Sunday, December 30, 2007

2008 Resolution #3

#3 Drink more I’m growing to love the gift of wine and all of its complexities, its history, the process of development, its beauty in the glass and the joy it brings to a gathering of good friends. I plan to take pleasure in more of it in 2008. Now why would I recommend this? The spirit of this resolution is to face what we fear. I was raised on a spirituality of fear, especially when it came to any kind of pleasure. The party line was summed up in statements like, ‘If I never take that first drink, I’ll never become an alcoholic!” The line of reasoning made sense, to a point, until I realize that the foundation of the logic was built on fear. Why go through life being afraid? It’s such a terrible way to live. Moderation is much more preferable than fear. The former tempers its actions on understanding; the latter does so out of ignorance. I’d rather protect myself through self-control than being afraid. I resolve to deepen the pleasures of my faith by rejecting fear and embracing love. Fear assumes I won’t do the best thing when faced with the choice. Love believes otherwise.

Friday, December 28, 2007

2008 Resolution #2

#2 Gain more weight. Face it. You’ve tried every year to commit to some form of weight loss idea and it never works. Why not take a new approach this time around? Why not go in the other direction? Pig out. Gorge yourself. Tie on the feedbag. Here’s what I mean. A problem for most of us is that we don’t wait to eat until we’re hungry. We eat more as a habit or as an idea. Whoever said we needed three meals a day and that lunch should be around noon? Why is food a prime mode of chewing away the hours in a long car ride? We eat, but we may not be sure why. That’s why this year I propose that if we haven’t figured out why we keep eating when we’re not hungry, that we go ahead eat UNTIL we’re hungry. Eat, eat and eat until it become evident what we are really craving. I don’t believe people are as dumb as they are simply shortsighted. Eating a big bag of Fritos in the car on the way home may make sense in the moment. You’re tired, cranky, bored and doggonnit, why not pound down those chips? But not an hour later when your gut feels like crap, you wonder, “What was I thinking?” The soul craves for that which the body does not understand, yet the soul often looks to the body for its answers. By giving the body everything it craves, maybe, just maybe, the soul will finally realize that the satisfaction it wants will never be found in simple relief.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

New Year’s Resolutions for 2008

#1 Read the Bible less. Sure, it sounds heretical, but let me explain. Familiarity is the enemy of all things good. Why are family arguments the worst? It’s because family are the people with which we are most familiar. You don’t extend them the same grace you do other people. You are nicer to people on the street, perfect strangers, than you are to your own kind. Think about it. You’ve read the Bible everyday for who knows how long. Do you think during that time you may have become too familiar with it? By being so close to it, you may have missed something about its true essence, and maybe a fast from it might do you some good. I’m not talking about rejecting it, or not believing in it anymore. Just step away from the habitual practice of it. We may boast about how much and how often we read the Bible and how consistent we are in doing so, but when you read this challenge to slow it down a bit, what is your reaction? I would guess one reason you would say you can’t do it is you’ve made a commitment to do so. I would suggest you make sure that it really is a discipline and not a new law. Another reason might be fear. What would happen to me if I read the Bible one day a week this year? I’ve always been told that sin would keep me from the Book, or the Book would keep me from sin, so if I backed off from my daily indulgence of it, aren’t I just inviting wrongdoing into my life? You and I have more information available to us than any generation ever before, and that includes Bible information. This year, stop glutting yourself with more and more and more teaching, books and doctrine. Slow down and think about what you already know. Meditate on what you’ve already been given. Learn to relax and listen. Don’t be so uptight. Your stress of worry over slipping into sin may be worse for you than missing a day in Psalms and Proverbs.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Sun and Moon

This morning, out on the wall, I love what I see. To the west of my home is the setting full moon, about 20 degrees above the horizon as it makes way for the morning sun to take center stage. The beams of light were so bright pouring into the living room through the slats of the mini blinds, it made me wonder if a car was in the driveway. Light has a beautiful way of ignoring the darkness. Every story has two sides. Every incident can be spun two different directions. Take a walk down the bookstore aisle marked Current Affairs and I find no less than 20 books about President Bush, how he is either the worst or toughest president in American history. Look further and you will find the same division about Hillary Clinton or John Kerry or the Republicans or Democrats and so on. Just pick what position you want to reinforce and you can find a book or radio talk show to support your view. The same is true for the Church As We Know It. For every publication you find in defense of Christianity, you can find a counterpoint that explains why the Christian faith is equivalent to Hilter in its wrongful impact on the world. So who is right and who is wrong? How do you know who to trust? Who is telling the truth? The moon was my reminder this morning on my morning watch. Light can actually be more noticeable when there is less of it around. How often do we take the high sun for granted, but you and I will stop the car to watch the sun go down over the water. Is the Church as We Know It becoming irrelevant? Is a sense of common morality a thing of the past? Is our country moving toward economic crisis? Is our world burning up by global warming and dependence on oil? Maybe yes, maybe no. These questions all have different answers, depending on your sources. But hope for me this morning is, regardless of whether the future looks bleak or not, this is something I can trust. There will always be room for light to shine. Darkness will never be stronger than Light. It can never get so dark that light has no effect. In fact, that might be when it’s most noticeable.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

We have this many in...

When you make a severe life change as I have in order to search out the Church of the Future, you must be prepared to face doubt. How do you know if you’ve done the right thing or not? When will I know if I succeeded or not? These are common questions a Future Pastor will eventually ask. Our usual proof of success is in the results. Did I accomplish what I set out to do? Did I find what I was looking for? But what if results don’t show you what you want to see or give you what you’d like to brag about? If I were attempting to plant a model of The Church As We Know It, I would likely want to tell you how many are in attendance, how many groups we have going, and how many people we baptized this year. These are the Big 3 in my tradition. So when asked about how my efforts are going in my search for the Church of the Future, my knee-jerk response is to go back to my roots and try and give an answer the inquirer might understand. It’s so much easier to say we have this many coming on Sunday than to try and describe the road of faith I have traveled in the last three years. It’s easier to describe what I am doing than to tell you what I am becoming. Each of these has its own measuring stick to gauge with, and even though the measuring stick for the latter is still the same (you’re still looking at becoming more loving, joyful, peaceful and so on), it seems to come up short more often now that you are paying more attention to it. So, Future Pastor, this is the reality of the road ahead if you plan to stay on it for the long haul. The way is difficult and unfamiliar, and it leads you far away from the place you are most comfortable. But it is the way of faith and faith will always lead you down paths where you can’t use your eyes, your most powerful and precious sense.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

One of these things is not like the other...

There is a process I am moving through I would refer to as congruence. This is another word for making sure things match. There have been quite a few pieces turned up in my faith journey that appear juxtaposed to the rest. Now that I have more freedom to ask why, I find some intriguing considerations. People who put their faith in Jesus are constantly reminded that you are to be “in” the world, but not “of” it. The understood meaning behind this talking point is that heaven is your real home, and you should in turn not embrace earthly values as you stand in the queue waiting for your number to be called to enter that destination. What came with this, at least in my experience, were all kinds of dichotomies, usually in the form of determining what is sacred and what is secular. This is where the genre of Christian Music came from. Rock music was secular, therefore a sacred alternative was needed, so we came up with something acceptable, regardless of how inferior it may have been. What made things worse was the delineation between the now permissible Christian music and the emerging slice known as worship music. It wasn’t enough to have your own category of tunes you could listen to without guilt, now you had something new to worry about. Now you had to ask, is the music worship or is it entertainment? My favorite time to observe this tension was when you went to a concert by a musical act known for their popular “worship” songs. The majority of the show would be jamming along until suddenly the sound of grinding gears makes you realize that we are coming to an abrupt halt. The leader of the group inserts what amounts to an apology for his self-centeredness and turns the show into a scene from The Church As We Know It. And most of the audience seems to understand what is taking place and moves right along with the current. Why did I feel like I was the only one in the crowd that didn’t get it? I guess I could have felt good that I got two shows for the price of one, but in that case it didn’t seem necessary. I believe the Church of the Future will be less about creating tidy boundaries like those labeled “worship music” and “other acceptable forms of music,” and more about seamless living. Eventually these constructs will not even make sense because freedom from law leads to security in faith. If beauty is found outside the border lines, the Church of the Future won’t realize that it once had to first be sanctioned.

Friday, December 07, 2007

I hate God

I love bookstores, but often feel a bit of frustration at a place like Barnes & Noble because it reinforces the adage, “so many books, so little time,” but that’s not the point of this post. I’m perusing the table in the center aisle, the one with the placard that reads, “Thought Provoking,” and see that it is covered with books written by atheists. Always interested in what people are thinking, I read the index and dust covers of several. I found a common theme. People who debate the existence of God seem to always bring up how much evil has been done in his/her/its name. They cite the crusades as case in point, that religion does nothing but provide a structure for power disguised as righteous superiority. I might agree with that, to a degree. But for every bad act, the other guy can always find a good one that can be used to counter it. It leads to a vicious cycle of argument that never seems to go anywhere. In fact, one of my favorite Christian porn stars on the radio was comparing the crusades to the holocaust and other mass killings. His logic was that atheists over time have killed far more people than Christians. I’m not sure where he was going with that, but he seemed to think that was good rationale for the existence of God. This is why I believe even more now than ever, that a belief in God is an act of faith for which I alone am held accountable. God exists or doesn’t, regardless of what the human race has done under the banner of His cause. When I recently got hit by a drunk driver at 4:45 in the morning it didn’t change my view of alcohol because she misused and abused it. The young woman had a choice to do with it as she willed. I could easily form an opinion about it based on what she did with the said substance, but her poor choices need not create a definition for me to live by. Faith must find its roots deeper than just in my neighbor’s yard.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Random Acts of Redemption

I got bumped from my flight back from San Antonio this weekend due to severe overbooking by the airline. There were several very unhappy customers as a result, including one man on the far end of the ticket counter who ended up in tears. After arguing to a point of futility, I gave in to the inevitability that I was not going to get on that plane for which I had a ticket. After being rescheduled for the next day, I resigned to the row of seats in the waiting area near the revolving doors to wait on my friend to swing back around and pick me up. As I sat, I saw the man who was tearfully pleading his case eventually do the same thing. He dragged himself over in my direction to regroup and wait it out. I commented, “Rough day, huh?” He proceeded to give me his story. He was starting his brand new job on Monday morning and was afraid of how this would look to the new boss, and to top it off he ended with, “And all I’ve got is a buck to my name.” By this time, my buddy had arrived and I needed to leave, so I pulled out a twenty and offered to bless him in that way. As with most random acts of kindness like that, he was not really sure how to react, but I insisted and persisted, and said, “Let me help make some good in your otherwise crappy day.” Mission accomplished. In situations like this, why is it we always seem to want an explanation for the circumstances in which we find ourselves? When I get bumped from a plane, it’s usually not enough to think that the plane was full and I was just one of the unlucky ones that got hosed. I need a motive, a cause or a purpose for the incident. I want to think that God had something in mind for making me miss my flight. I don’t try to answer that question much anymore. I don’t believe bad things happen so we can do something good. It’s more like when bad things happen, what are my choices in the matter? I don’t believe the reason I missed my plane was so God could arrange me to give that dude twenty bucks. Maybe it was, I’m just not that certain about it. Bottom line, however, is this: I found myself in a cruddy situation and yet still had a choice in how to respond. Redemption doesn’t always need to have reason.