Saturday, April 30, 2011

Freedom and Censorship

I know what you are thinking and that is not what I mean. I grew up with movies that were "cut" and books that were banned and propaganda that was distributed all in an attempt to control a nation. Been there, done that and no t-shirts were allowed because we were not supposed to know it was happening.

Today, my mind is chasing thoughts about what it means to be free and what it means to censor our words for the sake of others simply because we follow Jesus.

I have dabbled in this topic a little before but left it quickly because it is complicated. But, today as I sat on my patio baking in the sun, I found myself back here and so it triggered this blog post. I do not believe that we are ever free. Ever. As long as we are in relationship with other people. Sheesh, I know it is not the American way or even the Freedom in Christ way. But, at least for me, and I'm responsible for me, I think its true.

Here is what I mean. If I was free I could express my thoughts as I think them. I could say what I think and feel whenever the situation arises. I could act on how I feel as I desire. I could put my wants, desires and needs ahead of others. I could rant and offend with no consequences.

However, I don't get to act that way. I don't get to act that way because of relationship. Relationship with Jesus and relationship with the people I love and frankly those that I just tolerate, too. I do not get to say whatever I like because words have power and the consequences are way bigger than my need to vent or rant. I do not get to act on every feeling I have, even the ones that at times feel like they are going to overwhelm me. I just don't get to do it because other people's lives are at stake.

Yesterday a friend and I were talking about allowing people to express how they feel in a public forum and we were weighing how open a given site should be. It raised an issue that is connected to this. We are not even free to stand by and let others get hurt. Again, because of relationship we have to stand on the side of those being marginalized.

And so, freedom takes on a different meaning inside of relationship. We are free to lay down our lives for the sake of others. Free to censor our words. Free to limit our anger. Free to behave our way to holiness. Free to deny our desires and wants.

I believe this with all my heart. Today, I don't like the cost.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Life, Death and Living

My phone rang about 4:45pm yesterday and it was a long time friend who I love and respect greatly. Yesterday was a tough day as it marked the one year anniversary of our friends Phil and Raychel dying in a car wreck. I heard Scott's voice and the emotion just bubbled up inside of me. He knew how I was feeling, I knew how he was feeling. In fact, we are part of a larger group of wonderful friends and we knew how the whole group was feeling. We shared stories for a few minutes and then said goodbye. A phone conversation that lasted about 10 minutes but was literally like calming lotion on a very wounded place.

But here is the thing. I had fun yesterday, too. I had several other conversations, texted back and forth with other friends, taught my class and did my regular life thing. Unless I told you what was on my heart, you would not have known. I was not trying to hide anything. I just felt the need to share my grief with the ones who i knew were grieving, too. And to live out my life in the other areas like I would any other day.

That tension struck me last night. And hence this post. Living life in the midst of pain and grief but not being shut down by it. Is that possible? Does it appear disrespectful? Does it rub up against social norms? Is it okay that my heart was aching in one spot yet I was being silly and lighthearted in other spots?

And I think I have an answer for me at least. I think it is possible, in fact, I think it is necessary. Does this align with commonly held cultural views on how we respond to death, probably not. But that's okay with me. I think we all find our way of being in the world and we live it as fully as we can.

And so, Phil...let me say. I thought of you a whole bunch yesterday. I saw your lovely face and inviting smile. I heard your giggle and could picture your bright eyes. The clean shaved head, that made me happy, flashed through my mind. I heard your gentle voice with words that you picked carefully. And I heard you sing. Oh, did I hear you sing. Your voice that sounded like the most beautiful music played over and over in my mind. The way you loved Debby and Raychel and Zachary felt so comforting to me yesterday. Which makes me think of Miss Raychel. See Ray, I spelled your name with the "y" -- sweet girl, I got to say everything I could dream of saying as I spoke at your memorial service. Let me just say, I miss you and your quick smile, your hearty laugh, the white sunglasses perched on your head and your off the wall humor.

But guys know this. I also drank tea, cooked dinner, did the Mom thing and hung out with David. I taught school and went to the bank. I laughed with other friends and played Apples to Apples. And in the living of life as normal, while my heart ached for you, I felt like you were right there. I hope that I never get used to you being gone.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

How Do You Measure a Life?

You have to love a cheesy musical line as a blog title, admit you do!!! So this morning, I was woken up with the words, "your coffee is ready" - my eyes were still fighting for their right to remain shut when my brain turned on. That's how things usually go for me. 0-73 mph immediately. Instantly I started singing Seasons of Love from Rent - I mean instantly. David looked at me with a puzzled expression that lasted a few seconds but it quickly faded having lived with me for so long. I looked at him and said, "you know, you said coffee and that made me think of how do you measure a life, in sunsets, in cups of coffee etc." He just smiled and muttered something like, "you're nuts."

And so my thoughts today are turned to HOW DO YOU MEASURE A LIFE? Well actually not how do you measure as much as what matters in your life. A lovely thing to think about really. I think I am going to spend some time with my kids talking about this tonight. As Easter approaches and we reflect on life, recreation and the power to live changed lives, what matters seems to really matter.

And so in my random ponderings today while I have done other things, the following things have come to mind. These are things that matter to me. A way of being in the world that I value. On my best days in my best moments I hit on a few, and then sometimes they are just another "want to." I hope you make your own list.

The quality of the relationship I am cultivating with my God. I want it to be Exodus 33-ish.
A good cup of tea
Conversation that is challenging and shaping
Friends who make me better
Passion - in everything
The ability to feel deeply
The desire to learn
Living fully
Loving without concern for reciprocity
Delighting in the gift of mutuality
Laughing - a lot and with conviction
Tears - for hard things and for joys
Peace to live in the midst of a world that does not make sense sometimes
Memories and history
Seeking understanding before being understood
Allowing the active work of the Holy Spirit in me to lead me into places of ministry that I would not know otherwise
Speaking words of life

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Because everything IS spiritual

It was probably 3 or 4 years ago that I heard Rob Bell on his preaching tour. We took a little road trip to Oklahoma City with some of the people we love the most and just sat and absorbed 2 hours of incredible preaching. The title of that tour was everythingisspiritual. It lived up to the hype in ways I can not even describe.

And so a journey began for me. A way of looking at life and living it that does not compartmentalize "our spiritual life" from the real world. It required me to intentionally check my language and to live my whole life with a sense of sacred intentionality, also. Just think about how ludicrous it is to think that we can somehow segment the spiritual into a portion of life that we manage that is other to the rest of life. Really? As if we could tell God to remain in His portion of this thing called My Life.

So many really significant things begin to form and shape when we choose to live in this truth. Every conversation and human interaction is in someway sacred ground - incarnational ministry. After conversations with friends in Starbucks or on the couch in the living room, on FaceTime on my iphone or on skype on my computer screen I find myself thinking "we just did church." I also land up seeing God in new and inspiring places. He shows up with regularity in the things we sometimes foolishly call "secular." Sermons are preached and lessons taught outside of church structures. The story of God becomes something that we can all connect to and enter because it permeates all places, not just the ones of steeples and dresses, ties and choirs, sacraments and pews. Insights can come from the words of Moses and the impassioned cries of Bono. Poetry, Art, Music, Movies, Books, Human lives all testify with creation to a God that is worthy of all my attention.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Missional Discipleship

Those who know me best know that anything that becomes too predictable or monotonous drives me crazy. Repetitive tasks are my least favorite although I do feel a sense of comfort from a schedule and relational security. Go figure? Reading is no exception to this for me. I read in manic phases. Literally consuming books at a ridiculous rate and then going months not touching one. Right now, my nightstand has a stack about 8 high and I am making my way through them. Not just any old books either...some greats. I've got Halter & Smay's And sitting there. I have a Nouwen one waiting on me. I have a Miller and a Bell. All of my favorites calling my name. And still others.

Besides the few contemplative pieces tucked in my stack, most of them are about missionality and the missional conversation. But I got tired of reading about Missional church. Tired of reading about it and not living it. Tired of wanting it but not being prepared to do what it takes. Then we did. We stepped out and made some huge shifts in our life and I couldn't read about it anymore. But, I'm ready to read again. Ready to enter the conversation again trying to sink my teeth into what this looks like lived out. Ready to see where our disciple making ways seem counter to the life of Jesus. Ready to reflect on what it looks like in community.

Of course I read a few pages and my mind races. Questions. What if's. Doubts. More Questions. Definitions. You know how that goes. And in the midst of all of it, it struck me today that I had blogged a definition of Missional Discipleship back in Sept. 2006 - yes almost 5 years ago. I dug it out and got convicted all over again.

Missional discipleship:
It starts with Missio Dei - the very nature of God is that He calls and sends. He forms us into distinctive communities that reflect the redemptive reign of God through justice, mercy and reconciliation (Kingdom) in the coming of Christ and in the becoming like Christ (Incarnation). Together we journey(Community), maturing into Christ formed followers (Spiritual Formation) who in the power of the Spirit begin shaping others into Christ formed followers (Equipping).

Yay for reading and the waters it stirs.

Ethical Requirement?

In the great story of God that scripture reveals I am struck by the fact that in forming His people, God made special provision for the marginal. Over and over again, he laid out His heart for the ones who were powerless, under-represented and marginalized. The minor prophets take God's heart and put it in lights. It is front and center. Verse after verse of His disgust at their mistreatment. Verse after verse of His disgust toward those who are mistreating. He goes so far as to say that He would prefer lives given to the service of the alien and the broken ahead of sacrifices and worship. Laws about the Year of Jubilee, Gleaning, Sharing are peppered throughout the Torah and there is no need to guess where He stands on this. Yet, humanity fails and falls short of the heart of God.

One of my favorite verses of all times is Micah 6:8. It is painted on my dining room walls and I see it daily. God lays out an ethical requirement for His people. They are to love justice and mercy. He doesn't give us wiggle room here. He doesn't clarify circumstances. He doesn't give a loophole if one is being taken advantage of. There are no caveats. He simply states, that to be His people, called by His name, reflecting His heart we are to....

It is interesting to me that He knew we would fail in this regard if left to our own devices. And so, He builds in a way to hold us accountable to justice and compassion. A friend of mine posted a quote today by one of my favorite thinkers: "Man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man's inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary." - Reinhold Niebuhr
I am not arguing for world wide democracy - the world is a little more nuanced and complicated than that in my opinion. However, the idea that we need a standard to be held to in our attempts to serve the "least of these" is significant to me. I can be self serving, selfish and self consumed in a heart beat. But it takes God's heartbeat within me to see with His eyes and touch with His touch.

As we are transformed more fully into the image of God, the requirement part of Micah 6:8 fades into the distance and the compulsion to be a vessel of justice and mercy takes over. Jesus calls us to a kingdom where justice and mercy prevail and we begin to share God's heartbeat for compassion wherever we can be a conduit for it.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Rules and Relationship

I heard a lesson on Sunday that fits well with some things I am thinking about. It was well thought through and camped heavily in Exodus, where I am living right now due to some curriculum writing. The general gist of the lesson, if I was going to summarize, was about how to understand "the rules" or law in terms of the heart and God's intention for us versus fundamentalistic thinking. Nothing earth shattering there. However, as I ponder this idea about rules and law, it strikes me over and over again that God initiates, makes, and keeps covenant with people in the midst of them not caring about the rules or law.

This beautiful partnership of rules and relationship or law and love simply overwhelms me. God, in His desire for us to be His people, shaped and formed by His heart knows what is best for us.

Here is the earth shattering part. Law is never given without Love. Rules are never issued outside of relationship. Even in the consequences, we are assured that punishment may last to the 3rd or 4th generation, but His hesed will remain till the 1000th generation.
Sinai is this stunning picture of the rule-law giving God on the mountain AND the relationship-love desiring God who chooses to live with His people in the camp.

And so, every time we talk about the rules or the law, it is imperative that we talk about the covenant. They form and inform each other. And I can't imagine a more tasty pairing.