Hurry Back to Me, My Wild Callin’ . . . (Flogging Molly)

callingFor years I have preached and taught this idea . . . “dreams are something you have, ‘callings’ are something that have you.”  

I had a conversion-like experience at the age of 17, it was both spiritual and existential.  I felt alone, abandoned, abused and discarded.  But I had a personal-like experience with an unseen God.  It was like in a moment, He satisfied all of the questions my active mind was asking and then He showed up and quenched the thirst of my parched soul.  I may have felt true love for the first time that night.  I was suicidal, wrapped up in pain.  I put the pills down and chose to enter into relationship with this unseen God.

The moment I chose to receive this mysterious love, I received a “calling” that gripped my life and embedded a conviction to action that has defined me.   I chose to embody the life I always wished someone else had shown me.  I wanted to be the leader I never had.  This ‘calling’ has not made me famous or made me a fortune, in fact it has invited me into the world of anonymity and not fitting in within a world of competing values than that of the Kingdom of God.  But I’m mostly grateful because the things I have done and the things I have attempted, I did with a clear conscience and a desire to bring the world more of the goodness of the One who created us all.

I am now in a space of questioning my original ‘calling’.  Perhaps not so much in leaving it, but allowing it to grow out of it’s original cocoon and transform into something new.  Things are not as I suppose they would be but in their own way, they are quite beautiful.  I have no regrets and no complaints, but my heart desires to be free.  I want to see the future as a purposeful and heartfelt intention towards meaning and soulful work.  My life is at least more than half over, I want it all to count.  The darkness in this world needs light.

So ‘hurry back to me, my wild callin’, but not my old calling, a new one that I don’t have capacity to grab onto but rather one that is untamed and wants to grab a hold of me.  Life is a mystery, I don’t want a box of known outcomes, I want the adventure of discovery and deep learnings.  God cannot be tamed, He is wild, but I’ve learned He is good.  Hurry Back . . .

 

When Abuse is all the News . . . I believe you

believe

To the victims of abuse, I believe you.

From Roy Moore, to Harvey Weinstein, to Louis C.K., to President Trump, to Kevin Spacey to US Gymnasts  . . . . .  the news of sexual assault, sexual abuse and the misuse of power and influence is all the rage.  The human stories have become rhetoric in a mass of information culture wars and political ideologies.   To protect wealth, power, prestige and status, the accused double down in their darkness through the denials and shaming of victims.  There is not a perfect judge on earth, one day there will be reckoning for us all.   We get to choose what side we want to be on for that day of righteousness.

Thy hype, the rhetoric, the 24 hr news stories do something quite different for the survivors of abuse.  They are not news stories, they are auto-biographies.  The stories act as a trigger to latent memories when no one believed them.  The fresh written descriptors online about someone else’s horrific night cease being about the other and become a reliving of their own trauma.  PTSD and Secondary Trauma are unintentional consequences for the survivors when Abuse is all the news.   

They don’t see someone else’s story, they see their own again.  It’s memories of a face, of a room, of a time, of a smell, of a feeling, of a touch, of a boundary crossed, of powerlessness, of shame, of denial, of secrecy, of protection, of physical pain, of emotional confusion, of psychological hell, of cover-ups and perhaps most insidious of all the evil, the reliving that no one believed them.

If this is you, I am sorry.  I believe you.  You deserved more.  It wasn’t your fault.  The shame isn’t yours.  You can love again.  You are not alone.  You survived for a reason.  You are so much more than a survivor.  There is hope.

When Abuse is ALL THE NEWS . . . I believe you.  #metoo

The Sound and Value of Silence

silence

Celtic Daily Prayer – Today’s Meditation

“If I chose to hide you away, it is for a reason.
I have brought you to this place.
Drink in the silence. Seek solitude.

Listen to the silence.

It will teach you. It will build strength
Let others share it with you.
It is little to be found elsewhere.

Silence will speak more to you in a day than the world of voices can teach you in a lifetime.
Find silence. Find solitude – and having discovered her riches, bind her to your heart.”  –Frances J. Roberts

When you are in a great period of waiting as I am, there is a lot of time for silence.  I like to be active, the silence frankly scares me.  But silence is about growing up still I think.  Embrace what the silence has to say.  Go to battle with the thoughts and messages that are buried deep inside you that don’t call you the ‘beloved’.   The lies thrive in activity, silence has the power to tell you the truth.  Embrace the silence, wear it like a cloak, be immersed in deep truths.

The sound of silence is beauty, love, truth, peace and abounding contentment.  It is the way of the monk, try some ‘monking in the real world’.  Amidst the noise, embrace the silence.

Pay Attention to your Roots

tree_roots1

I’m not an arborist, but I sure like to contemplate on the strength and character of trees.  They have an ancient resiliency that fascinates me.  The changing color of Autumn leaves this time of year or the fresh blooms of Spring are but symptoms of what goes on beneath the surface of the ground for trees.  It’s their root systems that fascinate me.  The roots are what solidify their firm foundation and give it lasting structure.  The roots are also what absorbs the nutrients needed for growth, development and self-healing.  They live in a harmony of the beauty of the present day and the preparation for the storms of tomorrow.  They are present-future in their outlook.

Our culture does not celebrate rootedness.  The ‘good’ life is sold to us as a bag of goods about life above the surface.  What makes us feel good today?  Fleeting beauty, instant results, quick fixes when things get difficult, just move on.

Is there anything you root yourself in that gives you foundation and structure?  What is present in your life that promotes your personal growth?  Where are you intentional about your development as a better human?  As you live today, are you also going deep to anchor down for the storms of tomorrow so that they don’t bring total destruction?  Specifically, what are the nutrients you need and how do you put yourself in a space to absorb them?

No one will do this for you.  If you’ve given over your life, choices and personal freedoms to the fashions and news of the day, they will not care for you when the storms of life come.  Our consumer culture is set on a lie, selling you things you don’t need that never offer contentment so that you come back for yet more.  It is a cycle of discontentment by design.  It serves them, not you.  You are not entitled to the glitter and promises of the ‘good’ life but that doesn’t mean you can’t live a ‘good’ life.

I am learning in my old age to pay attention to my roots.  To not listen to the noise of the culture and instead go deeper in my reflection, contemplation and experience of truth in this Creation.  I find that in Faith, in Ancient Scriptures, in worship of the Divine, in Prayer, in observing Creation, in laughing with friends, in spending quality time with family, in music that moves me, in reading poetry and writing that is ‘outside the box’.  Those bring nutrients that strengthen the root system below the surface of my life.

I am presently in a storm above the surface, but the root system below me is yet growing and that brings me a great sense of satisfaction.  Pay attention to the deep places, it will serve you well in the storms of life.

That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.” -Romans 8:18-21 (The Message)

The Storm of God

“1-2 First this: God created the Heavens and Earth—all you see, all you don’t see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss.” (Genesis 1 The Message)

waterworld

Over chaos, over deep water, over soups of nothingness, over bottomless emptiness, over the abyss .  . . over me.  

The Hebrew term to describe what God did is translated “Ruach Elohim”.  It was the Ruach Elohim that hovered over the chaos, it was the Ruach Elohim that brooded over it like a bird, it was the Ruach Elohim that provided it’s covering.  In English we could call this “the Spirit of God” or “the Breath of God” that was hovering and brooding.  Ruach is not a tame Hebrew term though, it isn’t boxed in with out mortal understanding.  The Ruach is not tame, it is not safe, it is not containable.  It can’t be limited to political slogans or vain conceits, it is the immutable and creative Spirit of God and it isn’t safe.  For me, The Ruach of Elohim is a Great and Mighty Storm, it is the Storm of God.   . . . And I need it.

I need to know that the Ruach Elohim is over my chaos, over my unrelenting abyss of thoughts and emotions, over my fears, over my confusions, over my dark nights . . . I need His powerful Storm over me.  It is the immutable Storm of God that hovers over me, broods over me, creates through me, lives in me, abides within me.  I need to know that His Storm is deeper and grander than the storms in me.  I don’t want safety, I want truth and I want all of it.  I want to know and be known as it was intended before anything else was.  I want to live in the Spirit of creativity, I want to worship at the pools of original life.  No religion, no man-made systems, I want the stuff, the real stuff and all of it.  I don’t want safe, I want the Ruach Elohim.

Join me, find your truth.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” (Genesis 1 NIV)

Where are the Peacemakers?

peace“Blessed are the peacemakers,
 for they will be called children of God.” -Matthew 5:9

I am pretty outward and vocal that I am a person of faith.  To be specific, I am a follower of Jesus and the Ancient Scriptures.  I have journeyed long and far with the questions and seekings of my heart and soul and these are the conclusions I have come to.  The ways of Jesus are what make sense to me, are what have captured my heart and imagination and are in harmony with my created intention.  It is in him that I have found peace, the kind of peace that satisfies.  I don’t need to prove him, I don’t need to defend him, I just know that I come alive when my heart and mind is aligned with him.

I live in a nation that is deeply divided, but it is not the divisions of proper patriotism or partisan politics that grieve me, it’s the replacement of our ancient faith with a civil religion of nationalistic fervor of which there can be only one Caesar.  We can not serve both God and man, so one must take the throne.  We get to choose and the fruit of our lives will indicate who or what is on the throne.   What comes out of our mouth is the state of our heart.

What I read on my social media timelines are full of vitrol and hate for the ‘other’ and much of it in the name of a brand of American Christianity that doesn’t resemble the scandal of the Cross.  The ardent participation in the power structures of the Empire of our day do not reflect the ways of Jesus; the Son of man, the friend of sinners, the suffering servant nor the Prince of Peace.  He didn’t seek to acquire power, but by his own transformation to be like his Father, he acted powerfully.  His power was quite literally not of this world and therefore could differentiate from the conflicts of the Empire of his day and serve and love all his neighbors.

Where are the peacemakers?  Where are the ones who do not belong to this world and therefore have the capacity and burden to love all of those in this world of which we are called to serve?  We are defined not by power positions, but by love and service to all our neighbors.  Peacemaking is not an option, it is our inherited identity under the Cross.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.  

 

Let Your Life Speak

questions“Seeking a path more purposeful than accumulating wealth, holding power, winning at competition, or securing a career, I had started to understand that it is indeed possible to live a life other than one’s own.  Fearful that I was doing just that – but uncertain about the deeper, truer life I sensed hidden inside of me, uncertain whether it was real or trustworthy or within reach – I would snap awake in the middle of the night and stare long hours at the ceiling.” – Parker Palmer

Is the life you are living the highest version of you? 

I truly enjoy pub culture.  I like to be in the places where the crossroads of life and my neighbors are intersecting.  It’s been almost 20 years since I was a vocational pastor but it is in these simple and human spaces in my community where I can perhaps be my best self as a sort of pastoral voice.  This past Saturday evening I found myself in an hour or longer conversation with a 31 yr. old young Dad of 2 who was finishing up a 13 hr. work day and in our conversation began lamenting that he thinks he’s doing it wrong.  He is making a lot of $ for 60 hrs. of work a week but he’s missing his kids lives altogether.  Big house and new cars but cancelled vacations because work owned his time.  He was asking himself deep questions if the rat race he was running was worth it in the end.  He gave me permission to speak into his life and we talked about the freedom of living more simply, that meaning is created it isn’t bought and the reality that we are going to die, the only thing left is to decide how we want to live.  No one can choose that for us.  If we let work choose it, we won’t live the life we were created to embody.  We became friends and hope to continue the conversation, he said “I don’t meet people like you.”  I think that was a compliment, I pray the deep questions haunted his dreams.  😉

What are the questions that keep you up at night?  What is bubbling below the surface of your true identity trying to break through the ice of your surface self you let everyone else see?   Are you living a life to make others happy, enslaved to the unspoken oughts and shoulds of their judgments and perceptions?  In your resting times, do you experience freedom and peace, or does your heart and mind race in anxiety?  Are you asking yourself the big questions about life?  We only get one.

Let your life speak, seek the highest version of your true self.  That is where freedom, truth, power and peace come from.  I’m always glad to have that conversation.

 

Why Live in Community? . . . to offset the lies

community

Life in community is no less than a neccessity for us – it is an inescapable ‘must’ that determines everything we do and think.  Yet it is not our good intentions or efforts that have been decisive in our choosing this way of life.  Rather, we have been overwhelmed by a certainty – a certainty that has its origin and power in the Source of everything that exists.  We acknowledge God as this Source. . . . We must live in community because all life created by God exists in a communal order and works toward community.” -Eberhard Arnold

Those of us who were born into the American story have been told a lie since the day we were born in verbal and then mostly non-verbal cues from our cultural narrative.  We are a ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ kind of people, we highly value the rugged individual. The lone ranger is an American icon.  We want to believe that we can do it all on our own.  We want to be self-sufficient islands of comfort, security, confidence, freedom and power.  But in reality we are not.  We are vulnerable, at times insecure, second-guessing and not self-sufficient at all, rather we have a tendency to look for love in all the wrong places.  We put on the mask that we have it all together so that other’s can’t see our weakness and vulnerabilities.

Our cities and suburbs are growing in population yet many are feeling more and more alone.  We’ve never in our history had more proximity to people and at the same time, we lead the world in anxiety meds and anti-depressants.  We have the opportunity to live in community but we choose to build up the walls and live lives of isolation in and near the other humans.  Community only works when you opt in.  Like an AA meeting, it’s voluntary and you come because you admit you have need.  You don’t want to be alone anymore.  You’ve tried the rugged individual American story and found yourself wanting.

One of my assumptions about humanity is that we were designed for community because the Source of all Creation designed it that way.  He by his nature and image is community:  Father, Son & Holy Spirit.  We were created in His image and therefore bear the mark of community.  We weren’t meant to live alone physically, emotionally or spiritually.  We were designed to be known, to be loved by others, to be safe even in our vulnerabilities.  We’ve been lied to, we weren’t meant to be individual American heroes, we were meant to find our meaning and purpose within the context of one another.

I’ve given up my life for the building of this kind of community.  I feel the brokenness of the world all around me, I long for my neighbors (not just the ones I live next to) to find the satisfaction of their soul’s desire.  I long for people to be delivered out of patterns of self-destruction, negativity, isolation, loneliness and mindsets of personal poverty.  Community is a powerful healer but it’s also really, really hard and messy and you have to opt in.

Love is the anti-dote to all the lies you are listening to.  In Community we speak the truth to one another.  I’ve learned I need it like I need air to breathe.  You were designed for it, jump in the deep end.

Good Wine Jesus

goodwine

“9 When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.’” -John 2:9-10

I have 3 theological degrees that I’ve worked hard on, Bachelors, Masters and Doctorate.  I’ve put in a lot of time reading, studying, writing and thinking theologically over the years.  I’ve studied both the Old and New Testaments, the Ancient Scriptures in their original languages.  I’ve done a deep dive into ancient cultures, contexts and nuances that the narratives of the Bible come from for clear understanding.  After all of this, I’ve come to this very eloquent and pastoral conclusion:   Religion Sucks.

Often we take the deep mysteries and secrets to the life that Jesus came to reveal to us and turned them into petty religious systems of control, a fear of intimacy, a taming down of the recklessness of the Kingdom of God and a staunchly cold ordering of things shrouded in holy mystery.  Man-made fearful religions suck the life out of all things good.  There is an intelligent claim that God created all things but then we return the favor and create Him in our image.  A dumbing down of wonders far beyond us.

I just don’t want to lose the wonder of it all.  I don’t want to lose ‘Good Wine Jesus’.  The one who knows how to party. The one who is rooted in truth, walks around unaffected by the storms of life and anchors deep, I want to hold onto him.  The one who treats all the party-goers with grace, love, mercy and cares for the beauty of ‘the other’.  Doesn’t draw up borders, doesn’t stick to the cliques, doesn’t associate with the socially high in status, but makes a neighbor of everyone at the party.  He doesn’t draw attention to himself, he isn’t haughty, even his miracle is done in secret.  He listens, he connects, he celebrates, he loves, he has compassion, he spreads joy.  He is ‘Good Wine Jesus’.

I don’t know where you are today in your faith journey, or the questions your soul is asking of you in your world.  I just want to say as one who represents the Church at large, I’m sorry that Religion Sucks.  I’m experiencing a Good Wine Jesus today and I’d love to invite all to the party to enjoy and find satisfaction.  Cheers!

The American Dream . . . with a side of Jesus

xmas“We buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like.”  (Fight Club)

I had a chance this past week to hang out with folk from the Brethren Church  and in particular their church planting crew known as MissioChurch.   I like hanging around church planters because in general they aren’t normal, they typically are all a little ‘off’ in the head you know?  They have dreams buried in them that don’t allow them to accept status quo.  They are used to an identity in which they don’t always fit in with establishment.  It’s not rebellion, they aren’t against establishment, rather they believe that they exist to support and extend the reach of all things good about the Church and its’ service to the world.  It’s a holy kind of discontentment.  Church planters ask a lot of questions and aren’t afraid to live in the land of tension and discomfort.  They’ve worked hard to develop the skills in fact that allow them to thrive in such lands of in-between.

One of the speakers at this gathering transparently shared her story of downward progression from an idyllic life of “the American dream with a side of Jesus”.  Her and her husband had it all:  the stable high income jobs, a dream house on acreage, Pinterest quality decor, retirement investment strategies, social status, upward mobility . . . all that the American Dream is designed to be that comes with the white picket fence.  Her name is Shannan Martin and her book is entitled ‘Falling Free: Rescued from the Life I Always Wanted’.  What followed in their story was selling everything, moving into a low-income and broken neighborhood, taking a new job in the local jail, noticing their neighbors, getting involved in the justice causes of their community and adopting kids with little hope.  A life of beauty and hardship, a life that Jesus can’t exist on the side, he wants to be the main course of sustenance.

Here’s what I’m learning, the American Dream with a side of Jesus doesn’t work.  It’s completely unsatisfying.  The American Dream is not a big enough idea for me to give my blood, sweat and tears to. It’s a fool’s gold.  It’s slavery to a system of wants, false securities and anxiety-driven ambitions.  I know that I’m going to die, and none of the purchased commodities are coming with me, so what are the things that last I can invest into?  If I know I’m going to die, the only relevant question then is what do I want to live for?

Do you ask the big questions about your life?  Where does your satisfaction come from?  Whose opinion about you matters?  Who do you want to please?  What makes you come alive?  Does fear about the future dominate your brain-space more than living fully today?  Are the things you’re striving for going to live beyond your last breath?

The answers to our big questions reveal the things we worship, what we worship we become.  What I’m learning is God isn’t interested in being our side-piece.  He’s not insecure in the truth, power and freedom he offers so he’s not shy about what he wants:  he wants all of it.  He is the King and he wants singular allegiance.  We get to choose if we believe he is a good King and worthy of that place in our heart, mind, soul and life.  If we let him, he’ll do just about anything to break us down until we realize that he is all we need.  In him we can find our being and our moving.   Before there was ever a myth called the American Dream . . . He was.  If he brought all things into being then my created life finds purposed and wholeness in him.  To choose him is not foolishness, it’s deep abiding wisdom.  It’s what I’m choosing today, a singular allegiance to the One who made me.

“Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” -Exodus 34:14

Entrepreneur – Teacher – Writer – Pastor