Sunday, July 4, 2010

Umm... guess not.

So last week I wrote about our "It's FREE you know" experience. This morning, as is typical on Sunday mornings, I was sitting on the front porch, but this week anxious to see what the follow up would be from last week's nodder.

I have to admit I was hopeful that he'd make some kind of futher overture to draw us into what he obviously believes is his spiritual "family". Not because I really wanted to be a part, but because I really have a desire to see those who claim to follow Christ act like it.

Sadly, he pulled up at the same time he has for almost a year and parked in the same spot he has every week. Got out of his car, looked over my way... and said nothing. In fact, he glanced away as soon as he noticed I was looking his way.

Guess he feels he has fulfilled the mandate taught by his religious system to "Go ye therefore" by simply "inviting" me to come into his building.
By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (emphasis mine)

John 13:35

Sunday, June 27, 2010

"It's FREE you know"

About a year ago we moved into a small house in a quiet neighborhood in old town Longmont. To our East was a brand new rebuilt house that was empty and for sale... it was the only thing between us and "The Church at Longmont" that sits on the corner. For over 11 months on Sundays (and Wednesdays) people would come and go and often we would see them (and they would see us). Until today, no one spoke to us from there. In fact, no one even really looked our way long enough for us to catch their gaze and speak.

Today was different. He pulled up in a pickup I've seen parked in the same parking spot almost every week for the whole year. He stepped out of his truck, straightened his jeans and shirt and confidently looked over at us to say "Good morning".

What came next I almost couldn't believe. With an air of arrogance and condescension his head motioned toward the building and said "It's FREE you know".

The old me wanted to say something that showed this arrogant religionist how blind he really is. But asking Father what to say He was silent and confirmed in me there was nothing to say.

So many thoughts passed through my mind as the man walked into the building.
HIM: "It's FREE you know"

ME: "Do you know that YOU are NOT?"

HIM: "It's FREE you know"

ME: "You have no idea how much it has cost you... you have no joy."

HIM: "It's FREE you know"

ME: "Then why are they always pushing you for money?"

HIM: "It's FREE you know"

ME: "No, but Jesus meant what it represents to truly set you free and you don't even see it."

So sad. I weep for his blindness, yet he is not my assignment.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Contentment vs Ambition?

It's become very interesting to me over the last three years how much more in tune with Father's character some who "don't know Father" are than those who do or claim to follow His Son. It seems they have an advantage over us in that they see His character exemplified in the brush strokes He left about Himself sprinkled through His creation. We often miss thees brush strokes because we discount the thoughts presented in movies, songs, books, science, even astrology as in opposition to the Bible. (That should get some folks riled up!) But before you get too riled, let me throw out a disclaimer. I would never put forth that Father intends or intended for us to worship nature, be self-worshiping, or look to the sky to know whether or not we should buy a lottery ticket. However, I'm beginning to see that some of the folks who practice or promote these crafts are more in touch with the pattern of their creator than are those who read their Bibles daily, attend church several times weekly, and give above their expected 10% (the "expected by whom" is another post entirely... but I won't be writing that one).

If I walked you into an art gallery with rooms of painting collections from several artists, chances are you could identify which paintings belonged to which painters just by the similar style and expression of themselves that are evident in the masterpieces they create. Likewise I'm learning that the world we live in, as well as all the people around us are masterpieces of the Master. So many people around us who don't know the Father have taken the time (we have not if you are reading between the lines here) to study some aspect of His magnificent creation and have found patterns or representations of cycles which I'm beginning to realize are the brush strokes of the Master. Like Paul I'm beginning to find myself surrounded by those who have some form of an altar to an "unknown god".

A recent post on the blog written by a distant, and yet unmet brother living in TN I was reminded of the importance living a life in line with the understanding of this truth. In his post The Danger of Contentment Jason points out that contentment can be an arrow in the quiver of The Enemy. He expresses that he is not content with many of the "spiritual" things in his life and desires a more dedicated and life-altering walk. My disclaimer before I go on is that this is similar to the passion which grew inside of me and led me to walk away from the religious life I had lived for 25 years.

Jason's discontent is consistent with those who venture down the path to living the truth of what Jesus showed and taught us. I believe Jason would pretty quickly agree with everything I am about to say in response to his post.

Many of the non-religious around us emphasize the importance of living a life of balance. From yoga to Jedi Master Yoga (well, the author of the Star Wars saga I should say) balance in life is emphasized as key. Likewise, the life of a Christ Follower is a life of balance.  This important principle permeates the communities focused on art, science, business, and on and on that exist all around us. Yet those who follow or claim to follow Christ tend to live lives swinging from one extreme to another. The amazing creator of everything left some definitive brush strokes about balance on our planet, across other planets, and across the known universe. While being content can lead to complacency in one's journey, there is a lot to be said to finding the balance between contentment and ambition.

Paul emphasized that he had learned to be content whatever his circumstances. Yet I would not describe Paul as being complacent with or towards anything in his life.

Enter into the post the influence of Phil Card. Phil was a church member in one of the churches I served, but that was far from his public legacy. Phil served for a great many years in what would be called denomination service trying to establish a lifestyle of discipleship in groups and individuals. After he retired (which I'm not sure he ever REALLY did) while serving on staff in his church Phil served as my mentor for a field service class that was required for my seminary degree (kind of funny because I had always been in "full time ministry" while getting my degree... but I digress). A regular part of our weekly meetings during the class, as well as at any opportunity he would have outside of those meetings, Phil would quietly say to me "Ambition is the problem. Do you know what I mean?" I always thought I knew what he was saying and typically thought it meant something about some aspect of whatever the conundrum of the week was at the church.

Not until five years ago did I truly begin to understand what I think Phil was trying to say... or if Phil was not trying to say this specific piece of to me, Father used him as a mouthpiece to echo it to my life years later. As part of my journey I began to realize my own ambition had driven me to believe I was a better "Christian" if I worked with multitudes. The bigger the numbers I was influencing the better for the Kingdom. My ambition to "do great things for God and His Kingdom" had be all messed up.

At the close of John, Jesus quietly says "the Father is the goal and purpose of my life". Now there is ambition. The only person in the history of the world who ever had limitless power and capability and who could have had the biggest "ministry" in history was ambitious for one thing... whatever Father had for Him.

Somewhere between contentment and ambition is a place Jesus walked day in and day out and it's where I want to be as well. There are times when ambition to do great things for the Kingdom flirts across the canvas of my mind. There are times when contentment with my circumstances could become complacency. The thing that keeps them both in check is a walk with Father. The more I learn about how the goal and purpose of my life can be like that of Jesus, the less I even have to think about balance between ambition and contentment.

So, I applaud my yet unmet brother Jason and his passion to not become complacent (which is what I think he is saying in his post). No doubt the pressure of ambition is not far behind. I pray he will find his place nestled right down into the middle of being where Father wants him to be, when Father wants him to be there, and be attentive enough to do/say exactly what Father has for him to do while there.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Expectations (wrong ones at that)

I'm not really sure where it crept in, but this concept that "Christians" should always be "Johnny on the spot" for every other "Christian" or "non-Christain" is all messed up.

Somewhere along the way what Jesus did (demonstrated in his daily life) and commanded has been warped to the point of insanity.

Jesus had all the power to do literally anything he wanted to as he walked the earth. Anything. There was nothing outside the realm of his abilities. He was equipped to accomplish anything. Anything! (Have I made that point clear enough yet?) He spent everyday walking among person after person, threw crowds of crowds of people who had needs. And not just the obvious needs we tend to be able to see and know.

The other day, in passing, a friend seemed to emphasize that a stranger had offered to go out of his way to help someone with whom I am acquainted. The inference seemed to be, "look how this person I barely know indicated a willingness to go completely out of their way to help me" while you who are my friend didn't make the same offer knowing my situation.

This is so messed up. It probably also fuels much of the discontent on the part of "Christians" with Father not "helping them in their times of need". Jesus who was capable of helping everyone with their immediate perceived needs did not always do so. In fact, if you create an equation of his ability to help vs his actual "assistance in a persons time of need" the result would be in negative numbers so big we could not imagine.

Jesus had a goal and purpose while he walked among us. A purpose he spoke to and demonstrated. A purpose which, if he truly is the example each of us who follow him is to emulate, should dictate our own way of life.
"You've heard me tell you, 'I'm going away, and I'm coming back.' If you loved me, you would be glad that I'm on my way to the Father because the Father is the goal and purpose of my life."John 14:28

His goal was not to do good things for the Kingdom or for the Father. He was not here to make our lives easier or to provide relief for those in difficulty. His goal and purpose WAS Father. Along the way, Father would show Jesus people in whom Father was already doing something and Jesus would know that Father would have him partake in Father's own work at some level. It was in those individual's lives where Jesus unleashed the power bottled up inside him. It was not Jesus operating from a "look at all the potential to help I have... now where can I do good things for Father?" It was where would Father have me when and what would He have me do while I am there. Nothing more. Nothing less.

"The Father is the goal and purpose of my life" dictates a great deal about the way we live our lives. It indicates a clear determination to only be doing that which we sense Father calling us to be involved in. It indicates a complete surrender to our creator to only be involved in doing what He indicates we are to be doing. It destroys the mentality that "Christians" are to always be doing everything in their power to solve other people's problems.

So, no, I won't go out of my way to help you like that other guy. Maybe his path has been guided by Father to be that person for you, but mine has not at this point in both our lives. Hence, choosing to be where Father wants me when He wants me to be there, and doing what He wants of me while there will not at this point prompt me to offer to be your wholesale savior of temporal things.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Pain is weakness leaving the body

So it's been a few days (okay months) since my last post. I know... I know... successful bloggers post regularly. Guess that just means I'm not a successful blogger.

A few years back I attempted to get back into the gym for some weightlifting. I learned several things.

  1. If you are active in a weightlifting program now, don't quit. Getting started back is a pain... literally, on many levels.

  2. I'm not as young as I used to be.

  3. As I've gotten older bigger numbers aren't as important as they used to be (age, weights, lbs., etc.)

Probably more if I took the time to contemplate it. But that's not why I started this post. One of the interesting quotes I learned from the guy I lifted with was:
Pain is weakness leaving the body.

One of the things I've been learning on my journey is the concept that any growth in my walk is usually associated with pain. This is a huge conundrum for those who don't know Father. Most folks seem to hold a view that if there is a "god" he, she, or it would always have everything rosy in the lives of that which he, she, or it created. A god who allows, even initiates pain in the lives of those who are dedicated to follow is not only foreign but to them a major stumbling block to any belief.

What makes this even more interesting was a recent Facebook post by a friend who is trying to find her way on a path of spiritual enlightenment and is grappling with God vs all other "systems". Here's two posts that appeared almost back to back:
I was talking to my friends about the various thoughts regarding GOD and my Friend said if God was really real, why would all those people in Haiti be suffering so much... I was speechless and Like DA I dont know??

And then...
If you look at the Mystic law of the universe suffering is a necessity in order to awaken compassion and enlightenment ~?~ but why with out no food and water??

Of course this line of questioning was all brought on by the tragic earthquake in Haiti but it did make me realize something very important. I'm not 100% sure where the last quote comes from but I'm guessing it's some alternative-to-God system of spirituality that's out there. As I contemplated what I was reading I realized often people hold the "one true God" of their perception to a different standard than any other religious teaching they explore. It's not okay for the God of the Bible to allow or cause bad things to happen to good people... in fact, in their thinking that's why "He" doesn't really exist, yet, it's noble and natural in other spiritual systems they often consider viable for suffering to bring about maturity. Have you encountered this before?