesn’t God know it, even when we’ve convinced ourselves? So maybe, just maybe if we could learn to care more and more what God thinks rather than what everyone else thinks we could grown more and more in this direction.

But, I’m not there yet.
Nonetheless, I’m working on it.

Quote God and Salvation of the World

Well, yesterday was a big day. We’re trying to sort through job opportunities and see what happens there, so pray for us on that and, there was a little ceremony that you may have heard about bringing in a new president.
Now, I’m not one much for politics, and I think that the Church getting mixed in with politics has proven to be a horrible idea since it first started doing so with Constantine (thank God Christendom is finally falling or has finally fallen depending upon who you’re talking to). The Church tends to lose its ability to speak truth to government when it gets too involved in government. But regardless of political spectrum it’s amazing to see a black person become president considering where we were as a nation not so long ago. But, while I’ve got a lot of thoughts swirling in my head regarding civil religion right now, what I really want to do is share a quote. The last part of last year I reread Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christian Series, and toward the end of the last book The Last Word and the Word After That a quote was given that has stuck with me. I will admit that I have not read the book that McLaren quotes, so like with so many things the quote may have more going on in it because of what’s outside of it than I realize. But I post it because I found it in and of itself quite intriguing.

“To believe in God is to believe in the salvation of the world. The paradox of our time is that those who believe in God do not believe in the salvation of the world, and those who believe in the future of the world do not believe in God.
Christians believe in “the end of the world,” they expect the final catastrophe, the punishment of others.
Atheists in their turn . . . refuse to believe in God because Christians believe in him and take no interest in the world . . .
Which is the more culpable ignorance?
. . . I often say to myself that, in our religion, God must feel very much alone: for is there anyone besides God who believes in the salvation of the world? God seeks among us sons and daughters who resemble him enough, who love the world enough so that he could send them into the world to save it.”
– Louis Evely, In the Christian Spirit (Image, 1975)

New Year New Blog

Happy New Year Everybody, my intent is to begin to capture various thoughts for discussion in this blog and simply kind of share my world and what’s going on with me. At the moment the kids are asking for Cheeze It’s, so I’ll wait until later to post something more substantial.