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.