“Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have!” -Matthew 6:22-23
Part of Jesus’ genius teaching in the Sermon on the Mount is the stuff I’ve long believed to be secrets to the universe and humankind. It is against our nature typically, which is what makes the teaching genius. Part of our design is that we are receptors of sights, sounds, smells and personal experiences that affect us and develops our inner world. Our outer world directly influences our inner world. What comes in is what goes out. What we look at and pay attention to, becomes us. We are products of our gaze and desire, it is those things that we worship. So what are you looking at? It is that thing that you worship and are becoming.
This past US election got me wired up, wrapped up, stressed out, anxiety driven and despondent. The rhetoric, the hatred, the lowest forms of dialogue, the 24/7 frantic news streams, Facebook preaching, Twitter sewage etc. It all fascinated me from a historic and culture perspective how we got here as a nation but it’s turned into its own animal. The anxiety of the drama has become too expansive for me, as I’ve taken it in it has become me. I’m turning off my gaze into these melodramas and debates, they don’t have the life I’m looking for and I don’t want that crap in my heart. What I look at and pay attention to, I become.
I need to look at goodness, hope, generosity of spirit, kindness, mercy, freedom and love of neighbor. Those are the things I want to become so those are the things I’m looking at and looking for today. Join me.
“To love another person is to see the face of God.”–Les Miserables
Our world is amuck with physical and verbal violence towards the ‘others’. The news cycles and headlines are intended to keep the drama going of one group vs. another. They profit off of our dissent. Anti-democrat, Anti-republican, Anti-muslim, Anti-christian, Anti-western world, Anti-left, Anti-right, Anti-immigrant, Anti-nationalist, Anti-globalist, Anti-police, Anti-minority, Anti-gun, Anti-gun control . . . you name the explosive issue, the media exploits the divisions as a kind of control over their profits. What is lost is the best of humanity.
As a follower of Jesus, I’m for peace and I live under a command and a calling to love my neighbor as myself. All of my neighbors. All of my ‘others’. Those who love me and those who hate me, I cannot get out from under the command to love my neighbor. All of them. I have a calling to love my enemies, to bless and not to curse. I don’t have a choice. If I claim to follow Him, but hate another, I am a liar. The ancient Scriptures don’t leave any wiggle room there. It breaks my heart to live amongst the violence of our actions and our words, this is not the way it was intended to be. We can be more than this, but it requires living out of a different center.
The reality is I nor we are capable of this kind of love. It is God initiated. I John 4:7-10 outlines the possibilities of our capabilities:
“My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.”
So I am getting more intentional with my time, attention and influences. I am outlining the sources that I am giving time and attention to that give input to my heart, mind and soul which lead to my behavior. I want peace so I need to be filled with peace. I want love for all so I need to be receiving the kind of love that is capable of loving all, including my enemies. If I want to see the ‘other’ and love them, I need to see them as the face of God.
This life is short, it won’t last long. Peace and love is a worthy cause in a world of violence, it’s the best intention of humanity. Let’s be good neighbors to one another today.
The dawn of March 1 will mark the beginning of technically my 9th month of unemployment. I haven’t had regular work/paycheck etc. in that timeframe. I’ve been freelancing in some management projects, teaching projects, writing projects and hustling our Resurgam Coffee side business, but none of that has equaled anything close to a full-time income. What have I learned? I’ve learned this journey has been an incredible gift on so many levels. Let me explain . . .
The Gift of Self-Reflection – How often in your life do you get the opportunity for a complete do-over? To go back to the drawing board and ask foundational questions like Who am I? Why am I here? What would I love to do? What brings me joy? Now this is also deeply frightening, the more questions you ask, the deeper the rabbit hole gets. I began to realize how much of my ‘accepted’ and unquestioned life both internally and externally did not line up with my deepest values. The gift does not then become self-condemnation, but an invitation to new life. Know thyself and then act accordingly.
The Gift of a Simple Life – My wife and I are more connected right now around our daily, weekly and monthly finances than ever before. Not fear, not panic . . . connectedness. We talk about it, daily. Our grocery list is no longer whatever looks like ‘we have to have’ at Costco, it’s planned out and intentional. You know what? It’s fun! I’m cooking more creatively and intentionally. Our meals are actually far more fresh and healthy. We are counting the green beans and the last eggs, but we are also finding creative ways to deliciously season the throw-away and discounted cuts of meat from the grocery. We are grocery shopping with cash, whatever cash has come in, that’s our budget. We’ve learned how we don’t need very much income to live a connected, satisfied and full life with some creativity and teamwork. It’s a gift to be able to have such connection between God’s most recent provision and the food that will be on our family table this week. We have daily bread, gratitude fills our table.
The Gift of Intimate Marriage – Naturally, this has been a time of great challenge, pressure and vulnerability. These kinds of storms in life have a way of exposing great breaches in the foundations of even the best of marriage partnerships. But, there is always a choice. You can live in fear, isolation, destructive habits to cope and blame etc. Or you can choose as a couple to look at the storm in the face and hand in hand walk into it and through it together. Wedding vows take just a moment in a ceremony to say but it takes a lifetime to fulfill them. We chose to come together in this, communicate and over-communicate, look to the needs of one another and create a new beginning together. We have no idea how it will all turn out, but we do know one thing, we are gonna be there together. It’s our eternal vows to one another and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I am so in love with this woman. She vowed to believe in me on our wedding day, and on my worst and most discouraging days, she believes in me and the gifts God has given me. I am able to anchor my identity not in the rejection email of another job I won’t get, but in the love and commitment of my wife for me. Folks, with that kind of love, I’ll run through a wall. True intimacy in marriage is an unbelievable gift and it’s the result of a lot of choices ‘towards’ one another, not ‘away’.
The Gift of the Myth of the American Dream – In my dissertation I wrote a chapter on this ‘myth’ and how consumerism has robbed much of what we used to experience of so-called community in America. The assumptions of certain standards of living for happiness, the crazed rat-race of the US corporate life, the dehumanizing experiences of bottom-line company strategies, the false dream of a leisured retirement, the entitlements of the marketing seas we swim in, the oughts and shoulds of a life it seems almost no-one is enjoying. We are supremely busy, but not busy being happy. Meaning, connection, community and the things that feed contentment and happiness are not bought, and not even offered in consumer lifestyles to keep up. Consumerism by definition keeps you wanting more so you buy more, all with the hope that it will finally satisfy. It doesn’t. That degree won’t magically satisfy you, that job, that car, that membership, that house, that team etc etc. All will leave you wanting and never having ‘arrived’. I’m learning to look at my life of a different ‘arrival’, my own death. I’m mortal, I will die, this human life will end. So how do I want to live it? I get one chance and it’s a result of my free choices. Should I organize it around chasing things ‘out there’, or can I organize it around the amazing gifts God has already given me right here? Faith, family, friends, creative work, sustenance etc. These things can be lived and enjoyed for a whole lot less $$ than the American rat race. Why live a myth, why not live in ruthless and satisfying truth?
The Gift of Anything is Possible – One of my largest personal values is freedom. I love the freedom to create, to learn, to dream, to act, to inspire, to encourage, to lead etc. Feeling confined in close-ended jobs in my history has contributed to a lot of self-imposed depression. After I grieved my vocational past and choices, I now have come to a place of a free and open future. Anything is possible, that is a gift to me. I’m in this place of what Romans 8 says, ‘what’s next, Papa?’ God and I can create together a connected, partnered, grounded and freely sustained life. I don’t know yet what it looks like, but I trust Him. His goodness and faithfulness have become so resounding in my life during this journey it’s almost deafening. I have nothing concrete in my hands but I have supreme confidence in my heart and mind. Anything is possible, that is hopeful and good enough.
“This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!” -Romans 8:15-17 (The Message)
My journey is my journey. I know many of you out there are experiencing far more painful stories and realities than me and you aren’t seeing the same conclusions I am. My intent is for encouragement and help, I can’t change your reality, but I can offer you my human compassion and story. All of life is a gift, the learning is the fun part. Let’s live out loud!
The Nordic Vikings of old had a term we Anglo-Saxons translate as “Berserk”. ‘Bersekr’ literally means ‘bear shirt’ or one who would run into battle in a crazed confidence wearing only the animal skin as armor. Not a safe life, but a confident one.
I’m not advocating a Viking lifestyle, generally we have evolved in our domestic and international diplomatic relations past shield walls and pillaging. The old world of desperation and scarce resources has been replaced with modern comforts and a surplus of goods. But I do want to speak against narratives of safety, security, small thinking and small living. We don’t have to settle for the safe, we can step onto the field with a fierce confidence and stare an enemy in the face. Life doesn’t have to be boring, we can choose to go ‘Bersekr’ .
We can choose the safe life that’s largely all about us and our comforts and security, that’s the mythology of the American Dream. The more as a culture we pursue this dream, the more our use of anti-depressants is rising; correlation? Is it possible we just have all the wrong dreams? What we thought would make us happy, content, purposeful, fulfilled are not the things we are pursuing at all? Something deep inside us wants to armor-up and go ‘Bersekr’ but we are choosing the fool’s gold of the American dream. There is nothing wrong with a safe life, it’s just boring. 😉
10 years ago this past March, I lost one of my best friends to colon cancer at the age of 32. I visited his grave this week and it got me thinking. His name was Mark Palmer and he was as much my friend as he was a co-mentor in my life. We filled that role for one another. I walked with him as he grieved the loss of his 26 yr. old wife to stomach cancer. I walked with him as he suffered through his own battle against cancer. What I observed in my friend was a heart of courage that would never give up on his fierce commitment to hope for himself and the community he loved so much. He gave up the pursuit of the American Dream of comfort in order to live in solidarity with the poverty and suffering of his neighbors. He made it his life and calling to mentor young hearts who were filled with angst, passion, talent and pain and dreamed for a better world. He lived his life on purpose. He got 32 years to ‘Bersekr’in his own giftedness and then he gracefully passed over the veil to the reality of another Kingdom in fullness.
Friends, we get one life. ONE! We will be buried not with any of our creature comforts and not with one of our retirement benefits, not with any piece of security. All that the American Dream offers us, we get buried with none of it. It’s a fool’s gold, a chasing after the wrong dreams. We live in a broken world crying out for hope, leadership, courage, peace, goodness and the identity shaping of fierce community. You can live a safe life, it’s just boring. You can choose to go ‘Bersekr’ and make a difference with your one wild and precious life like no one else with your skill-set can. Oh the stories people will tell at your funeral, it won’t be about your stuff, it will be about your amazing life and battles won for the good of all. We get one life, choose wisely, all of life depends on it.
“I guess what I really want to say is this: be hopeful. Don’t stop fighting. On some level this thing is bigger than all of us. It’s not about having a wife die of cancer at 26, and then 2 years later getting the same terminal illness. It’s not about me and how I fight this disease or how our little family walks through it. The bigger picture is the battle against sickness and death that we all face because we live in a broken world. But it’s even more about the Kingdom that has broken in and offers us a chance at relief from that disease. It offers health and victory where before there was none. There is hope in the midst of hopelessness. Death is not where we lose; the onset of hopelessness is the great defeater. So allow hope to rise up within you. And when it seems that hopefulness is the least appropriate response in this situation, let it rise up even more. Whisper your hope when you lie down at night; scream your hope when you wake in the morning. Live your hope as if it is the one and only thing that sustains you in this ravaged world. You will not be disappointed.”
-Mark Palmer, last blog post before he passed 3/25/06
What if I told you that you’ve been lied to? That the American Dream is a myth meant to enslave you to a life of consumption that makes you dependent on systems of control and the illusion of personal choice. That the ‘good life’ is not good at all; not for our health, our sense of peace, our experience of joy or our personal power to be a part of something greater than ourselves. Living the ‘good life’ was what it meant to be truly American. It is this idea that has grown like a virus in the American worldview; the American dream is now a benchmark cultural assumption about how the world works. . . . As the narrator says in Fight Club:“We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.” But it doesn’t work, because getting a paycheck is not a big enough idea.
The existential questions of humanity are the same at any point in time within recorded history. They are the same in any economy, in any political system and within the context of any particular culture. The questions may vary in importance, however they typically carry the thematic structure of the following: Who am I? Where did I come from? What is my purpose? Where do I find meaning? Is this all there is? What happens when I die?
These questions outline the longings of our human hearts; they dictate what we organize our lives around. The answers to these profound ponderings become formative attachments psychologically, spiritually, emotionally and then deeply influence the pragmatic choices of our physical lives. We organize our lives around what we believe to be true and meaningful, the cost is really high about how we answer these critical questions.
You get a paycheck to live, but what do you want to do with your life? How do you want it defined? You get to choose your attention and investment, what do you want out of it? For the love of God, don’t let the stupidity of our culture and consumer markets dictate that for you. You get to choose, so what do you want to do? You want to earn up enough over a lifetime, save up enough so that you can stop working for the last 30 years of your life and collect shells on the beach? Nothing wrong with that, it’s just boring. 😉
I think you were designed to count, and count quite uniquely. You are wired to matter. Dallas Willard said it this way: “As water is meant to run downhill, so you were destined to count.” A Paycheck doesn’t make you count or matter, it just helps you live. It’s the choices of your life that help you experience meaning, purpose and well-designed empassioned mission. Our consumer culture is a system of control and it doesn’t satisfy; it is designed to keep you wanting more because in the end, it’s a bankrupt set of ideals. It’s all the wrong dreams, all the wrong goals and all the wrong living. You were meant for more giving, not getting, and it’s at your fingertips to choose and experience. Don’t settle for anything less. You have one life, one chance for real living, a paycheck is not a big enough idea for you.
My wife and I have re-designed our entire life and budget. Today is the last day of my severance pay from my full-time job. We are now embarking into the reality of purpose and life in the hands of the God who made us, designed us and calls us to live a life of purpose and great meaning. We are no longer defined by a paycheck, we are free to work at the callings deep on our heart for justice, community, truth, love and a dangerous call of hope. A paycheck is not a big enough idea when there is a call to love the orphan, the widow, the lonely, the oppressed, the poor, the captives etc. We want to live life on purpose, not for a paycheck. Income helps us live, it doesn’t define us, our life defines us. How do you want to live?
Choose to be dangerous, choose for your life to count, choose hope. You won’t be disappointed.
Yeah . . . I went there, I’m adding to the buzz ad nausea of this latest global craze but instead of being my normal judgy mcjudgerson on what is popular, this one I’m kind of endorsing?? Instead of yelling at the kids to GET OFF MY LAWN!! Let me try and be a bit open minded here. RELAX! Let me explain.
Disclaimer: I’ve never watched Pokemon, never collected a single card, my kids never did. I downloaded the app. for about 12 hours and then deleted it. I caught one squirtle in my backyard but my 14 hr. old had no interest in it so I deleted it. I’m now again unhip, irrelevant and uncool, but that’s a comfortable space for me.
Here’s 4 things I do love about the Pokemon Go phenomenon:
Kids, teens and young adults are outside walking around – Sure, they are staring deep into their phones and perhaps not being completely aware of their surroundings, BUT they are not sitting inside on couches eating chips and soaking in unnatural lighting. They are outside soaking up Vitamin D and Serotonin, maybe they won’t need as many anti-depressant or ADD drugs. Just being outside and moving does wonders for our physiological make-up, it sure does for me.
Families are doing something fun together – Yeah, my 14 yr. old son had zero interest going hunting with me but that seems to be a rare instance. I’m seeing in my community and all around Facebook, parents and kids doing something fun together. Our cultural stories recently have been so dark and violent, we needed something for families to do together. You know the age-old saying: The Family that hunts ‘Charizard’ together, stays together.
Millenials are solving problems – I’ve been guilty of being one of the old curmudgeon (Gen X’er) accusing the millenial generation of being entitled and not contributing their fair share to our culture’s woes. But, as an educator, I’m a huge fan of ‘play’ as a means of engaging our minds and bodies in problem solving. We are not robots, the industrial world of the utilitarian drone is not our reality. Our world is complex and diverse, we need creative problem solving to do something about it. Something as simple as Pokemon Go has an entire generation using ‘play’ towards problem-solving. I am all for it. Working together, networking, sharing resources, solving problems; these are the bedrock skills for world-changers. Once those brain neurons are firing off, who knows what else they could find to tackle next. Confidence and a sense of accomplishment creates great personal momentum. We all need the Millenials to be a ‘kick a$$’ generation, I’m holding out hope yet.
It’s Clean and Innocent – This is a relative argument and surely there are some on my readership far more conservative than me and will accuse it all of being the spawn of Satan, but in my relatively acute opinion, it’s clean and innocent play. Let’s be real, the other options at the fingertips of the same generation is 1st person shooter games, gory role playing games and internet pornography. Squirtles, Weedles and Jigglypuffs harken back to a more innocent time in American culture, we could use a little of it for our kids to grow up in.
So I’m sorry for getting on board with it all. Though I’m not actively hunting, I’m cheering on those of you who are from the sidelines. Happy Hunting my friends, may the Pikachu of your dreams be just around the next corner!
July 4th, Independence Day, is a really big deal in my native America, as it should be. Our founding people (men, women and children), the original American entrepreneurs, risked all to come to these colonies and live out the creation of a new dream called ‘America’. July 4, 1776 at a meeting of the Continental Congress, the Declaration of Independence was adopted making the 13 American colonies a new nation and no longer a part of the British Empire. This is our national heritage and it’s a rich and proud one. Our story is one of radical independent thinking, visionary architects of a new and free society, democratic representation, activists of equality and laborers of justice. This dream of a new society, fueled by a sense of destiny and the protestant work ethic, is the heritage we celebrate today. It was Revolutionary thinking and doing.
There is a reality though, like any start-up idea, that the 1.0 version is not the totally developed thought or best practice and it’s okay to lament that. There was a dream, an ideal, but the movement was stuck in the perspective of the time. “All men are created equal” with rights to vote only applied to white, land-owning men in 1789 for the first election. Allowing non-whites and women to vote came in hard fought after amendments to the original idea years later. Additionally shameful is that the revolutionary way forward to build a new economy happened on the backs of cheap and free labor, slavery largely to African-Americans is our heritage. The rise of the agricultural, industrial and trade industry of early-America does not happen without this free labor, of men and women not seen as ‘created equal’ and thus cruely and inhumanely treated. Our rise to being a world super power is both an economic reality and a human travesty. The American Dream is not realized until “Give us Free”, all of us.
In today’s world, we yet wrestle with racial and gender equality. We are still working out the great American Dream into a free reality. Present day abolitionists have made us acutely aware of the incredible proliferation today of young girls and boys caught in the violent cycle of human sex trafficking. Where is their, “Give us Free” within American borders? Until all of us are free, we are not free to stop working at the ideals of the American Dream.
I am a white, educated, middle-class male in modern America and I am fully aware of the privilege that comes with that and that others don’t get that same ‘benefit of the doubt’. I have a responsibility to speak, influence and act in my role to empower “Give us Free” to keep making progress. Racism and Sexism are not a thing of the past, they are alive and well in today’s America. I celebrate today my freedom to choose to involve my voice and action into the liberation of others, particularly those left on the margins. Freedom is a really big idea, and it’s worth dying for . . . for all of us “Give us Free”, all of us.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”– Galatians 5:1
Fathering in 2016 is not for the faint of heart. One week ago today, 49 innocent children of other dads were fatally gunned down on that fateful night in an Orlando nightclub. On the day of each one of their births, that was not the dream the fathers had the first time they held their babies in their arms. I’m not sure a lot of dads talk about this, but I can say that most dads when they hold their newborns for the first time (aside from stark fear), get bonded to a commitment of sheltering, providing, strengthening and dreaming big for their little nugget. We hope for the best, we don’t envision nightclub massacres as young adults. For those of us who didn’t have kids in that space last week, our kids lived the trauma through the stories and images of the news-feeds. None of us immune to a society at war, violence is our cultural tapestry. This is fathering in 2016.
I’m not interested in gun rights or laws, that’s a reaction to protect physical bodies, I’m interested in a higher virtue. How do we protect our kid’s young hearts and minds against such trauma? This is not the only one, it was just the next one. How do we raise young men to cherish and protect the value and virtue of women when they are exposed and entrapped to the lies of pornography the moment they discover the power of the internet? How do we protect the self worth and original beauty of our daughters in a world of insecure selfies begging comments of adoration, celebrity idol-worship and the photo-shop wonders of multi-billion dollar beauty industry? Hey Dads, we are not the only ones who want to shape our kid’s minds and hearts. There’s a lot of money out there shooting to own them, it’s profitable to these systemic evils to enslave them for a long life of consumerism to their goods and services. This is fathering in 2016.
What’s my advice after 20 years of such fathering, here’s my take:
Be present – You have a powerful voice and presence in your kid’s life, own it. Don’t leave a chasm of space physically or emotionally for something or someone else to fill, it’s yours first, embody it in the life of your child.
Love their Mom – If you are still together, show your son what loving, cherishing and serving a woman looks like. If you are not together, honor that relationship in front of them. Negotiate time well and keep your personal remarks to yourself. It’s their Mom, honor that for them no matter how painful it is for you.
Choose your words – your words have the power to build up, your words have the power to tear down. Don’t misuse your power. Be a man, have the strength to choose your words wisely. Any fool can fly off the handle dispersing poison. Embrace wisdom instead, you carry power to change a reality with your words.
Grow up – You’re a Dad, you did adult things to bring another human into the world, you are not a child. Grow up. It’s not about you, walk out into your adult-self with confidence and a freedom to be the adult you always wish someone would be for you. Your future is wide open with opportunity, don’t retreat back, grow up into it.
Don’t give up – You’re not perfect, Dad. You may have already broken my advice commandments 1-4 already today, welcome to the vulnerability of your humanity. But in this moment, in the remainder of this day, don’t give up. Your kids will hold out hope until the day you die that you will be the Dad they always dreamed of and you still have today. They believe in you; I’m begging you for you to believe in you. They need you, don’t give up on your best self.
Fathering in 2016 is not for the faint of heart, leadership is not for cowards. It’s time to show-up, Dad’s. The future depends on it.
The Disclaimer: I am not a scientist, I’m not an astrophysicist, I’m not a rocket scientist. At best I’m a theologian or contemplative, at worst I’m just a dude. I’m reflecting on this from my perspective, I’m not making truth claims or posting theories based on expert knowledge. I know it’s just an attempt to illustrate a point and doesn’t in fact capture the entire picture of the galactic plane. Ok? . . . ok.
The Video: I find this video model fascinating for it’s contrast to our normal two dimensional understanding of how our universe revolves around the sun. Most of us get our imagery from 2D posters on our junior high science classroom of a ‘heliocentric’ (sun centered) universe which was a great advancement from the ancient days of a ‘geocentric’ (earth centered) understanding of the universe. There was a day when we literally thought and understood that the world revolved around us. That came from a time in Greek thought where philosophy ruled the day. Our starting point for reflection, contemplation and search for truth started with ourselves. So naturally, the world came to be about us.
It was the advancement of science that began to tell a different story. That the experience of gravity on earth did not mean that in fact then the earth was the center of gravity in the universe. Rather, it was far more complex than that. Rotation, axis and orbit can explain for the phenomenons we observe on earth and that it is the sun that is in fact the center of the big idea and the planets, systems and stars have a relational tie to it. Science helped us see that the world is in fact not about us, that we have a part to play in a much larger drama and we should have some humility and responsibility about that galactic relationship.
Philosophy to Science to now Technology. This video builds on the 2D heliocentric idea of the universe by taking it another step and illustrating that the better understanding of movement around the sun is to see it as ‘vortex’ motion of being intertwined amidst the solar winds as we orbit around the sun. The 3D model shown here is the ‘helical’ model. It invites us to understand the intertwining motion as even a more complex relationship we have at the ‘Macro’ level of how our universe works and then pushes us to reflect upon how we see this same design in our ‘Micro’ level life and creation all around us. To me, it’s fascinating.
The Community Idea: Again, I’m not a scientist, it just interests me for it’s perspective and it’s revelation of truths. I highly value knowledge because it informs my real life. What I am an expert in is ‘community’. I’ve given my life and study to it for a couple decades now. My dissertation was on the loss of community in the American landscape and suggestions on how we might find our way again in it. I have often reflected and asserted that community is best understood as well as a ‘gravitational pull’. Community gets centered around something that pulls people together. Books, football, school, fashion, movies, coffee, wine, beer, lifestyles, interests, religion etc. The strength and longevity of the community depends upon the nature of the gravitational center. If a community forms around the celebration of the Winter Olympics, then it will be experienced once every 4 years and will cease after the closing ceremonies. If the community forms around biological family bonds, then barring relational scars, it goes from birth to death and we are in a vortex with each other for every event in between.
I do believe that community is a vortex of relational pull towards one another. Our lives can be intertwined in a very complex relationship and the longer the community is in that vortex, the stronger the relational pull. As a relational universe, the proximity increases, the gravity increases and the community gets closer and more intertwined as it moves together on a time continuum we call ‘life’.
14 years ago, my wife and I experimented by starting a spiritual community in our home with the stated assumption that the center of our gravitational pull would be Jesus and the Scriptures. The person of Jesus, his teachings, his life and his Spirit would be what we would organize our lives around and then let those things pull us together. We live individual, family and American suburban lives but we would confront that reality by choosing ‘community’ as our faith model. We didn’t want individual faith, we wanted a shared story. Ordinary Community was the result. This is what we call ‘church’.
Over the years, this gravitational pull has exponentially increased. The intertwining of our lives is a great contrast to the world’s ideals around us of a consumer lifestyle based on ‘avoiding boredom’ and individual wants. The pull into spiritual community has redefined family for us. We have a much larger network of brothers, sisters, spiritual cousins, aunts, uncles etc. Our kids only know ‘community’ as their gravitational center. This all may sound cultish, but it is the language of our Patriarch, that Jesus guy. (Cults are defined by hoarding resources, we give away 100% of our shared resources, again that Jesus guy told us to) Our lives are a moving vortex with one another as we spiral around Jesus and His Scriptures towards a more realized experience of Christian spiritual maturity. Our hope is that as we do that then we love our neighbors better, love our enemies better, serve our world better, experience wholeness/peace/joy better and in fact live in the truth of what our entire universe is all about. That we are eternal souls: created by God, resurrected by Jesus and called into a Spirit-filled life story together. That our lives have context with each other and the world all around us. Community is a messy vortex of intertwined motion, we spiral through life together and we wouldn’t want it any other way.