Saturday, March 30, 2013

I wish that I could be a Worker-Bee

There are times when I wish that I could just be a worker bee. Give me a task and let me do it. No thought. No reflection. Just action. I'd be happy just to do my job and fulfill everyone's expectations. But, I'm not. I require reasons and some kind of purpose to do things. I expect some sort of fulfillment in the work that I do. I cannot simply do what I am told. I don't respect authority that cannot prove that it has a right to exist. Titles, (like pastor, elder, senator, president), mean nothing to me. Rank, be it class, race, or gender is a useless designation. For me, respect matters. Servant leadership by peers matters. Goals matter. Money, prestige and power will automatically turn me against the source. No, I'm no worker bee. I'm an adversary.
There are some folks can simply choose to follow the rules and live a "godly" life. They go to work every day and live quietly and, I guess, contentedly. Then, there are those like me. We are agitated. And, we agitate. We do not have peace. We are driven to excess. We are not satisfied. (Please, don't come to me with any kind of status quo argument. You won't even get a hearing.) But, for many like me, there is no clear direction. There is no place for our energy to go. Consequently, we are the frustrated ones. We are depressed. We are the ones that folks talk about when they say 'melancholy.' And, all too often we let that paralyze us. With no clear direction, we sit...and, not very patiently. What I do know is that as I sit here with no outlet for the passion that God has built into me. A passion that roils and churns like magma looking for a weak spot to vent. If I can't find such a place, I am in danger of exploding with catastrophic results.
Those like me drive fast and live hard. We read the scripture and see God's passion and relentless love on the pages. We do not 'get' the forensic crap that many of our fellow travelers take for granted. We certainly DO NOT view the scripture as some kind of "users' manual." To reduce the Word of God to such a utilitarian 'to do' list is quite simply bull-oney. We see Jesus willing to heal. Jesus, the One who accepted women and lepers and pharisees and tax collectors. We can see ourselves in the Good Samaritan. Now, there was a person who disregarded the conventions of the day and did what was right. We get 'pissed off' at people who want to quote some kind of dogmatic position that makes someone...anyone...seem less than human. We don't buy into ANY legalistic position that doesn't take into consideration the fact that we are dust and, somehow, Yahweh still loves us.
I don't know why God has made me, as a fellow traveler described, a Poet & a Lunatic. Someone who sees faces in the clouds and who takes a sideways glance at the supposed solid things in the cosmos. Someone who enjoys a good problem to solve and a taste of good Irish triple distilled. But, one thing I am quite sure of...I am not a worker bee.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Be Still and Know that I Am God

Be still and know that I am God.
I get up in the morning and rush to eat and get my coffee
Be still and know that I am God.
Hurriedly, I take 1 hour, no more, no less for prayer and meditation
Be still and know that I am God.
Throw food in a bag a run off to the salt mine
Be still and know that I am God.
Put out imaginary fires and ping-ping like a Balley ball
Be still and know that I am God.
70 MPH home to workout, feed Bill, eat, crash...crash...crash
Be still and know that I am God.
Sleep, dream, toss, awaken................
I get up in the morning and rush to eat and get my coffee
Be still and know that I am God.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Times when it's best to just Shut Up!

I read a blog today written by a man about women and abortion. The author is a retiree from the L.A.Sheriff's Dept. named Tony Miano. I think that this is important to remember. I'll reference it later.
Anyway, the blog is at:
In it Miano laid out his position on abortion and the woman's responsibility in it. Now, I'm a man and I will not get into this debate. Which is something that Miano should have done. What I do want to address is his argument and method. Particularly, I want to focus on his language and theology. Both of which are poor.
His purpose in writing appears to be to encourage women to reconsider the choice of abortion, or to reflect on the consequences of the abortion after the fact. In this process, he seems to want these women to turn to Jesus Christ for salvation. Of course, he provides the usual steps to take to do this...through faith, repent and ask Jesus to be Lord and Savior. Prior to this invitation he does his best to show these wayward female souls the error of their way. He accuses them of "murdering their unborn child," of deciding to "kill their child," of wondering about "such depravity that leads a woman to slaughter her own child." He is magnanimous enough to "give abortive women the benefit of the doubt and assert that most women later regret killing their unborn children." He hopes that women will regret and feel what he refers to as "godly grief" that will produce repentance. Now, for some who read this may support Miano's effort. From a modern, literalist point of view he seems to be heading in the right direction. Abortion is sin, therefore, those who have abortions are sinners who need God's grace. But, Miano doesn't stop there.
First, he has singled out women as the sinner, or from his law enforcement background, they are the 'perpetrator.' As such, they must be brought to justice. This is misogyny. For every woman who chooses to terminate a pregnancy there is a man who did the impregnating. Now, I realize that in the U.S. the father has no say in this issue. There may be many who oppose the choice of the woman. But, that doesn't negate his responsibility in conception. Miano did not mention men's responsibility at all.
Second, he is standing on a soap box deriding human beings for whom Jesus came. Many of the women that he simply wants to give the "benefit of the doubt" are dealing with issues and feelings that NO MAN can ever understand. In this he is spouting vitriol from a position of privilege. This would have been a time when it would have been best to shut up.
Third, he misrepresents God. By painting the Father of Jesus as One who is out to get vengeance on wayward people is a horrible misreading of the gospel. Jesus came to usher in God's realm and to reveal God's character as One who loves the Good Creation and those of us who inhabit it. To use Christian code to bash people is just wrong.
Fourth is his arrogance. He is clear that how he has read and understands the biblical text is absolutely the only proper way to read and understand it. Sorry, Tony, but it's not. Perhaps if he would have actually gone to a reputable institution of higher learning he would know that. But, nothing in his posted resume indicates this. He was in law enforcement. In this position he would have accepted the dualism of right and wrong and black and white. There is no room for gray or colors with this thinking. And, of course, he is always right.
Miano advertises himself as an 'itinerant preacher.' But, I wonder what it is that he preaches. It seems to be hate and judgement. I'm pretty certain it's not the Good News of Jesus Christ.

My Perspective on the World Christian Movement Pt. 2

As promised, here is part 2 of my musings on missions.

Randy Woodley, a Cherokee himself, in his book Shalom and the Community of Creation, observed that a large majority of native Americans understand that there is “some sort of primal power in the words of oral tradition.”[1] The transmission of ontological truth was trusted to be passed orally. They heard the words spoken “from the heart” and accepted them as truth. Yet, we in the West find it necessary to dispense with that and teach these people to read. We teach them to read the scripture, that’s good…right? In our arrogance we fail to discern that many of these people view our sacred text with suspicion. The reason? Woodley answers in a response of some native Americans: “We know that the white man translated the Bible and he could have removed things he didn’t want us to hear or he could have added things that are not true.”[2] Hmmm….
What if we had, rather, taken the time to listen to those who lived in the land? In a previous blog I wrote that maybe the Europeans were lead by God to visit other lands. But, not to conquer. And, certainly not to force their particular brand of Christianity upon the native population. Rather, what if they were lead to these lands to learn from others, to humbly listen to the stories that the indigenous people had to tell. But, Euro-Americans have a tendency to talk first and listen, well, never. (This, too, is arrogance. To think that what we have to say is more important than what anyone else on the planet has to say.) Had we listened we could have learned about the land and the people, about their special relationship to the cosmos. In dialog we could have then, maybe, shared our story. We could have had an opportunity to see where our different cultures merged and, just maybe, we could have found connecting points that would have allowed the open sharing of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Not to make others change to be like us.
But, to let our story and theirs join as equally viable realities. We could have let go of the need to control the story and let the people of the land take and assimilate it as they felt best.
Now, of course this raises the question of syncretism. And, as I’ve read about missions, this seems to be at the crux of much errant thinking. Let me digress a bit…The two major ancient churches both consider themselves the one true Church. Both the Roman and Orthodox confessions claim to be able to trace their origins back to the Apostles. Both claim to have the only accurate traditions. And, both hold tenaciously to what they perceive to be that one, true, apostolic tradition. All other claims to faith are, at best, considered heterodox. At worst, they are considered heretical. Now, I’m not a math major, but I can see pretty quickly that both cannot be right. And, to add to the confusion, along came the reformers in 16th century who also claimed to have the only true faith. What I want to point out by this is that we in the West have a long history of trying to prove that we are correct and everyone else is wrong. We have developed an unsustainable dualism that has allowed abuses that would make Hannibal Lecter blush. Now, how would things have looked had we actually built our faith on the teaching of Jesus? We would have been compelled to accept others as created equal to us. We would have had to learn to listen. Yeah, there’s a lot of red text in the gospels, but Jesus really listened to people. How many times did he ask someone, “What would you like me to do for you?” How often did he “look at,” really “look at,” others with respect and compassion? He did not, like we have in the West, simply assume that he knew what the other needed. Even today we assume that we in America know what is best for people in Africa, Asia and Latin America. We do not take the time to listen to what they might think that they really need.
So, back to the problem of syncretism. Who said that we need to control the Gospel? Who said that ours is the only true expression of Christian faith? No one has. We seem to think that the Church and the Gospel belong to us. Therefore, we have some right to control how the story is told and how it should properly be understood. I think that there is Someone far more qualified to do that than we. Jesus told his disciples that he was going to send a Teacher. This Teacher would be Someone who would walk beside them and show them how to live in God’s new realm. Paul wrote about the work of the Holy Spirit. He wrote that it was the Spirit who provided gifts and direction for the Church. Now, it is true that these gifts are realized as people cooperate with the Spirit. But, it is God the Holy Spirit who is the director. I think that trusting in God trumps our fear of syncretism.
We Euro-Americans would do well to hear what we have actually done to indigenous people with our White, male, hegemonic, arrogant approach. What we have thought of as Good News about redemption in Christ has not had the effect that we may have thought it would. Again, I turn to Randy Woodley:
The gospel, as it has most often been preached to Native Americans, does not promise us restored balance or harmony. Actually, too often, the gospel preached to Native Americans and other indigenous peoples around the world was quite the contrary to good news. We have mostly heard the gospel as “bad news.”
The “bad news” of Jesus Christ requires people to forsake their own ethnic identity for the identity of the dominant culture. The “bad news” of Jesus Christ means trading in shared communal values for economic systems based on greed and the success of the individual over the group. The “bad news” of Jesus Christ requires indigenous peoples to accept their status as those meant to be colonized and to cooperate with their own demise. The “bad news” of Jesus Christ askes us to draw our theology, values, and meaning as people from a culture that wishes to make us self-haters.[3]
What to do? I don’t want to come across as having the answer. I don’t. No one person, or group of people does. However, a good place to begin searching for one would be to humble ourselves before Yahweh and pray for forgiveness. Forgiveness for our arrogant disregard for the wonderful diversity that Yahweh has built into humanity and the Good Creation. Forgiveness for twisting Yahweh’s Word to fit our own perceptions. Forgiveness for trampling on our sisters and brothers in God’s name. Forgiveness for not listening to the people of the land, thereby trampling on the Good Natural resources that these Others were called by Creator to be stewards of. Richard Twiss said that the Native American community does not need missionaries. It does not need us to just send money. It needs us to join in real relationship as full partners.[4] I think that maybe it’s not too late to repent and embody the love that Jesus Christ, the God who walked among us, revealed is at the heart of God.

[1] Woodly, Randy S., Shalom and the Community of Creation, An Indigenous Vision, William B. Eerdmans,
  Grand Rapids,  2012, p. 140.
[2] Woodley, 2012, 141.
[3] Woodley, 2012, 150.
[4]Richard Twiss: Hope For the American Church,, last accessed Mar. 20, 2013.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

My Perspective on the World Christian Movement Pt. 1

I have been interested in Christian missions, as in cross-cultural missions, since I was a young follower of Christ. I read the books about famous missionaries and went to missions conferences. I listened to stories of selfless heroism and noble sacrifice. Early on, I thought that my part of the task of world evangelization would be to support it from home. I never really saw myself actually ‘in the field.’ At least, not until I went on a short-term trip to Australia. Ok, not a really huge cultural shift from the U.S. to Australia. But, it created a new yearning to be more involved.
I have friends who have gone to the mission field. These folks dedicated their lives to spreading the gospel, as we understood it. They work to establish churches and to help the local population grow in our understanding of the gospel. But, as I have grown and reflected on how we have pursued missions, I’ve been compelled to rethink some things.
Our understanding of missions has been deeply rooted in a Western patristic reading of scripture. It grew out of a desire to spread the good news of forgiveness of sin through faith in God alone. This was coupled with the concept of sola scriptura, which meant that the only way to salvation was a strict adherence to how we understood the scriptures. As missionaries accompanied explorers they went out to conquer the world for Christ. In essence, this was a mandate to spread the gospel by spreading the culture. What this meant for indigenous populations was the end of their way of life. They were taught that, as the late Richard Twiss said, “You can’t be a Christian until you reject your culture and your spirituality and your ceremonies.”[1] And, when the native people would not willingly do that, they were brutally ‘converted.’ Thousands of people were systematically raped and murdered…all in the name of the Church.
I began to ask, ‘why?’ Why would the God that I saw revealed in Jesus desire this kind of wanton destruction of human beings? Did God really desire that nations and people groups become assimilated or destroyed in Christ’s name? Weren’t these the nations and tongues and people that the scripture said would one day bring praise and glory to God? Something just didn’t compute.
What really got me thinking that maybe we were pursuing missions in a manner that may not be in accord with the Jesus Way, was when I wrote a paper on Jim Elliot for a missions class in seminary. Now, I am not going to disparage Elliot and the other men who gave their lives for God. Everything they did was faithful to their understanding of the Gospel and evangelization. What I am questioning is the model that they were given to use. This model, presented here very simply, was to go into a native community and begin to educate the indigenous people. They did this by learning the language of the people, translating the scriptures into that language, then teaching the local people how to read their own language so that they could read the scripture. Ok, it sounds kind of convoluted, and, actually it is. What happens with this model is that the indigenes must adopt a Western approach to education and spirituality. Their own culture and spirituality was, and still is, deemed less important than having a “saving” knowledge of scripture. In a nutshell, as Richard Twiss observed, “You have to chuck all that stuff and just become White.”[2]
Why? What makes our Western understanding of the gospel the be-all and end-all? As I continued to pursue clarity on this, I found that there is more than one way to understand the scriptural text and the Gospel itself. I began to immerse myself in the ‘story’ of the Bible. I recognized that the text that we have has its roots in oral tradition. This tradition employs narrative and poetry and forensics and history and apocryphal stories. The biblical text is NOT a user’s manual of how to get into heaven when you die. It is a love story about Yahweh’s furious love for the cosmos. From Genesis 1 to the end of Revelation, it is God’s story given to humanity so that we can know and relate to the Divine. Story. That word has kept returning to the front of my brain. Story. The telling of events and tales and fables and myth that prick our human hearts. We find God and ourselves in stories. I began to see that my story was not necessarily yours, or anyone else’s story. Or, the story of the Auca, or the Lakota, or the Cherokee, or the Maori. God had given them a different story.
Tomorrow...Part 2

[1]"Invitation to Reconcile Clip", Richard Twiss, CCDA, September 26 2012,
[2] "To Live in a Good Way", Richard Twiss,, last accessed Mar. 20, 2013.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Happy St. Patrick's day!!

 Tomorrow is St. Patrick's day. While the celebration may have originated on the Emerald Isle, the party has been embraced and thoroughly Americanized. Little is actually known about this person. What is accepted is that he was born a Roman citizen in Briton sometime in the 4th century. He was captured and taken to Ireland where he was enslaved as a shepherd for about 6 years. During this time he developed a strong spirituality. He wrote, “My spirit was moved so that in a single day I would say as many as a hundred prayers.” He reported that God told him that he would return to his homeland, which he eventually did. After that very little is known.
There is a story that says that many years later, he heard in a vision the voice of Ireland asking him to return to them. (The story is strangely reminiscent of the voice that Paul heard asking him to come to Macedonia, (Acts 16:9.)) As the story goes, Patrick did return to Ireland. Upon his return he was met with resistance from the Druids. His new faith in God was apparently seen as a frontal assault on their religious hegemony in Ireland. That is the background for what has become known as Patrick's Lorica, or Breastplate. One source explains:
"Saint Patrick and his companion missionaries were to travel to the court of King Laoghhaire. Along the way, waiting in ambush, were druid or druid henchmen who intended to attack and kill Saint Patrick and all his followers.
As Patrick and his companions walked, they chanted the Lorica. When they passed the would-be attackers, they appeared as a doe and twenty fawns."
Whether you believe that this actually took place isn't important. What is important is that this humble man dedicated his life to his God first, then to his enemy. He trusted in Yahweh as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
I blogged awhile ago on the lorica. Here is a link to that post.;postID=9143587280916013320

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Questions that Haunt: Reprint

My journey from conservative, fundagelical to a freeing of my inner liberal has led me to many thought-provoking sources. One of them is the blog of Tony Jones, "Theoblogy." I have appreciated Tony's ability to stretch a good way. I have also appreciated the times that I simply don't agree with him.
He has been on vacation that last week and has had several other individuals pinch hit. One of them is a guy named Richard Beck. Now, until yesterday, I had never heard of this person. But, I read his response to Tony's "Questions that Haunt" series. This week Beck explained his take on loving God. His conclusion is that "To Love God is to Love Flesh and Blood." For a blog post, this is one of the best expression of what it means to be a Progressive Christian in today's culture. I encourage you to read it with an open heart. Allow Ruach Elohim to touch the very core of you with the love that is central to Beck's piece.

Friday, March 8, 2013

International Women's Day

I was going to wait until tomorrow to get into this topic. But, I found out that today is International Women's Day. So, I thought better of it and am going to share this now. One of the things that I've been trying work through for the past few years is the idea of egalitarianism. It's more than abundantly clear that the Biblical witness testifies to the equality of gender. There is no longer any male or female in the body of Christ. We are all Yahweh's children. As such, we are compelled to love and respect one another as equal beneficiaries of God's grace and mercy. That's why it breaks my heart to read reports such as this:
We talk about equality in this country. Yet, we are mostly ignorant of what happens in other parts of the world. It seems inconceivable, (yes, I like The Princess Bride), that this kind of activity can still happen in the 21st century. It should be! Yet, in many parts of the world women and girls are considered property for the benefit of the male population, bought and sold like cattle. As Christ followers, we are under a mandate to express God's love to ALL creation. Hey, folks...that includes women. Yet, we in the West tend to gravitate to hot button issues like abortion and education and 2nd amendment crap, while real, human, flesh and blood females are being treated worse than many of us would treat our pets. I don't know about y'all, but I cannot sit idly by and do/say nothing. This must end!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Curds are curds are curds

Christ followers have a tendency to curdle into small lumps. These lumps have affection, or at least a modest tolerance, for others in their lump. Now, some of these lumps think that they are the one and only true curd. All others are some kind of fraudulent curd. They may look like the real curd, smell like the real curd, maybe even taste like the real curd. But, they cannot be the real curd. Problems tend to arise when there is a whole bowl full of curds stating that they are the only true curd. They are forced to rub their curdy little elbows because they're all in the same bowl. This makes them extremely uncomfortable. They wish that they could have their own bowls. In fact, many of the curds believe that as long as they can keep from being polluted by the other pseudo-curds, they will when a special time comes be transported to their own bowls in some kind of glorified curdled curd. The truth is, however, that curds are curds. They are all formed out of the same curd-making stuff. The little curd battles that they fight do nothing but deform themselves.
This is kind of the way that I feel about a lot of what I read from various sources. There are the self-proclaimed gatekeepers of evangelicalism, Albert Mohler, Owen Strachan, and others. These people are convinced that their understanding of Jesus and the Church is the only possible understanding. Any who would differ with them are on one slippery slope or another that inevitably leads to some disastrous outcome. They lead through fear and manipulation.
There are others, like Fred Clark and Tony Jones who are more than willing to point out the deficiencies of Mohler and company. But, they are also willing to point out their own deficiencies. That's kind of refreshing, but it's still one curd calling another curd a curd.
There are still others who simply refuse to get involved. They ignore the other curds in the bowl. I think of much of the Orthodox faith. They are content to play by themselves.
Then there are folks like Brian McLaren and Justin Lee. These people can see the distinctions between people and their beliefs. They use their experience as a guide to what they think and believe. Both, but especially Lee, are gracious toward others. Even when that other really deserves to get smacked up-side the head. People like these give me some hope for us as a species.
One of the things that we tend to miss in all of the posturing and arguing is how much we really need each other. In the so-called 'bigger picture,' we are all still fellow travelers on this big ol' marble in space. According to the Bible, we have are co-workers in the field of Yahweh. So, we can be different and still united. I think they call that diversity.
Anyway, all that to get to this. I was reading a poem by Walt Whitman this morning. He was by no means a devout follower of Christ. Yet, he seemed to understand our need for one another better  than most of us who do claim to follow Yeshua. His poem, "Stronger Lessons"...

Have you learn'd lessons only of those who admired you,
        and were tender with you, and stood aside for you?
Have you not learn'd great lessons from those who reject
        you, and brace themselves against you? or who treat you
        with contempt, or dispute the passage with you?
Maybe we do need to stop and take a closer look at those other curds. We may find ourselves in the process.