mystery

9 09 2008

the more unknown life becomes the more i realize that i’m not meant to live the known life. there is this great mystery in not knowing what is next, where God will shift things in the next moment. it’s a mystery so unique and great that it draws me in to just dwell in it and the God that is behind it all.

as i write this i am sitting in piles of junk, surrounded by a big mess of clutter, not sure which piece to start with as I try to make it liveable again. personally, i am untied from all the normal confines, separated from employment, from cohabitation, from romantic relationship. It’s all one big pile of uncertainty, a mini-mystery if you will.

a lot of the time the idea is that we should be trying to figure out our lives, figure out God’s plan(s) for us, to wrap our minds around the mystery. i’ve just been struck with how wrong this all sounds and seems. God is an infinite being whose very initial definition is the understanding that we cannot really understand. so why then the massive desire to get it, process it, analyze it all, and spit it out in religious language? there should be a need to just soak up the ambiguous nature of everything and trust in God to provide.

we spend so much time wandering around trying out this and that, claiming it to be the will and desires of God. perhaps God would love for us to just spend some time to stop and sit with Him, deepen a relationship of love, and be drowned in mystery. we have this infinite knowledge base in God who chooses to impart some of His understanding upon us, plenty of which we leave untapped. the endeavour should be to soak up God, not to try to run around pronouncing His position as if we are the almighty, infinite, holy and perfect being. this is to resurrect the relationship with God that we were ultimately designed for, and shown glimpses of with the creation of adam and eve.

adam walked (walked!?!) with God in eden and was blessed with such a close encounter with His creator. God clearly defined a boundary with the tree of knowledge of good and evil, but presented Himself to adam and everything else God had made. adam had the creator, the perfect and holy one right there with him who he walked with in relationship. in his basic nature, from the point of creation, adam only knew of relationship with God. the only thing that adam didn’t have was knowledge of good and evil, not knowledge in general. if that’s the only thing adam couldn’t eat, would it not make sense to assume that he had everything else? in relationship at the point of creation, adam had such a rich knowledge from walking with God and soaking it all up.

at the very beginning, God designed it so that we wouldn’t know it all, but that we would have a rich relationship with Him in His creation. so why, oh why, do we go to the ends of the world to try to understand the mind of God through our systems, through our trees, and run away from the relationship? because we can’t bring ourselves to the point of admitting that we don’t know, that we aren’t meant to know it all.

maybe we need to stop pouring into our paradigms, our schedules, and start listening, walking, and soaking up God and who He is in relationship. this is going to look different for you than it is for me, but that’s alright, there isn’t a system to it. but there’s nothing to say that we can’t begin journeying along the path of relationship and uncertainty together. in fact, i would say that we should make a point of doing this together, in community. i think i’m ready to get immersed in a great mystery…

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an exercise in trying to find the “sweet spot”

24 08 2008

it seems to be that we, Christians and the Church, have excelled in getting a point across.  we have made it clear that we have a message that we are going to get out, even though it often only hits those sitting in the pews or chairs.  on any given sunday you may walk into a church building and find any number of Christians raising their hands in worship and listening intently to the pastor preaching on the stage.  even during the middle of the week you can come to the church building and attend a seminar or discussion or a fun event that people from the church are putting on.  messages are getting out there and are being communicated in various ways so that the people attending might absorb some of it and grow in their spiritual lives.

but what’s the message?  what are we really getting across?

i have a feeling that the majority of the churches in the Western world have been communicating the importance of belonging, of giving, of many different things.  but what is the main message that we are all trying to get across?  basically, are we hitting or missing the mark?  do we honestly focus on the biggest and most important thing of all, or do we dwell in the small, nitpicky, questionable things that might improve our financial or social lives?

this comes from a message i just heard from Jim Cantelon.  the name may strike a familiar chord as a former pastor, television host of 100 Huntley Street, and currently working in Sub-Saharan Africa with churches there dealing with HIV-AIDS.  the guy has got a lot of credibility and is on the front lines of social justice in the Christian world.

the premise is this: the main point is about what Jesus established as the main point and is reiterated time and time again through Scripture to give us a greater understanding.  the greatest commandment is to love God and love your neighbour as yourself.  as i’ve written before, this is the foundation of the Christian life and is the necessity above all else.  but i’m not just writing about sitting on your ass and trying to love whoever sits next to you in church, or the guy that walks by with his dog every morning.  yeah, that’s important, but it’s clearly not the point.

the main point is this: to have a vertical relationship with God based in righteousness, which feeds to a horizontal relationship with humanity based in justice.

as Jim mentioned in his message, the Evangelical community has gotten really good at the vertical relationship, about being able to sing our songs and work on our own devotions, but we’ve abandoned the horizontal relationship.  likewise, groups like the Mennonites have focused probably too much on the horizontal relationship and not enough on the vertical.  in his words, “it has to be about finding the sweet spot”.

in looking at the main point and considering it, one must understand that it calls for more than just giving money to a foreign group, or praying for your church.  a horizontal relationship of justice means that we get outside of our bubble and examine the world we actually live in.  a world that has a very different perception of life than the average Christian in the West.  you’ve probably read all the statistics, so i won’t go there with them, but i do want to throw out the idea that our lives, as much as they are vertically planted, are horizontally immersed.  aka, social justice and the Church or the Christian, need to be working at this together.  social justice should be the heartbeat of the Christian life when we examine our lives with others.

i am blessed to come from a church that has chosen to build into the lives of the widows of our community, the single mothers.  these women are often giving so much of themselves to their children and jobs that they are emotionally and physically drained on a regular basis.  meanwhile, the happily married couple with the three perfect children, and the two perfect jobs, living in the perfect house, going to the perfect church, totally miss the fact that their are people right around them, often more than a few, that could use some genuine care and love from the people that are supposed to have their lives grounded in it.

as the Church in general, and i’m not trying to bash here but just observing, has chosen to focus on the little things like our financial welfare, our need for civility, and potluck lunches, our world around us is suffering and plummeting with minimal to no exposure to the Church and social justice.  what if we started to pay attention and focus our efforts on the HUGE things going on, and the real horizontal relationship we’re called to?

the Church has an awesome opportunity to make a huge difference in this world and see the love of God spread throughout, but we’re not going to get it out there as we sit around and focus on the petty things that could make our own lives better.  we have to make our lives about others, about the widows and orphans, the ones God has said He deeply cares for.

we have to be so deeply immersed in loving God and loving others that we find ourselves in the “sweet spot”, caring about and making a difference in the things that matter to God.

we have to care about social justice as much as we care about our own relationship with God.

we have to love, and do it dangerously.





mighty to save

20 06 2008

life has a way of being brutal.

sometimes it feels as though the pain is greater than you can bear, that the walls are closing in and are going to crush our hopeless souls.

this week i have experienced death.  a best friend’s father passed and a friend from church left us, both too young for comprehension.

this week i have experienced frustration.  i was contacted by some old friends and posed one of the most difficult on the spot questions.

this week i have experienced anger, pain, and sorrow.  my parents are going through huge life-altering stress and family-changing frustration with career.

this week i have experienced stress.  the busiest part of my job starts in two days and i am by no means ready, understanding, or in the least bit prepared for it.

this week i have experienced the power of an almighty and powerful God.  a God that is mighty to save, who has conquered the grave, who can move the mountains, who has saved my soul from sure destruction.  and as much as it hurts to see what is going on and all the pain of death, frustration, anger, sorrow, and stress, i know that i have a relationship with a real and loving God that has power over all of this.

yeah, that’s my God, the one and only who is mighty to save.  that’s hope.





the servant leader

5 06 2008

It is servant leadership…in which the leader is a vulnerable servant who needs the people as much as they need their leader

this follows closely on the heels of yesterday’s post about the responsibility of the leader to the community and the community to the leader.

a current struggle of mine is in regards to the role of the community in supporting their leader, beyond nodding the head during the sermon on Sunday morning, or shaking his hand on the way in or out.  in one sense the pastor or minister is an employee of the church, or the larger organization, that serves the community when they show up to “worship” with all the baggage out there.  if we hold just to this view, than the leader is just there to give the listener the product, or the message wrapped up with a nice little bow, and then withdraw until the next time or the next need shows up.  this is wrong, purely flawed.

the leader, assuming that he or she has an ounce of humility to lower themselves to some degree of servitude, is as much a part of the community as the man or woman who walks in with worries.  to take the position that the leader is above all others and therefore to be left alone at the top and to deal in a power exhortation downwards, is a corrupt view of the western Christian Church.  on a whole, pastors are left on an island by their people, the very ones who sing the praises of the preacher, or of the visit that the pastor made to the hospital during the past week.  one wonders if it’s that this is expected or that it is genuinely appreciated and valued.  what would it look like if your pastor was in the hospital?

we cannot ignore that the pastor is to minister to the people and is in place to lead the community of faith towards worship.  but the pastor is as much a member of that community that hurts, struggles, and doubts from day to day.  the pastor is not some perfect man on a pedestal, waiting to be worshiped and adored by his people because he did what was expected.  the pastor is as much in need of the very words that were spoken in the message as the man sitting three rows from the back, or the woman feverishly taking notes in the second row.  the pastor is a member of the body, is one with all other believers, not above or below, but has humbly accepted the role of leading the people to worship of the God on high.  the pastor is not greater, for he needs the people as much as they need their leader.

the question is, when will we start treating our leaders, pastors, and ministers as such?  when will we lose the stigmatism of a leader that doesn’t need the fellowship of his or her brothers and sisters as much as we need to hear the teachings and wisdom that God has given to the leader?

wake up people, we’ve got to learn to love our leaders as much as they love us.





communitas

25 05 2008

the following is an article that i wrote a month or so ago and have reproduced here.  enjoy.

Communitas –

defined as: an intense community spirit, the feeling of great solidarity and togetherness. usually exists in the form of common living.

community is a buzz word these days, used in churches, neighbourhoods, alcoholics anonymous, weight watchers, etc. it seems that everyone wants a piece of belonging, of being greater than just themselves. it can be used to expose or hide our pain, give or take love, and to unite a group of similar people. do we really understand community though?

that’s where communitas comes into the picture. it’s the picture of togetherness, of a common spirit or goal, a group of people who are striving to meet one end as a group. it’s a group like this that is what i think true community was intended to be. when did community really start? as soon as God created adam, there was community in-between man and God. with the creation of eve, man and woman had intimate community. soon enough there would be community between multiple men of the earth. community is a part of who we were made to be; it’s been there from the start. so why do we seem to suck at living authentic community, or communitas?

community is so much more than meeting together once a week, seeing each other in passing, or watching a movie together. communitas embodies the type of community which is people sharing their lives together. it’s eating together, it’s laughing together, it’s crying together, it’s about being there. true community is about being intricately woven into a part of other people’s lives. it’s about knowing when your brother or sister is struggling and being able to just be with them. it’s not about having the right words or encouragement all the time, but it is about just being there. it’s about being vulnerable to the point of being brutally honest about you entire life with those involved in your community. when we’ve got secrets that are burning inside us and we can’t bring them up in our community, what is our community really worth?

ask yourself this question: am i tangible part of communitas right now? chances are that we might have a sliver of it, but we haven’t even come close to understanding what it’s about. it’s a long process, not one that can happen in a day or even a week, but we work at it.

in the past few days i’ve cried, literally wept at the feet of my brother, i’ve laughed until my side hurt, i’ve enjoyed pancakes, kraft dinner, and a hockey game with my brothers. tonight i’m going to go out and enjoy dinner with two of my brothers whom i’ve been able to get a slice of communitas with. i don’t know where we’re going, or when we’ll be back. but that truly doesn’t matter because i know i’m going to be with my brothers, and that’ll be enough for me. we’ve told great stories, are sure tell more as the day continues, and will continue to create great memories as we just work at being. i’ve experienced true vulnerability, true joy, and contentment in community. community has burned me this year, brutally backstabbed and let me down time and time again, but the bottom line is that my brotherhood of community has allowed me to experience so much more than it could have been. it’s not that i’ve reached the pinnacle of community, but the journey is bringing wholeness to my spirit that i didn’t know was possible.

God is there with us in the midst of community, and he’s laughing and weeping alongside us. when we have communitas, it means that no matter what comes our way, or what might break us down, there are always our brothers and sisters around us to just be with us.

so ask yourself again: am i a legitimate part of communitas? if you’re realizing that you’re not, then you’re missing out. our souls long for that sense of community, for the ability to be transparent and one with all of those around us. seek it out, wherever you’re at, sit down and break down the barriers in your community and see if you might find a real sense of communitas, of what it means to have an intense community spirit. you’re only going to be better off if you find it, and maybe it’s just what you’ve been crying out for and needing to have.

God has designed us for community, and it’s through the aspect of communitas that we’re really going to find out what we have been designed for. may we go now and be blessed by a little bit of communitas, a little bit of love, and a little bit of genuine togetherness. and then maybe we can just be.





hearing anew in pain

19 01 2008

one of those books that I’ve been wanting to read for a while is C.S. Lewis’ Problem of Pain. i don’t want to say that it’s because i’m going through pain in my life right now, but it’s been on that list for a while now and just lately it came up again. in line with what i wrote yesterday about Matthew West and his new cd and dvd documentary, there was this quote from Lewis’ book that is readily quoted by West.

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

it obviously makes sense when you relate it to West’s story, with the aspect of complete silence in his respect for two months. but what i want to do is take it outside of that context and expand on what it means to me right now in the midst of where i’m at.

i struggle with the idea of hearing from God constantly, mostly because i don’t take the time and opportunities to listen like i’m told to. i live in a world that thrives off noise and every bit of this and that to fill up the caverns of our souls. it’s like the idea of silence is forbidden from really crossing our minds. maybe that’s why i find those solitary moments where it’s just me and my thoughts (although admittedly i usually have some music, or in this case some people’s voices, playing in the near distance) to be the most satisfying throughout my days. but even in the midst of these moments i still can’t seem to find or track Him down. and yes, again, i’ll admit that i’m probably not doing the best job of looking for God. but why is it that i find it easiest to do this when i’m sunken and beaten rather than when i have provision and happiness in life?

as i’m sure you’ve guessed, this whole ex-relationship thing is still very much on my nerves, in my head, and all over my life. somedays it seems like i’m trying to run from the problem, until i realize that if i was running i wouldn’t be living 100 feet away from her. people keep on saying to give time and have patience, but those things are often the least comforting, because of course as a fallen human being i’m more concerned about how i feel than the actual glory in the midst of the situation. it’s like i’m a pre-occupied, self-enamored, arrogant prude a lot of the time. i’m as big a part of this fallen and corrupt world as the people who don’t understand that and just go on living as such.

that’s where Lewis starts to resonant with me. you see, i’m not exactly comfortable saying that i hear God speaking to me throughout my life, but i also can’t necessarily deny that God is around and doing things. it’s like…..i don’t know what, but something that God obviously created that comes and goes all the time without it really being realized. because a lot of times it feels like i phone every few days and just get the answering machine and leave my pithy message, only to never get a return call. or maybe i’m just not listening.

maybe God’s just really trying to grab me and shake me and show me how much He really is there and doing everything around me. but i’m just not opening myself up and listening. so how do i come to listen then? what’s it going to take for me to get a genuine and authentic bit of God into who i am?

maybe it takes pain.

pain, pain, and more pain. God shouts to us when we’re weak and in shambles, when we’re down and out and ready to finally listen to what you’ve been trying to get through with all the time. as Lewis said, we’re a deaf world of people, unable to hear what He’s saying, until of course we get hit with pain. and then, if we’re willing, the sounds of the megaphone start to break through and we get this moment of divine intervention.

so how do i listen? how do i go about getting some sort of connection going here, or rather, how do i unplug my ears to hear the shouts through the megaphone? integrating silence? setting aside time just to sit and be still? or is it something more to have this echo throughout the chorus of my life? maybe i’ve just got to try listening for once rather than asking all the questions myself.

thank God for pain.  oh that we might be able to hear through God’s megaphone