Tuesday, October 30, 2007


For people in Assembly of God circles, tradition means death. Tradition is what we threw out. It is the obstacle to saving and fresh experience. Tradition is religion and religion is no religion at all but rather something to isolate us from God. All the while we have our own tradition. Birthed out of beautiful and effervescent experience of our grandparents, quickly our tradition became a substitute for the reality and a check against anything new and creative. Truly this is the story oft repeated. The story has itself become tradition as one Church has given birth to gossamer denominations. Tradition gives form as a gift to people, some where along the way they drink the life from the form and nothing is left but an empty shell. The empty form of tradition goes along until someone give it back its soul, or moves on to a new form.
“In reappropriating the best of Christian tradition, we discover a feast for hungry hearts. Indeed, I might caution against a temptation to gluttony! The sources are rich and need to be taken in small bites.”

To discover God, true life, through the wonders and mysteries found in that richness, is indeed a fearful thing. That is not to say I’m particularly anxious about it, except for the loss of every moment I’m not immersed in his crushing depths, but I have this feeling down in the deep that persuades me that to truly find him means to die. I meet this feeling not with timidity, but with eye burning resolve. Come what may, I want your depths lord.
Batter my heart, three person'd God; for, you
As yet but knocke, breathe, shine, and seeke to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow mee,'and bend
Your force, to breake, blow, burn and make me new.
I, like an usurpt towne, to'another due,
Labour to'admit you, but Oh, to no end,
Reason your viceroy in mee, mee should defend,
But is captiv'd, and proves weake or untrue.
Yet dearley'I love you,'and would be loved faine,
But am betroth'd unto your enemie:
Divorce mee,'untie, or breake that knot againe,
Take mee to you, imprison mee, for I
Except you'enthrall mee, never shall be free,
Nor ever chast, except you ravish mee.
If it brings more glory to you that I burn in hell, put me there immediately. If my life can bring you more glory then may I live a shining life in your presence.

My soul within me cries to you, my chin quivers and my eyes burn hot with tears! Oh to know you more dearly! Oh to give you more pleasure and glory, even if that were to mean my own death or separation from you! And thank you that it doesn’t, that you want to be near me. And that thought breaks the dam and my tears fall, weeping, washing away tradition's stone, filling her again with soul and life.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Elaine is a blog superstar

Elaine's blog is the 99th fastest growing wordpress blog in existence! Way to go honey, you rock.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Elaine, How I Love Thee

Music to accompany this post.

The last few weeks I have been falling in love with my wife all over again. It is like a spiritual awakening. I am seeing her with fresh eyes. I see the wrinkles forming around her eyes and mouth. She is taking on a look of maturity, and it matches her growth spiritually. There is something very sexy about those lines.

I look at my hands, something I often have done while contemplating my own personhood. Coming out of anesthesia after having my wisdom teeth removed, my mom told me I was looking staring at my hands funny, like they weren’t my own. Some how, though looking at them and realizing they are my own has sometimes granted me a heightened self awareness, I am alive, I am separate from the world, the world exists apart from my imagination. Rolhieser suggests that it is this separation that is at the basis of sexuality. To be sexed is to be divided from the rest of humanity based on gender. I see in my hands today knuckles that are growing knobbier, with more creases. They remind me of my father’s hands, rough with work. I have caught myself taking on attitudes and postures so like his as well. I am maturing. I’ll be thirty this year. I am a pastor, a father, in short an adult. How subtly all this snuck up on me. How subtly Elaine grew from a college sweetheart and salacious girl into a woman.

I step back, and realize what has caught up with me. My breath is caught away; she is so beautiful, inside even more than outside. I held her tight the night before she went away to Chicago, attempting to convey through the touch, through the pressing of her body the depth of love I have for her.

I said, “I’m scared you might not make it back to me.”

“Why?” She asked.

“Because,” I said, “in the movies with someone realizes how much they love another, that is when they loose them.”

I thank God for this romance of the Spirit, for it is as much a romance with him as it is with my wife, his gift to me. My heart races even in the writing of this post, and the praying of this prayer.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Defining Spirituality

Borrowing some from Rolheiser, I would define Spirituality as what we do to sort out and express the divine madness in our souls. The restless longing of the dreamer, the quixotic refusing to accept the surface reality, the madness given by the gods by which we hunger for more, for meaning, for completion. Spirituality seeks to express these longings and fill them with something Divine.

At the beginning of the television series Heroes, Mohinder Suresh asks what it means to be in the image of God,
"Where does it come from? This quest? This need to solve life's mysteries though the simplest of questions can never be answered. Why are we here? What is the soul? Why do we dream?
Perhaps we'd be better off not looking at all. [But] that's not human nature. Not the human heart. That is not why we are here."
It is indeed maddening to seek transformation into the image of our creator. A Holy Madness is appropriate for all who lay themselves down on the operating for this intense surgery. To be conformed into the image of Christ is to be made into the Human of Design, to be the kind of person who looks out for others, the kind of person who is not only holy as his maker is holy, but is also to be the kind of citizen that would make a truly just world possible. It would be making a world the way God had intended it.

This formation into the image of Christ is not an undertaking, but rather an in-working. In John 21 the disciples fished all night and caught nothing, but a word from Jesus and their own effort to cast the net and haul it in was met with the grace of 153 large fish. We can work all night long and get nowhere, but how blest our work can be when we do just those actions Jesus has directed us. We clothe ourselves with him as we hear his voice. We put flesh on the word, we incarnate it, this is the way of spiritual formation.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Contemplative prayer is like a shot of espresso

"Am I really willing to drink this cup?" A question I love to ask my self pushed back from a table at a coffeehouse. Especially if it is a bold, Marrakesh Espresso that rumbles like thunder, grabs your tongue and wrestles you to the floor and finishes with a kiss and a playful bite. Ah the contemplative life!

....Oo! I think I just found another analogy!

Contemplative analogy revisited

The first thing I do when I go into the coffeehouse is pull a test shot. This is both yummy and a chance to quality control. It is a little known fact that the grind must be adjusted several times throughout the day. Humidity and temperature changes affect the way the grounds come out and how much crema the extraction produces. After pulling a test shot, I can fine tune the grind. Fred mentioned today that he did the same thing as a quality control chemist, he first had to calibrate and recalibrate all his instruments. He likened that to his devotional times. The contemplative life recalibrates us to live incarnationally. God definitely likes his coffee with holy high crema!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Spirituality meets pavement

Of all the spiritualities Rolheiser talks about, it is the spirituality of sexuality that has stuck with me most. Through it, I have seen how I can refocus my madness, my eros, into a life giving laser, by offering my relationship with my wife as a true sacrament. Through it I can truly embrace every one, by focusing all my sexual energy on her, I am in a real way focusing it on God. By becoming one with her, I am in a real way becoming one with the cosmos. Crazy stuff! I also like how when I’m not becoming one, when I am feeling acutely the isolation of sleeping alone, even when she’s beside me, I stand in solidarity with the poor and the lonely, the cast offs, and Jesus himself. Though not in the same chapter, Rolheiser talks about taking into oneself the tensions of mystery. I like that.

My spiritual rule would step up my discipline in the contemplative arena. Especially since its fall and I have given up mowing my labyrinth, I need now more than ever to engage in the contemplative. I have greatly enjoyed praying the hours. I need to discipline myself to get back into it. I have always like meditation and contemplation, it fits my personality, but I have been greatly challenged by action. Our forays into social justice have been exciting. I wrote a bit about my environmental goals for blog action day, and I am excited to see where the projects our ministerial have started in the school will go. I also would like to help out a the soup kitchen again regularly.

I always have had a dream of having a coffee-shop while being a spiritual director. I’m not sure God’s dreamt it the same way that I have, but it is interesting that in many ways I’m already doing it. The coffeehouse we’ve started with high school kids has given me many opportunities to interact with them about their spiritual formation. My great goal for taking my masters in Spiritual Formation and Leadership is to learn how to lead people from zero to mystic. What I have already learned is that there is indeed great hope to change people, the church, and the world, and that Hope resides in me as I change myself.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Environment: a field for biblical social justice

I've been discovering that to help bring about real social justice I need to focus first of all in changing things in my sphere of influence. This means removing myself from systems that perpetuate injustice.

Ronald Rolheiser in his book, Holy Longing, suggests that social justice finds its source in the creation story. He explains that Genesis gives us four truths about social justice (175). These affirmations are:

1. God made all people equal

2. The earth belongs equally to everyone

3. Everyone is equally responsible for protecting the dignity of others

4. The physical earth needs to be respected

It is a holy endeavor to protect the earth. God pronounced it good. It is funny that some right wing evangelicals wish to point out that global warming isn't a consensus issue among Christians. God has declared all creation good to his heart, and seeks to redeem it to himself.

So I've been thinking about how to influence the systems around me and remove myself from systems that perpetuate the rape and depleting of creation.

Here are some of my goals:

  • Reduce my carbon footprint and then offset it by buying CO2 Offset
  • Here are some ideas:
  • Mowing my lawn with my antique rotary mower
  • Turing down our heat (even though Elaine will complain, I might get a better response if I get a timer that will turn the heat up just before we get out of bed)
  • Unplugging things that heat even when off like the dvd player or those d/c converters
  • Turn off the espesso machine at church, even if that means I have to get there an hour early to turn it back on.
  • When the coffeehouse gets a building I will remodel it with green ideas, like a light scoop.
  • Buying locally produced food
  • Switching to Panache EcoTrade espresso for the coffeehouse
  • Using E85 in our van

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Social Justice action experiment

My friend Cliff has been going to a soup kitchen in Saginaw once a month. He pastors an ELCA church in our area and is very successful mobilizing his people into action. I went with him the last time they went. Six of us headed out at eight o’clock Friday morning. I’m not much of a morning person, so I was quiet. I had already been up for a while to take my wife and kids to work.
When we arrived, we went straight to work. My first duty was to wash a couple hundred pounds of frozen catfish to fry for lunch. I then moved to the eye wrenching pain of chopping onions. How I wish I had brought my own cooks knife. One of our group brought three cases of cabbage straight from the garden that morning and we made it into an insane amount of coleslaw. Of course under the hair-net, and behind the apron, nestled thoughts about the discipline of service, and remembrance of the presence of God in the onion vapor.
Soon the doors opened and a steady stream of hungry people came in. It was the end of the month and like me, many of these people had run out of their food stamps and wouldn’t be able to buy groceries until next Tuesday. My job was to keep the serving line stocked with whatever they needed. I refilled gallons of fruit punch, and made sure cookies were on hand for desert. I stood behind the front lines. I looked into the faces of the 371 people we served. I tried to discern the thoughts behind their eyes, but they were separated by a stainless steel counter, by one helping, and strange faces, most of which changed every day.
We served in two shifts, and in between we sat and ate in the cafeteria too. I consciously put on my tray exactly what we were serving. I ate in solidarity, but I ate alone. Or, I should say I ate with the other volunteers. We were seated at a table in the middle of the room. My biggest regret is that I didn’t sit at another table, mingling with my comrades of the fringes.
It is strange that my greatest burning desire is always to do that which is least comfortable to my personality. I wanted to sit and talk, have relationship, solidarity beyond the plate. I find that intimidating even with my beloved church family, the less familiar I am with someone the harder that is.
I am not sure to what extent this action extended beyond charity to social justice. It doesn’t seem that much was done to end the causes of hunger, but at least 371 people made it through the day without being hungry.
I have been struggling to make social justice a face to face reality, which is why I chose to go with Cliff. He is a mentor to me in doing and getting done. I had served for a few years as treasurer for the ministerial association as we tried to help families with economic crisis. I began to burn out, not only because I’m not gifted for financial upkeep, but because the money went so fast. I struggled to not place my own judgments on the request, that was the job of the pastor handling the case, but I was also frustrated that our plans to follow up with counsel and education weren’t happening either. I wonder where, and if I can really make any difference.
I am encouraged by the books I have read for my class in Christian Spirituality. They remind me that the difference must start with me. I think about the areas of my life, trying to identify the areas I can influence. With the coffeehouse I’m working on I am presented with some choices. When we go to renovate a building I can incorporate green building techniques, I can pay a living wage to the people who work there, and right now I can select coffee that has been bought at a fair trade.
Some of my people wanted to start a Bible study, that in itself is encouraging to me, but when they started talking about how an out flow of our learning the scripture should be to meet needs, I lit up. “Put skin on the Word!” I proclaimed. They liked that.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Is there sex in heaven?

Holy Longing talks about a heavenly sexuality. I have been thinking along these lines for a while, so here is a good chunk of what Rolhieser said:
Janis Joplin was once asked what it was like being a rock star. She replied: “It’s pretty hard sometimes. You go on stage, make love to fifteen thousand people, then you go home and sleep alone.”

Jesus was once asked, as a test: If a woman marries seven times and all her husbands die before she dies, whose wife will she be after the resurrection? He answered that, after the resurrection, we will no longer marry or be given in marriage.

These two answers Janis Joplin’s and Jesus’, are not unconnected. Each, in its own way, says something about the all embracing intent of our sexuality. What Janis Joplin is saying is that, in our sexuality and our creativity, we are ultimately trying to make love to everyone. What Jesus is saying is not that we will be celibate in heaven, but rather that, in heaven, everyone will make love to everyone else and, already now, we hunger for that within every cell of our being. Sexually our hungers are very wide. We are built to ultimately embrace the universe and everything in it.

To understand our sexuality and to live with its unfulfilled tensions, it can be most helpful simply to understand this. In loving, the ultimate wound is not to be able to marry everyone. The greatest human hunger, felt in every cell in our being, is that we cannot be completely united with everyone and everything....

It is important to understand this, but it is also important not to misunderstand it. Because our sexuality is ultimately geared to embrace everyone does not mean that we can be promiscuous and, already here in this life, try to live that out. In fact, paradoxically, it means the opposite. Only God can sleep with everyone, and thus, only in god can we sleep with everyone. In this life, even though our sexuality has geared up for universal embrace, we only have two options that are life-giving: Either we embrace the many through the one (by sleeping with one person within a monogamous marriage) or we embrace the one through the many (be sleeping with no one, in celibacy). Both of these are ways that will eventually open our sexuality up so as to embrace everyone. If we go the route of promiscuity, eventually, we will embrace no one.

Look here for what I take from this.

What if this Lon Kauffman print was about Social Justice?

I imagine the horizon line is the edge of what Anaxamander called the boundless. Or as Rolheiser puts it, the turbulent silent power of God that underlies all that is. That line is the thin veil, the crust, the skin of God. The faces in the vertical line remind me of the Triune God, revealing his boundless, infinity rich mystery to the world. So great a revelation is too much for us to see in just one face. If it is the skin of God then it is also us, and as the mountains rise we take on this brimming omnipotence of God thrust into the world. His very nature is just so as we explode the body of Christ into our world, so too we bring justice. Imagine the areas in the foreground are envelopes, letters from us to the world, bringing the prophetic to bear in the four arenas Foster mentions.