Are you not entertained?

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“Are you not entertained? Are you not entertained? Is this not why you are here?”  – Maximus in Gladiator

 Fans think twice about hero worship?  I’ll believe it when I see it.  Hero worship for our sportsmen and now women as well is thousands of years old.  We love our spectacle, we love our circus shows.  We want our neighboring mammals from the ocean to spend their lifetime in a bathtub leaving their context to amuse us for a price.  We love to be entertained and our appetites seemingly have no limits.  We shutter at an orca whale who turned on its trainer, but I myself have paid more than a few times to see it perform in the past and now it seems shameful.  Tiger Woods was the can’t miss marketing icon, clean and perfect like the Gillette shaver he promoted, until he wasn’t.  I am in no way pointing a finger at Tiger, the man is human and clearly had a lifestyle he now deeply regrets and the consequences are heavy.  My issue is the pedastal to begin with.  Perhaps Tiger believed his own hype, my beef is with the hype itself. None of this is new.  The Roman gladiator shows with animals also mauling their trainers.  They were mostly slaves, hoping to win their freedom, and if not, at least to taste some glory.  They were idolized as Rock Stars, sex objects and archaeologists have even found children’s dolls/playtoys in the shape/form of their favorite gladiator.  Babylon, Persia, Egypt and as far back as the Sumerians as we can tell, had some form of sport (usually violent) and hero worship.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE sports, always have.  I love competition and respect and have a sense of awe about the talent of others.  But they are human beings and that’s all I’m looking for. What is it in us that wants to idolize?  Are there deep insecurities?  Is fantasy and escape more normative for us than reality?  Why are we so thirsty for amusement?  Why are we so bored with our own selves?  It seems to me to be an issue of meaning.  If we have no real meaning ourselves, if we are not living out our own grand story, then we are looking to latch onto someone else’s.  If we can’t live our own dream, we try and ride the glamorous coat-tails of someone else who seemingly is living theirs.  (although in the end we find it is often no dream for them either)  We live in a culture full of hype, hyperbole and consumer driven marketing.  You HAVE to see this, recognize it and get some appropriate distance from it or those seeking your $$ on TV will be the ones to dictate to you what your story is.  What you should feel, what you should care about, how you should vote, what you should buy, how you should live . . . etc.  Why do we let someone else, who does not have our interest in mind dictate our story?  This is why I ceased watching the news years ago, tired of them dictating to me what to care about with hype and hyperpole for ratings.  (that’s a rant for another day).Here’s the thing, you have all the power and resources within you to be a hero or heroine.  Let me say that again, YOU do, not someone else.  You can parent in such a way to leave a legacy of love and blessing.  You can neighbor in such a way that spurs a culture of generosity.  You can work in such a way that brings to life more than just your company’s mission statement.  You can teach in such a way that inspires introspective learning for life.  You can friend in such a way that you literally become someone else’s answered prayer.  You can spouse in such a way that the experience of Oneness breeds a daily deep affirmation of who you truly are and who you belong to.  You can have a life with meaning and purpose that everything you touch, say, do, feel, think, express and attempt is heroic.  Not someone else, you.  You just need to decided to do so, and decide that everyday.  Then it will be your story that is told for years to come.

“What we do in life echoes in eternity. ”  – Maximus in Gladiator 

That could be your life.  Don’t seek entertainment, seek personal meaning.peace,marshall

Sea World saw too much

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I felt a personal connection to this tragic story yesterday of this altercation of the whale and its trainer.  My parents were at the 12:30 show just before this happened.  My Mom said the whale was not cooperating at their show and refused to perform.  Apparently they should have given it the day off. The show the altercation happened at was a special show for those with birthdays.  The kids there must have been horrified. It seems easy to pile on Sea World here on this story, and maybe rightfully so.   Don’t think I’ve ever sided with PETA before, but this may be a first.  I guess the question is, are we entitled to our amusement?  Does our consumerism never end?  Things I’m thinking about today.peace,marshall

Psalm 143

I read this Psalm this morning and I felt a deeper connection to the thoughts from yesterday in Rejection and Resurrection.

Psalm 143  (The Message)

A David Psalm

 1-2 Listen to this prayer of mine, God; pay attention to what I’m asking.   Answer me—you’re famous for your answers!      Do what’s right for me.   But don’t, please don’t, haul me into court;      not a person alive would be acquitted there. 3-6 The enemy hunted me down;      he kicked me and stomped me within an inch of my life.   He put me in a black hole,      buried me like a corpse in that dungeon.   I sat there in despair, my spirit draining away,      my heart heavy, like lead.   I remembered the old days,      went over all you’ve done, pondered the ways you’ve worked,   Stretched out my hands to you,      as thirsty for you as a desert thirsty for rain. 7-10 Hurry with your answer, God!      I’m nearly at the end of my rope.   Don’t turn away; don’t ignore me!      That would be certain death.   If you wake me each morning with the sound of your loving voice,      I’ll go to sleep each night trusting in you.   Point out the road I must travel;      I’m all ears, all eyes before you.   Save me from my enemies, God—      you’re my only hope!   Teach me how to live to please you,      because you’re my God.   Lead me by your blessed Spirit      into cleared and level pastureland. 11-12 Keep up your reputation, God—give me life!      In your justice, get me out of this trouble!   In your great love, vanquish my enemies;      make a clean sweep of those who harass me.   And why? Because I’m your servant.

peace,marshall

Rejection and Resurrection

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I’m preparing a teaching reflection for the 2nd week of Lent and it has led me to the story of Joseph in Genesis.  I have long found the narrative of Joseph’s life to be quite compelling.   Can you imagine a more dysfunctional family?  The Father clearly favors one son over the others, the son overplays his arrogance card, the brothers act out in defiance and sell their brother into slavery while bold-face lying to Dad.  This is the stuff of FOX reality TV.  In fact, the Jewish Scriptures are full of them.  They were as we still are, they are us. Is there anything more painful than the experience of rejection?  It has the power to be fatal to our personhood.  Joseph has a concrete representation of his worth to his brothers, they sell him into slavery.  Now, forever, if he chooses, he can buy into the lie that he is worthless and have a pretty good story to back up that accusation.  When he finds himself in prison in Pharaoh’s kingdom, I can only imagine he had dark nights of the soul where he would rue his very existence.  It is in these deep place of depression where we cannot see the big picture, our perspective is obliterated.  Somehow, Joseph just made a decision to keep hoping about a future.  Regardless of emotion and experience, he yet dreamed for something new about his future.  And that day came.You can’t read Gen. 38 and the horror of Joseph’s rejection from his brothers without taking that in context with Gen. 45 and Joseph reconciling with them.  In short, he deemed the situation, “what you meant for evil, God meant for good.”  It was God who assigned Joseph to a different future in the kingdom.  It was his leadershp at a high position that saved the kingdom from famine.  It was his leadership that was carved out of a history of horrid rejection, dark nights of the soul and the turning away of the negative voices in his head.  He fought for a different future and experienced a kind of resurrection.  Hard times have the power to carve a good leader.   It was also his choice to reconcile with his brothers.  He could have cursed them and chose resentment, but he knew that was a poison to his soul.  The Kingdom way is to bless, not to curse and in it you find a fountain of new life. In this time of Lent, search your heart for those who have wronged you.  Choose to not listen to the false voices that want to dictate to you your worth.  Fight for the thoughts about a new future, a resurrection.  Choose to bless those who curse you and find your worth in the One who made you.  I pray that new life springs up within your very soul. peace,marshall

Naps make you smart

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Naps make you smart?  ooooh, Me likie. Check out this article on Naps.  Here is a quote from the article:  

Naps make you smarter and boost your ability to learn, say researchers at the University of California, Berkeley. In fact, they’re the brain’s way of making room for new information.  The longer we stay awake, the less able our brains are to learn. But just 60 minutes of shut-eye can boost learning ability significantly, says Matthew Walker, a Berkeley professor of psychology and the lead investigator of a study presented over the weekend at the American Association of the Advancement of Science conference in San Diego, Calif..The research could be interpreted to mean that a biphasic sleep schedule – a good night’s sleep and a solid midday siesta, could increase intelligence.

I was just listening to some Jack Johnson this morning and he was crooning, “slow down people, you’re moving too fast . . . ” and I couldn’t agree more.  Our culture is built on and measured by speed.  The manufacturers have produced more and new products designed to increase our quality of life by giving us gadgets to do more and do those things faster to fit more stuff into our day.  What results is not more time to chill, relax, decompress, reflect, be with family etc.  Nope, we’ve filled our days with more deadlines and more productivity which in my opinion makes us less human.  We do more and relate less.  When relationships and connectivity to one another is what re-charges us (just look at the Cruise commercials, they are brilliant), doing more and relating less is not good for us. We are humans, not robots.  Our bodies respond well to rest and negatively to stress and strain.  But productivity is king and health/wisdom is a side item.  We are better humans when we live simply, do less, relate more, get plenty of rest and feel grounded. On the 7th day of Creation, God rested.  Shouldn’t we take the hint?peace,marshall

Words kill

Lent Reflection Week 1

Matthew 5:21-22: “You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, ‘Do not murder.’ I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill.”   (The Message)I’ve long been a believer and a teacher in the power of words.  Our words have to power to create and they have the power to destroy.  Those of us in positions of authority, do we use our high position to build others up with our words, or do we use our position to keep others down with our words?  Or do we even notice to care? We are most susceptible to hurt those we love with our words, I suppose because we take these relationships for granted.  What words are you choosing towards your spouse today?  your kids?  your friends?  your parents?  your neighbor?  Our words can carry blessing, or they can carry curses, which do you choose today?In this Lenten season, I’m wanting to monitor and be self-aware of my words.  The choice to bless instead of curse comes from the well within us.  Look inside, is the well fresh with grace, or dank with bacteria?  That’s the place to start, its an issue of the heart.  That my heart would bless today. peace,marshall

Going for it

So, we are dead middle in the symphony of the olympics and we revel in the glory of the accomplishments of these quite talented athletes.  They have worked incredibly hard for their entire lives at a shot for their goal, their end game.  I was completely glued to the TV last night watching Shaun White, what an incredible talent.  So here is my question:  Are they the only ones who get to play?Yes, they are going for it.  But what about you?  Are you at all touching the deep place within you that harnesses a passion just waiting to be revealed?  Is there a dream on your heart that you have never even considered making an attempt at?  In short, are you going for it?  And if you haven’t gone for it, have you really even started living yet?One of the best gifts I’ve ever received was the loss (death) of 2 of my best friends some 4 years ago now.  Both in their young 30’s and so full of life, both taken by sickness.  They taught me that life is actually short.  Nothing is guaranteed.  So with the time that we have, why not go for it?  Why not start believing in yourself?  Why not put some feet on the dream that has been buried deep inside you?  What’s the worse that could happen?If you fail, you at least had an experience in something you love and that by itself has a very satisfying result.  And winning, well that has its own rewards.  So I guess I’m saying tonight, take care of your responsibilities but don’t settle,  Don’t sit on dreams, they are present within you so that you can live them.  In short, go for it.  Life is just too short not to.peace,marshall

I babbled on about things far beyond me

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Job 42:1-6 (The Message)
I Babbled On About Things Far Beyond Me

 1-6 Job answered God: “I’m convinced: You can do anything and everything.   Nothing and no one can upset your plans.You asked, ‘Who is this muddying the water,   ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?’I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me,   made small talk about wonders way over my head.You told me, ‘Listen, and let me do the talking.   Let me ask the questions. You give the answers.’I admit I once lived by rumors of you;   now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears!I’m sorry—forgive me. I’ll never do that again, I promise!   I’ll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor.”

 I find this a great reflection on this first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday.  The saying goes, “a wise man says there is a God, and I’m not him.”  Knowing your place in the cosmos is both a humbling realization as well as a taste of true freedom.  To know that ultimately we are not in control is both scary and exhilirating.  I’m a type A personality, I like to be in control, making things happen and getting stuff done.  But what also comes with that is the delusion that everything and everybody is your responsibility.  That kind of thinking is folly and recipe for personal disaster.  I had a graduate school professor who said with this kind of thinking, “you are a train wreck waiting to happen”.  I’ve learend he was right. So on this Ash Wednesday, recognize your limits and surrender that sense of control.  Ask yourself this question:  Did you bring yourself into being?  If not, then stop taking yourself so seriously and relax a bit.  It’s not about you.  The question is, if you let go, are the arms of the One who will hold you sufficient?  That is the question of faith.  And today, by faith, I’m letting go.peace,Marshall

New Ink

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This is my new ink, thanks to Jeremiah and Mother’s tattoo.Elpida is the modern Greek word for the New Testament idea of hope.  This word has carried a lot of meaning for me for a long time.  I got it etched in initially about 5 years ago, and Jeremiah touched it up to match the rest of the design here.Resurgam is Latin for “I will rise again”.  The monks of old used to have this put on their tombstone facing east towards Jerusalem and where they believed the 2nd coming to happen.

Ezekiel 47:1 The man brought me back to the entrance of the temple, and I saw water coming out from under the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was coming down from under the south side of the temple, south of the altar. 2 He then brought me out through the north gate and led me around the outside to the outer gate facing east, and the water was flowing from the south side.3 As the man went eastward with a measuring line in his hand, he measured off a thousand cubits and then led me through water that was ankle-deep. 4 He measured off another thousand cubits and led me through water that was knee-deep. He measured off another thousand and led me through water that was up to the waist. 5 He measured off another thousand, but now it was a river that I could not cross, because the water had risen and was deep enough to swim in—a river that no one could cross. 6 He asked me, “Son of man, do you see this?”Then he led me back to the bank of the river. 7 When I arrived there, I saw a great number of trees on each side of the river. 8 He said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, where it enters the Sea.  When it empties into the Sea,  the water there becomes fresh. 9 Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live. 10 Fishermen will stand along the shore; from En Gedi to En Eglaim there will be places for spreading nets. The fish will be of many kinds—like the fish of the Great Sea. 11 But the swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they will be left for salt. 12 Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.”

This passage is my metaphor of what church is to be on earth.  More accurately, this is what I think Jesus meant when he said:  “may your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven”.  The church is the people of God, those whose hearts belong to him and desire to be continually transformed into his image.  It is not a place, an event, a belief, a feeling . . . it is a people.  You can make a free choice to jump in this river and become a part of the movement of this people.  The power of the Kingdom of God is present on earth.  It’s very spirit is flowing from the temple into our world, first brought with the birth of the Christ in Bethlehem.  Since then, the Kingdom is accessible through the source, which is Jesus.  Through our mystical union with Christ, we are carried into life change.  Transformation of ourself and transformation of everything we touch and choose to do good in.  We are the trees planted on the sides of this river and since we are connected to the source (the river flowing from the temple), we teem with life and everything we touch teems with life.  The spirit of the Kingdom of God is infectious, and we are carriers.  We carry the virus of the hope and resurrection life of the Christ who is within us.  We are participating in the eternal Kingdom of God both now and the world not yet.  This river is our center, as long as we stay connected and nourished in it (John 15) then we will renact the Kingdom of God on earth.  If we choose to do our own thing, we find ourselves lost.Frankly, when I read the Scriptures for myself, I do not resonate with the “gospel” I grew up hearing.  One that was about a cognitive belief in historical information about Jesus who died for me thousands of years ago.  And to be a good christian boy, just try my hardest to not make him mad.  The whole point was to go to heaven some day and “being good” in the meantime was kind of like extra-credti work if you felt like doing it.  Understanding more clearly the Kingdom of God, I have a relational connection to Christ.  When I remain in the stream of this river, I am full of life and power.  My life has meaning and context now.  I am participating in the ongoing creation of a new heaven and a new earth that Christ is returning to unveil.  I don’t think we’re supposed to be “good, safe, little girls and boys” as Christians.  I think we’re supposed to be a part of the conspiracy, the rebellion, the resistance.  This world and the enemies of God are active upon their destruction, who are the people that embody a rebellion to its cause?  Here is where we live as the Church.  We oppose wars, hatred, evil, loneliness, fear, isolation, suffering, hunger, poverty, abuse etc. etc.  In a world of destructive voices we exist to SCREAM a bit louder.  In a world of death, we ARE the people of the Resurrection.  In a world of fear, we offer Hope and a home.So, in short, this is my mantra for what I believe the Church is all about.  Hope and life is our rebellion, and it’s a beautiful rebellion.Stop and notice the Kingdom around you today,marshall

Brian McLaren is not the anti-christ

Start here  (Mike Morrell does a good job of summing up the explosive issue here)

BRIAN MCLAREN IS NOT THE ANTI-CHRIST.  There, I said it.  Phew, glad I got that off my chest.  In fact, I may even go as far as to say that my experiences with Brian have revealed a Christ-like character (GASP to my fundie friends).  There, it’s out now, I’m out of the closet.  I think Brian is 1) just a guy  (not  lucifer’s son)  2) a good thinker (though I don’t agree with everything) and 3) most importantly someone I consider a friend  (he’s the shrimp in the left back corner of this photo behind my sasquatch-like friends at Mayhem in Cincinnati 2003)A few years ago, the last time I talked with Brian, we were on a panel discussion together with George Barna and a few other leaders in Seattle at an Off the Map Conference.   (Notice that while I am sitting next to him, I am not punching him in the face as some suggest is the right etiquette.  Most notably this guy). Brian has just released a new book, “A New Kind of Christianity” .  I have not read it, I may not, I haven’t read any of Brian’s books in about 5 years or so.  Not because I deeply disagree, I just have got the jist of who he is and what he is suggesting.  There are parts of it, the stuff I read 10 years ago or so that was absolutely lightning in a bottle for me.  Liberating, provoking, dangerous and full of life.  I loved it and read a lot of it while shaking my head in affirmation.  At some point I got the jist and moved to other authors and other viewpoints.I am not a card-carrying member of Emergent.  That’s another post altogether of why I’m not but in general, many of them I count as friends and would break bread with them regardless of where we put our emphasis in.  Me and my friends, we’re mostly practitioners, trying to work it all out in community and in context, we’re not thinkers first.  We spend our time doing and surviving, we don’t have time nor funds for conferences and think-tank sessions.  But I certainly don’t debunk those who do or can, the emerging church is not any one thing, idea or set of people, that’s for sure.I probably agree with about 50% of what McLaren has been suggesting/teaching of late, of what I’ve read, and that’s cool.  I mean, how much do we have to agree on to be friends or brothers?  How many of you like everything your biological brothers have to say?  But the character slander out there of a guy is not exactly intelligent dialogue, let alone representative of the Christ you claim to be defending. Here’s the bottom line to me.  I met Brian and worked with him on some projects at a time in my life when I was considering giving up completely on the Church and my voice in it.  I was vulnerable, broken, abandoned by my fundie church background, persecuted by my christian brothers because I was thinking differently and more creative about how to do church in the future.  I was seeking something more communal, more connected to the historic christian roots and something honest.  When I had no spiritual fathers, Brian came alongside me and believed in the gifts that were within me.  He spoke words of affirmation that have carried me to this day.  He used his platform to speak grace into my life.  He was a blessing and a fountain of living water in a desert period of my life.  Since then, I have sought to be that sort of influence to others.  I fully admit, for believing in me when no one else did, I am fiercely loyal to Brian McLaren.  I don’t agree with all his ideas/thinking, but I deeply believe in Brian the person and Brian the brother in Christ. I guess my point is, stop with the immature character assasination and maturely deal with the issues/ideas.  The anti-christ may be the one in the mirror.peace,marshall