Honest Faith: Putting God Back Together

Today I learned about a modern Jewish phrase and a bit of the story behind it. I was very intrigued by this story because it was a complete twist on the creation story that I was taught in Sunday school growing. up. I’ve always loved the creation story. There is so much beauty, depth, and layers in this seemingly simple story. I could go on and on about this story, and if you have ever had a conversation with me about the Bible you know this to be true. The phrase that I learned about today is tikkun olam meaning to repair the world.

The phrase is from the Mishnah, a body of classical rabbinic teachings. It’s based in a story called shevirat ha-kelim or The Shattering of the Vessels. The story basically tells of the very beginning of creation. It tells of God wanting to create so God moves to make room. When God no longer occupied the space there was darkness. So God said, “let there be light”. The light came to be in holy vessels that couldn’t hold the divinity in and shattered. This caused a holy mess (sorry, I just really wanted to say holy mess). The story says that this is why we were created. We were meant to repair the world by cleaning up the holy mess. To gather the divinity and bring it back together.

In the Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the oldest creation myths and the possible inspiration for the above and the Genisis account (but that’s a whole other story), the story tells of the creation of humanity. In it, a god is sacrificed to make humans because the workload was way too much for the god beings. This god’s blood and body are broken and mixed with clay to make us humans in the gods’ image. Even in this story, humans are made to be a divine help to work and clean up a holy mess.

In Japanese culture there is an art form called Kintsugi meaning “golden joinery” it is a process of repairing broken pottery with a lacquer mixed with precious metals. The process and finished product are then seen as making the whole more beautiful and precious than before. It became a holy mess and the skillful work of a divine artist made it more whole than it was before.

In the United States of America, I think it’s fair to say that we are in a right holy mess. We are broken, disjointed, and divided on almost every major issue. Tomorrow will be the inauguration of a man who the vast majority of the country disapproves of.  For some reason, we are letting this pull us apart. I’ve seen friends start attacking others on social media for no reason other than the desire to be “right”. I’ve seen some horrible hateful things done by frightened people in order to scare others away. I’ve seen violence in the name of and violence against those perceived to carry the name of an issue that divides us. I’m not saying what side I’m on because honestly, it doesn’t matter. What matters is what I said last week. We talk to each other. We help each other.  We let things divide us even further instead of letting go of our pride and getting to the work of tikkun olam. 

We, human beings, are meant for the divine work of cleaning up holy messes through acts of kindness and love. In the narrative I shared with you last week we are the whole of creation. The things we do to further mess things up are things we do to further mess up ourselves. If we are to take anything from the Epic of Gilgamesh is that we have the divine in us. We are the holy mess. We are the ones tasked with cleaning it up. When we come together we are, in a sense, putting God back together.  As I said last week the only way forward is together, and when we come together the art of Kintsugi teaches us that we are more beautiful than we ever were apart or even before we broke. So here is our call to “put God back together”. Don’t divide anymore. It’s time to heal the world in a golden joinery.

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Honest Faith: An Introduction

Introduction

My name is Miguel. I’m a human being. I struggle. I fall. Sometimes I think of beautiful things, sometimes my thoughts are bogged down with darkness. I am. I exist. That is all I can claim is true in these moments. Recently I have set out on a quest to rediscover who I am, this is no easy quest. It is one that I’m often reminded has no end as our true selves are constantly in flux. But I wanted to really figure out what makes me, me. Finding the truest me that there is. So here is where I begin.

The Truest me

Recently I’ve been trying to clear myself of fluff. Both metaphorically and literally, I put on a few pounds during the pregnancy and first months of my son’s life. I decided to start cutting things out of my life that didn’t need to be there. I have been trying to very hard to figure out this question for myself “Who do I want to be?”. On the basest level, I discovered a few things that I want to be known of me:

A Loving Man

A few years ago my friend in his best man speech said of me that I was one of the most loyal and loving people he had ever met. Granted, it may have just been flowery language to pep up his speech. But a few years later a teenager who I had been working with at a church said in her goodbye speech to me that I was the embodiment of the love of God I so often taught them about. Both of these instances have told me that even if I’m not those things that I want to be those things. I want to be a loving man. I want it said of me that I loved with my entire being. That the love they saw caused me to be fiercely loyal to my friends and family, if you have met me you are one of the two to me.

A Safe Place

Recently the symbol of the safety pin has gained popularity. Despite it being another form of slacktivism, it is meant to show those who feel oppressed that the person wearing it is a “safe person”. Meaning that they will come to their aid in time of distress. This is another thing that I want to be said of me, that I am a safe place for all people. That no matter your age, race, gender, creed, orientation, mental ability, economic status, history, type of pie you love, or even if you hate pie (but really who hates pie?) that I will be a safe place for you. That when I am around I will come to your aid and defend you, even if you hate pie.

An Encounter With the Divine

More than just coming to the aid and defense a safe person is someone you can talk to without judgment or condemnation. I will talk more about my faith in a moment, but I want to be somebody who embodies the Imago Dei or for you non-latin speakers the image of God. That when you meet me or have a conversation with me that you can somehow through me have an encounter with the Divine, whatever the Divine looks like to you.

Out of everything else in my life I want those three things to be true of me. That in Miguel you will have a loving and safe encounter with the Divine.

Honest Faith

The name comes from a few things. I’ve been told that I was just trying to copy the popularity of the honest trailers on YouTube. But it’s really been something I’ve been considering for a long time. I tried to do some through my writing in here, an odd youtube video there, and all that I did in my career before. But I never was able to sort out what it was I wanted from this.

Honesty

Back in my college days, my theater director gave me one of the best compliments I’ve ever received in my life. She said that whenever I was on stage I portrayed the truth. I’ve never forgotten that. I’ve always wanted to be the most honest that I can be with myself and others. I haven’t always succeeded at this, especially when I feel cornered and trapped. Writing and theater are two things that I have been told that I’m good at. I want it said of my art that I’m honest. I want it said of those things that portray me the most are as real as they can be.

Faith

One of my favorite quotes is one from Frederick Buechner:

Faith is homesickness. Faith is a lump in the throat. Faith is less a position on than a movement toward, less a sure thing than a hunch. Faith is waiting.

In a talk that I gave to teenagers a few years ago, I likened it to being homesick for a place you have never been. There are so many of those things in our lives. There are so many fandoms nowadays that you can take your pick for a place you are homesick for that you have never been to Hogwarts, A galaxy far far away, the starship enterprise, Narnia, Tamriel, Westeros, Middle-Earth, the fringe division, S.H.I.E.L.D. Headquarters, the hall of Justice, and on and on… I think that’s a form of faith, in fact, there is a wonderfully funny video about how religion is just the biggest nerdom of them all. I have been to many of these worlds through books, movies, tv-shows, and comic books. I’ve brought back many important lessons for life, and I think they are the relics and stories of our times. The divine is revealed to me in these things as well as Scripture, so all of my faith stuff is going to have a bit of a nerdy twist to it. It’s my movement toward the Divine in all things

I want my art to reflect these things both honesty and my own nerdy sense of faith.

My Honest Faith

I am a man that has been kicked by the small “c” church a bunch. Sometimes it was my fault, others it wasn’t. I’m not going to go into specifics because honestly, I think that would do more harm than good. But I have just about given up on the small “c” church because I know what the large “C” church should look like and have encountered it only a select few times. Recently, I haven’t been on the best terms with the small “c” church. I had given up on practicing for a while, but now I’m taking a journey back into faith with a newfound sense of purpose. I’m going to be encountering the small “c” church in a new way than I have before and I will write about that as well. I figure if I’m going to make true art, it would probably best be told from my true to life struggles finding my new place in the small “c” church. I want to share my journey with you, and I hope you will tell me about your own honest faith journeys as well!

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Ten reasons why I’m reclaiming the name Millennial

Okay so, I know my last post was a list post. I’m not switching to solely list posts, I just found it to be a fun way to organize my thoughts, and it actually helped. I think it was one of my better posts in a while. I don’t know, maybe you disagree, but I figured it’s better for me to organize again in a way that makes sense to me. So here we go the ten reasons why I’m reclaiming the name Millennial.

1. Names are important!

Maybe you were forced to read Shakespeare, maybe you weren’t. Maybe you have done a lot of study on story, the bible, or ancient writings. Maybe you have read the book Freakonomics. If you have you know that names are important! In fact one of the most famous, and famously misquoted scenes in Shakespeare is a characters struggle with why names are important. william-shakespeare-dramatist-whats-in-a-name-that-which-we-call-a-rose-by-any Juliette struggles with Romeo’s name. After all he’s a Montague and no self respecting Capulet would be caught dead with one. The most misquoted part of that scene is “Wherefore art thou Romeo.” Which instead of the commonly misconceived meaning “Where” means “What or why”. Why are you a Monague? She struggles with the fact that his name divides them from being together, in fact the entire plot hinges on it.

In the Bible names are extraordinarily important. People throughout the Bible are named for the amazing works they are going to accomplish or an important thing that happened to them, except for the James’ whose names were changed for a king but that’s a different blog post for another day though I’m not discounting the name it still bears weight. In college I had to write a 20 page paper on the book of Ruth. One of my favorite parts of that paper was researching the names in the book. One of my favorites was Orpah changing her name to Naomi, going from bitter (or stiff neck) to pleasantness. There are many iterations of name changes and why it’s important. in the Bible. From Simon (God has heard) to Peter (Rock). Jacob (supplanter)  to Israel (May God Prevail).

maxresdefaultEven in modern story telling names are important. In the new star wars movie for example *******SPOILER ALERT****** (seriously how have you not seen it yet?) Kylo Ren, whose chosen new name I have yet to figure out (also one that I saw that I thought was kind of funny Ky from skywalker and lo from Solo) besides Ren being Ruler, forsakes his given name Ben Solo (bum bum buuuuuummmmm, seriously I gave the spoiler alert why did you read this?). This is essential to who he is. He forsakes Ben (son) or if his full name is Benjamin (son of justice), he forsake being a son and he forsakes justice. There are plenty of these peppered throughout modern stories like in the Matrix, Thomas Anderson (Twin Man, best superhero name ever!) Is the name given to his “digital” counterpart within the matrix. One of my favorite examples, Dolores Umbridge (Pain or sorrows) basically her name is pain so bad she’s named it twice, it’s no wonder she does what she does to the students at Hogwarts…

******Spoilers Over*******

All this to say I wanted to take a name that held some importance. I chose to start the list with this because I wanted to convey the importance of this name in the next list sections. This name may have been one that has been placed upon us millennials, but it holds importance nonetheless.

2. The Dawning of the new Millennia

We are now firmly in the third millennium Anno Domini, year of our Lord or common era if you’d rather. Some important things happened around the turns of the millennia. In the first we had Jesus’ life and death, in the second we had the forming (as in giving form to) and structuring of our most dominant religions, and here in the third we have made information and learning more readily available for all humankind. That’s terribly important. We are named for the fact that we came of age at the dawning of the new millennium. I was the first graduating high school class of this new milletumblr_mbo4b85mF71r31ngfo2_250nnium, take that class of 2000 that’s right there was no year zero. We are the ones who are to shape the direction of this millennium. I know that’s a lot of pressure, but whether you want it or not it’s ours. We will be the ones who shape the future, good or bad. This is why I feel it’s so important for us Millennials to reclaim this name. They call us lazy, incapable moochers on society let’s prove them wrong. Our grandparents (or great grandparents depending on the timing of your birth since the term millennial has been blanketed over a few generations) were called the great generation maybe it’s time we take up that mantle and take responsibility for this new millennia. Which brings me to my next point.

 3. Making a name great

Every great name has to start somewhere right? Whether you are a Catherine (pure) or a Miguel (Who is like God?) your name has an origin. You may have been named for an ancient saint or a saint a bit closer to home. But you are named for someone who made that name great. We have thought a lot about what we are going to be naming our child. He will be named for many many wonderful people who took their name and made it great. There’s Peter Capaldi (incredible actor and the most recent Doctor), Peter Parker tumblr_mgxs7pXmgl1rmxg74o1_500(spider man), Saint Peter, but the biggest influence of them all was Peter Bishop (Fringe). Which, granted they are all characters who have not always made the best choices, but they all were solid and reliable in the end. They all embody the name Peter, and they make it great. That is what I want for my son. I want him to embody the name and make it great.  His name will be Solid Joy, because he is that undeniably bright rainbow at the end of a long storm. He has already succeeded in that. We millennials didn’t choose our name, but we have the opportunity to make it great. We have the opportunity to turn what was meant to be a negative into a glorious positive. Those are some of the best stories aren’t they? The ones where something went horribly wrong, but in the end the protagonist redeems it all. You are not what people call you. You are not what is said of you. You are what you make of yourself. We millennials are what we make of ourselves. Let’s make ourselves incredible!

4. Rethinking Religion

Millennials, it has been said, are much more accepting of different faiths than any preceding generation. The only problem is they are largely giving up on organized religion, allegedly. There are many reasons for this in my studies. Not the least of which being that this age demographic throughout history has always had an odd relationship with the institutions of faith. Eighteen to thirty-ish has been a largely un-reached demographic within mainline denominations and faiths. It’s only when those thirty-ish-somethings start having children to they finally see value, again, in the institutions of faith. I could write another whole list post on why this is as well. Well they are all mostly unproven hypothesis’, but educated ones to say the least. One of the biggest ones in my mind though is one that I keep facing to this day.

I think this image encapsulates exactly what I mean by this.youth-group It was the very first image that came up when I did a google image search for “Youth Group”. Let’s deconstruct the image. It looks like a raucous good time. It looks like a bunch of people at a rave or something. A lot of people with their hands in the air like they just don’t care. OK, now what in this image says church? Go ahead take another look, I’ll wait…. You back? Did you find anything? Maybe a cross? A star of David? A crescent moon and star? No? What did you find? I couldn’t find anything in this that says church to me. In fact have any of you found an institution of faith that looks like this? Not discounting Mega-churches and all that they do, but since when has a church that actually did spiritual direction, education, and formation looked like this? Granted the early church worship services were basically dinner parties at peoples homes, I don’t think they ever looked like that. That’s the problem. We have made youth programs into fun raucous parties, and when those teens go off to adult they can’t find a church like that. They don’t really exist, at least in my experience. So there is this big disappointment and let down in college, and they end up leaving the church until they find value again for their own children. This is a cycle that I have so desperately fought to break in my career. It’s tough though to break people’s expectations.

Pretty-ChurchIt’s on millennials to shape the direction the institutions of faith are going in. I, personally, don’t think that we should go the direction of Sunday morning raves.  But maybe I’m a bit old fashioned. I think it has a lot to do with rethinking what those institutions of faith are supposed to do, and how best to do it. I think it’s a bit of deconstruction and reconstruction. After all isn’t that what the people at the turn of the last millennia did? It’s a new millennia time for us to do our own formation and structuring. But we don’t have to reinvent the wheel as it were.

5. An age of Love

At the risk of sounding like a hippy, wouldn’t it be great if we learned to love each other? Again, millennials are seen to be the most accepting of all generations. I think there is a major hurdle facing millennials is that the preceding generations are teaching us division. Especially in this country, people are deeply divided on many issues. Which is alright in itself, but we have to allow people to hold their own opinions and love them anyway. This is one of the reasons why I fell in love with the Episcopal Church.Episcopal-Church-welcomes-you-1024x464 I had been looking for a place where I could still worship with people even though we held different viewpoints, but we still came together as family around the Lord’s Table. I think this is what can make a society great. An ability to put aside differences and talk about how best to move forward as a whole. Isn’t that the vision our country’s forefathers had for us? Isn’t that what Democracy is meant to be? Let us Millennials be the generation that does that. Let’s come together. Let us not hate each other due to differences, but love each other and realize that only together do we have all the pieces of the puzzle to move forward. I believe that we can achieve that. That is another reason why I’m choosing to be called a millennial.

6. Millennial doesn’t have to apply to only one generation

The official term came about to describe “those who came of age at the turn of the millennia”. To which I say, giphy“that’s incredibly vague!” Coming of age is a sort of nebulous term to me. Considering this whole concept of adolescence has thrown us off of things for over a century. We’ve prolonged the process of transition to adulthood well into the twenties, and sometimes even thirties. Here I am sitting here writing this thinking, “Yeah, I don’t feel like an adult.” I’m thirty-two. I don’t know that we have enough rites of passage as a society to help people feel like they have left behind childhood. Or maybe it’s alright that we haven’t completely transitioned out of childhood. Maybe it’s alright that we still hold on to that. Because as Madeleine L’Engle once said “The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.” So in essence we all still have that child inside of us that gets giddy when watching the latest Star wars movie (Woot! two references to star wars down!).  So essentially I’m saying you are a millennial if you want to be one. If you don’t that’s fine too. The reason why I say that is because some of the most inspirational and transformative moments I’ve had in my life were moments of inter-generational togetherness. Some of my favorites were talking theology with a deacon I served with, her husband, and my wife in the pub. We all learned and grew from these interactions. It wasn’t focused in a teacher/ student dynamic, it was a free flowing conversation on whatever came to mind. This, then, became the inspiration for one of my favorite ministries. I think this goes back to my previous point about overlooking the differences and just loving. So don’t worry too much about the name, but know that it holds importance and meaning.

7. It’s a challenge

There has been plenty of shade thrown the way of the Millennial. I’ve mentioned a lot of it here already. That’s just the tip of the iceberg as well. We have been called the unluckiest generation, and many other things that instill doubt and hatred of us. The funny thing is that I don’t take that too personally, because I know I, for one, am not like that. So I take it as a challenge to prove the powers that be wrong. I don’t know why I do this. Every time I have been called something in my life or challenged on something I have always tried to set out to prove that person or thing wrong. Often I come up short, or I’m the one who changes in the process; but my point is that we should see this as a challenge to be better.

As I’ve already, and will in the next points, laid out some of the goals for us we need to change some things.d8cfdcb6950f67925848ab725d75300b57603e8fd54b348ebba9e8c46a641f7f Yes, change is hard. But nothing in life worth having is ever easy. Those who tell you that they are easy, I think, don’t truly appreciate what you have. Remember how I said the best stories are those where something is redeemed. It’s through hard work and dedication to something that redemption is achieved. I enjoy a challenge, because I know that something will be gained through the process. Win or lose you are changed by the process of the challenge. That’s why you take it on. You will be changed by the process. Hopefully for the better, but it’s not often that rising to the occasion has made someone a worse person.

8. It just sounds cool

bcooOThis is probably my least significant point, but seriously say it.
Millennial… Millennial… Just sounds cool doesn’t it?

 

 

 

9. It’ll strike fear into the hearts of your enemies

Okay, so I know these last two sound like I’m kind of stretching for extra points, and on some level I am. I challenged myself to 10 points after all. But if you have a name that sounds cool, and has had negative pr surrounding it don’t you think it would be a bit intimidating, for others, if you chose it for yourself? Sometimes intimidation can get some people to listen to you, granted it’s not the best method to do so, but it can get the job done.

10. We are here

George Mallory was asked in an interview why he wanted to climb mount Everest. His response has been famously re-quoted ad-nauseum. He said “Because it’s there”. Honestly, it is simultaneously apathetic and inspirational. On one hand it’s basically saying, cause I wanted to. On the other it’s saying, why the hell not?  We the millennials are here. We’ve been named, so why the hell don’t we reclaim that name? We are much more than Buzzfeed articles or test results. We are much more than youtube and netflix. As Father Richard Rohr said,

Grace and mercy teach us that we are all much larger than the good or bad stories we tell about ourselves or about one another. Please don’t get caught in your small stories; they are usually less than half true, and therefore not really ‘true’ at all.

Don’t let the bad stories define us. Make our story the best the world has ever heard. May it be said of the Millennials, not that we were the unlucky and lazy ones, but that we met our struggles head on and overcame. That we changed the world and shaped the millennium to come. We are here, whether we like it or not, so let us make the best of the time and stories that have been given to us. May we be remembered, and remembered for the good that we did. So come with me. Let’s climb this mountain of reclaiming this name together. Let us be the millennials they will speak of!

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Learning to Love Pt. 2: Seeing the Go(o)d

Namaste

Finding God in All Things: The vision that Ignatius places at the beginning of the Exercises keeps sight of both the Creator and the creature, the One and the other swept along in the same movement of love. In it, God offers himself to humankind in an absolute way through the Son, and humankind responds in an absolute way by a total self-donation. There is no longer sacred or profane, natural or supernatural, mortification or prayer—because it is one and the same Spirit who brings it about that the Christian will “love God in all things—and all things in God.” Hence, Jesuits have always been active in the graphic and dramatic arts, literature and the sciences.”- Taken from the Wikipedia page on Ignatian Spirituality

I feel the next step in Learning to Love is being able to see the good that is there. Many of us when we are in the process of crawling out of those dark holes can only see the darkness and despair that got us there in the first place. Some of us have known nothing other than the darkness. We have chosen to let go. We have taken that first step into a new life, but things are suddenly feeling a lot darker. This is an equally difficult step to achieve. As I mentioned in part one we hear that call to move outside of our box. To view something outside of ourselves, but it meant letting go. We have let go, and that is incredibly scary. It’s very easy to feel alone, lost, and scared after doing so. I can’t count the times that I realized i needed to let go, did, and then went right back to holding on. I think to get over that fear we need to have a good focus point. Something to show us that not all is lost, and we aren’t as alone as we think we are.

Recently I have been facing a situation that has gotten me rather angry. I can admit that I really don’t feel like forgiving. I know that I need to let go of the desire to seek revenge and justice, but I just don’t want to. I know that when people hurt us it is very hard for us to let that go. But we need to. So I am going to let it go. But I want so much to run back to that place of being hurt and holding on to my anger and my right for revenge.

I think that when we feel that desire to go back, we need to find what it is that called us out of that place to begin with and focus on it. 2 years ago i was going through the “Ender’s Game” book series. I had just finished “Xenocide” in which the characters discover that there is a place “outside” of reality where there are beings that make up all of reality in a way. At this time a student of mine talked about her idea of God. She said that she thought that we were all ideas of God and that we all make up a part of God’s being. She wondered if all of creation wasn’t just a different manifestation of God’s being as it were. These two ideas got me to thinking. Maybe God is in everything. That God exists even where we can’t see God. Maybe God is everywhere in a way we never even thought about.

In college I had an amazing professor who had this uncanny ability to see God everywhere. She was someone I really wanted to be like. She had an ability to love and see past small faults with great ease. Anyway, whenever someone would state that something was good, she would say, “I know Him.” That above all she said has stuck with me. Even when things were bad she would try to find a way that God would be able to work through it, or with it. She, along with my mother, taught me what love really meant. It meant being able to see the good no matter the situation. Now, I’m not saying that we all need to be optimists, God forbid. I’m saying that even when things are at their worst, being able to see that there is a hope, a good that is out there working for you.

This is seeing the God in everything. I think that the next step in learning to love is to look for the good. Find the silver lining. Find what good may be able to come from whatever situation you are in. I know in some cases that can be very very difficult. But one of those things is that even when we have been struck down, we always come back stronger for it. For me that is a silver lining. That is God’s love. In my own situation that I am dealing with right now, I know that I need to remind myself to see the good in the people who hurt me. I need to remember that they are human beings too. That God loves them just as much as God loves me. They have that divine spark as well. How can I continue to wish bad upon a being that holds God in them as well.

I may be wrong, but I do believe that God is in everything. I do believe that God exists all around us, and so therefore we should be in harmony with all things. That may seem very hippy or whatever, but I think that it has merit to it. If God exists in nature, than why would you want to destroy that? Same thing with the situations, places, and people around you. Let go of whatever it is, and find the God. Focus on it. Head towards it.

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Learning to Love Pt. 1: Letting Go

“To change the world
start with one step
However small
the first step is
hardest of all” — Dave Matthews Band

“Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.” –John 21:4-8

I think one of the hardest things to learn in life is the ability to let go. We have a tough time as human beings not being in control of our lives, surroundings, situations, and people we know. I think it is a trait that we evolved over many millenia. It’s that instinct to be safe and guard ourselves by controlling every situation. I believe it is in learning to let go that we learn how to love. I do believe that part of love is letting go: Letting go of our need to be right, letting go of our need to control, Letting go of our right to revenge, letting go of the pain, and even letting go of being the victim.

One of the biggest things for me to let go of was being the victim. When I was younger, I played the victim a lot. Oh, poor me… I think on some level I didn’t want to heal from wounds that I encountered in my life. I received attention, however negative it may have been, for these wounds. I wanted to be noticed. I felt so lonely and so abandoned in my own mind. The reality is probably much different then what I had chosen to believe at the time. It was easier to play the victim. The role was very easy to portray. I think at some point in all of our lives we do this don’t we? We prefer to have these little pity parties for ourselves, and hope that someone will rescue us. We sit and wait when we are perfectly capable of walking out of these situations ourselves. I could have gotten up. I could have changed things, but I was too afraid. I was too stuck in that mentality that I refused to let go of the pain. I held on to it like we all do at times. My Rector told me about her thesis back in Seminary. She said it was about the spirituality of the victim mentality. She said that when we play the victim we believe we are blameless. It’s not our fault that we got into these situations, so we shouldn’t be the one to get ourselves out. This was one of the hardest things for me to let go of because I didn’t want to take responsibility for my situation. I think that my inability to let go created the circumstances for those situations to get worse, and they did.

Another thing that I still struggle with letting go of is my need to be right. I have learned in my first two years of marriage that more often than not I am not right. But all jokes aside, I think this another thing that we as human beings have a tough time letting go of. It’s this need to always be right that causes us to: begin to dismiss people because they believe differently than we do, Hold on to grudges, refuse to forgive others, and even refuse to forgive ourselves. I find an epidemic, especially with the teens I work with, to fall in with the last on that list. They for some reason got in their heads along the way that they could not be forgiven for whatever it was they did. Who tells us these things? Is it because we can’t forgive others for things? They feel the need to be right in their self image of a horrible being. I think this is what leads many to begin to bully others. They have been bullied themselves, so began to believe what others said. They then turn around and push it on others. I think this stems from a need to be right that we find so hard to let go of.

Letting go I think should be the first step in getting out of the box I previously wrote and talked about. I think playing the victim just reinforces the walls. We point to it as the reason why we can’t leave. I think then that our need to be right reinforces our excuses. We are right about not leaving. We can’t let go. Because look at how awful and horrible the world is outside our box. Look what it did to me! I can’t go out there.

Last night I talked to my youth about something that inspired a previous post, which turned out to be one of the most popular surprisingly, “Does God Cry?”. I talked to the students about the existence of God. I think that at times like these where we feel that the world is about to break it’s tough to believe that God exists. One of my reasons for believing that God is there is because I have been to some of the darkest places and I have found that despite the dark there is still hope, still love. That to me shows that God is there. The bible says that God is Love. I know that love exists. I know that it can overcome every thing. I think that we hold on so tightly to the darkness that we can’t see the light that is there waiting for us. I think letting go is the first and hardest step in beginning to love. This Love God has called out to us in the darkness to let go of all we are holding on to there and move toward Him. Move toward the light that is love, hope, and all things good. Letting go can take many forms. I can only speak for things that I have had to let go of. I can’t speak for those things that you may need to let go of that are in your way. I just know that it’s the first step of many to move out of the darkness and into the light.

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The End of Hate

“When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.” –John 21:15-19

“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy, instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.
Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
–Martin Luther King, Jr

This week is the anniversary of a lot of tragedies. Not only do we morn the losses in our history, but we have new tragedies that are very fresh in our memories. We weep with the people in Boston. We weep with those in Texas. We also weep with those who struggle with personal tragedies. I once wrote about wondering of God did cry. I think that God feels pain especially when we, God’s creation, suffer. This last summer I had the opportunity to visit the columbine memorial. This was only a week after the Aurora Shootings. I was greatly moved at that time. I wrote about that experience. I wept, as I did back then when it was unfolding before us on the news. Does God cry? Yes, I thing God does. I think that when we give in to hate, malice, violence, and evil to cure us from the same.

I feel the world is at a breaking point. Or maybe it’s just me. I feel that over the course of the last year we have seen too much. We have witnessed the mindless, and horrid taking of lives. We have witnessed the tragedies that happened through no fault of any one person, though we still seek someone to blame. I feel that in all that we suffer our first instinct is to find someone to blame. Someone or something to pin our anger on. That anger turns to hatred, and we end up continuing this cycle that leads to more of the same. We have found that the easiest path to take is the one that leads to destruction. It’s too hard to forgive. It’s too hard to love. We have used the words “Hate” and “love” so much that they have lost all their meaning. We have become numb. Desensitized to the motion and direction this carousel of hate takes us.

I have just returned from a youth retreat weekend. This was a mountain top experience for all involved. It’s weekends like this that really prove to me God’s love does exist. I saw a small group of teens and adults come fully into the loving embrace of the God that loves. It was beautiful. Words cannot describe how it is. I know that love. I strive to show that love. I often fail, but I try every single day. This love is so much bigger, stronger, better, and amazing than hate. It’s a lesson of mass construction.

A little over a week ago I gave a sermon about stepping outside of our box and going out to love. I believe the boxes we build for ourselves are built with labels, hate, and generalizations that help to wall us off from the outside world. I believe we all do this. I think that Christians as a whole are guilty of this too. We label people and justify our lack of love for them. Gay, Straight, Liberal, Conservative, Idiot, redneck, or whatever it may be we call others. Those labels create the bricks, and hate is mortar that glues it all together. We need to leave those boxes. God has already broken in and told us we are free.

I think we are living in a world that is in desperate need of the love we all preach about, and that I experienced. I feel we have sat in our little boxes for far too long. I believe the only way we could ever get off of this carousel of hate is to stand with the God that loves. The world needs people to love now more than ever. We need to stand against violence and hate of any kind. We need to say no more. We need to love. The world is falling apart and the only thing that can put it back together is love. I truly believe unless we begin to love, things will get a lot worse. Rise up! Love your fellow human being! They may be ugly, disgusting, or stinky; but they are a human being as well. They need love just like you and me. No one is exempt. God calls us to love. Will you answer the call?

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To Be thought a Fool…

I have been thinking about this blog post for some time now. I didn’t really know how to begin or even where to go with it until yesterday. Yesterday, our Associate Rector taught on “The dangers of being a prophet.” Our scripture lessons were showing the dangers of such. You have David dancing in the street and being ridiculed by his family. Then you have John the baptizer loosing his head. Both of these events are hundreds of years from each other, but there is a common theme. They are both following God with all that they are, and people don’t understand them. People ridicule and punish them because they have different beliefs. I have posted before about intolerance, acceptance, and the end of hate. That’s not exactly what I’m posting about today. I’m posting about something that has been bugging me for the last few years…
“Hi, My name is Miguel, and I am a Creationary Evolutionist.” I only admit this because it is what has been bothering me. I am a big fan of learning. I love to watch the Science channel and learn about fantastic things like theoretical physics, Cosmology, and Quantum Physics. My wife and I both enjoy these programs and documentaries. (I know I’m a nerd) The problem with all of that is I am taught over and over again I could not possibly understand these things because I happen to believe something that many think is incompatible with science. I happen to believe in the existence of God. This irritates me to no end! Yes, I believe in God, and I love science.
For years I have been listening to arguments that the two are mutually exclusive. What’s worse is that argument is coming from both sides. You have people of faith saying that science is a bunch of hogwash because it doesn’t happen to line up with some of their beliefs. You have people of science saying that people of faith are idiots and cannot possibly understand anything they say because science doesn’t line up with some of their beliefs. I actually took a class in college that was completely on this topic. It was the debate between Creation and Evolution. I came out of that class saying, “yes, one of those things happened.” I was completely confused by the end of that course and could not tell you what I believed one way or the other. I came to an understanding a while after that.
As I said earlier I am a Creationary Evolutionist. Which is to say I believe in both Creation and Evolution. I do believe that God created everything in the fashion of the Big Bang. That God set things into motion from the beginning of what we call time. That God formed and directed things into the paths to become what they became and has not stopped directing all of those things on those paths to become what they will become one day. I don’t believe this is contrary to Scripture in any way. I feel that God is still at work today creating and helping along the evolutionary process that is still happening all around us every day.
I don’t believe that Science and Faith are mutually exclusive. I watched a documentary a little while ago which was rather enlightening on the topic. The Documentary was done by Nathan Frankowski and Ben Stein (Of Ferris Bueller Fame) called “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed”. It was not well received. One of the things that I noticed about the film was that both sides treat the other like they are idiots. I think that is very dangerous territory. I think the moment we dismiss someone we happen to disagree with as an idiot is the moment where we become one ourselves. We shut the door on further growth and education that can come from that arena. I believe that Faith and Science can and should inform each other. They should be in conversation with each other. They can learn a lot from each other. Yes, they have both held the other back at times. But, they have also helped to create some of the best advancements in history together!
One of the biggest arguments that drives me up the wall is, “Well there is no scientific evidence that God exists.” To that I have to say, “Well, there is no scientific evidence that God does not exist.” Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater! If we did that we would have never figured out that gravity is a very real force, that the Earth orbits the sun not the other way around, or even that the earth is not flat. Another argument that irritates me is, “The earth is only 6,000 years old. God Created it to look old.” Um, No. I have no idea where that idea came from or even why it has so much prevalence in the church. What in the world makes you believe that? There is more conclusive evidence that the Earth and the entire universe is old.
I say this all because according to both camps I am thought a fool. I am thought a fool for believing that God exists and set all of Creation in motion. I am thought a fool for believing that evolution occurred and is still occurring around us every day. To be honest, I wish both sides would agree that they aren’t going to agree on everything, but that they can learn from each other. I would much rather be thought a fool, than to be completely foolish and not learn from both my Faith and science. God has created such a fascinating reality for us to explore, and I am going to explore it with all that I am. I may be ridiculed and punished for that, but I don’t care.

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The dangers of success

It has been a long time since I posted. It seems that a lot of my epiphanies are on weight loss or marriage as of late. Not anything I felt like writing a few paragraphs about. This last week has been a rather revealing one for me. I have seen a ton of posts about Joseph Kony in Africa and the horrors that he has committed. I read a post on another blog that I read about the organization Invisible Children which I used to donate to. I learned that only 39% of the money that they received through donations actually went to help people. That was a little disheartening to me, but I hadn’t given in a while. The last few years I haven’t been doing that fantastic financially. Then I had a wedding to pay for, and to make sure my wife and I were doing alright financially. My wife has recently been saying that we should be giving more. I agree with her, but it always seemed odd for me to tithe back to the church that pays me. So in the past I have given to charitable organizations. Anyway, my giving is not really the reason why I am writing a post just now.
I had a conversation with the book group that I am a part of last week about the fact that our society is now in a trend of ungratefulness, disrespect, and general rudeness. I feel like such an old geezer when i say that, “In my day we respected our elders!!!” I had talked about how I think the reason for this is that we have been doing alright as a society. That despite the recession, we are still doing alright. I had commented that when we get to a comfortable point we tend as a people to forget how we got there. This is shown in the Israelite people over and over again in the old testament. They are victims of their own success. God delivers them and then they become successful. When they become successful they forget about God. When they forget about God things start falling apart. When things fall apart they cry out to God again, and the cycle repeats itself. I think as a people we forget where we came from. I think one of the reasons that we feel like things are falling apart now is because we have been successful for so long, and we forgot how God brought us here. It seems to be the natural consequences of the world. Now in no way am I getting all Pat Robertson on you all saying “The reason our lives suck is because we are such horrid sinners”. No, I’m saying we are forgetting to share what we have!
In Deuteronomy God is discussing rules with the Israelite people who have just been freed from slavery. God is teaching them how to be a society. In the 24 chapter near the end is talk about what to do with crops. God reminds the people to not forget where they came from. God says don’t forget that you were slaves once, and that wasn’t a great situation. So then God goes on to tell them to leave a corner of the fields for the “Widow, orphan, and immigrant”. This continues for a couple of different types of crops and what they should do to help. I think this is very important to remember, not just for the Israelite people (who as we see forget every so often), but also for us as a Church. As a Christian people, we were oppressed. We were hunted. We were fed to lions for the amusement of others. We grew and then we became the oppressors. We became the hunters. We fed others to lions and other atrocities all in the name of “righteousness”. We forgot where we came from, and we no longer helped those who needed us.
I have been on a lot of short term missions trips, and have talked to a lot of people who have been on them as well. One of the overwhelming things that I hear and I remember from these trips is the impressions that the people in those respective places made on us. We were the ones who left to help them, but in the process they helped us. I remember one of the missions trips i took to Mexico. I went with my youth group, at the time i was in youth group. I remember we were building houses for families that needed them. I remember that these people we were building houses for would come out and make sure we had food or something to drink. I remember they gave what they had even though it was so little. They seemed so much happier than a lot of people back home did. Yet they needed a house…
The reason why I brought up my giving at the beginning is that I seem to have forgotten as well where I came from. I forgot that I was struggling at points. That I couldn’t afford to go get the help that I needed. That I needed help at that time, and it was such a difficult thing to get. That when i was helped and when i did get things turned around I helped for a while, but then I forgot again. Maybe that’s why Jesus said that it was harder for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to get into heaven. It’s because the rich people forgot where they came from. They forgot to help others who are trying to get out of that situation as well. What about you? Are you doing what you can to help those who need you? Maybe if you do you will see that it was you that needed them all along. Just like we needed those people on our mission trips that showed us that you don’t need things to make you happy. All you need is a giving heart, love, and a joyful spirit.

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Through the Looking Glass

A few years ago I wrote a blog post about leaving from a summer of working at a camp. I really felt God’s love at that camp. It was a deep connection with those around me, the area we were at, and the God I love so dear. I wrote that it felt kind of like stepping through the looking glass, returning from wonderland. I had another such experience just this last weekend.
I attended a youth retreat weekend as an adult participant, which in itself was a great experience (not running anything and not having to worry about all the stuff that youth leaders worry about). This program is mainly put on by teenagers for teenagers, and supported by adults. Over the course of the weekend it was as if God slowly snuck into the campground and started connecting all of us to each other and to God’s self as well. We reached that ethereal and ineffable substantive experience of which I believe heaven is made of.
This was not my first time getting to taste what heaven is like. It is in fact something I strive for every day of my life. It is this feeling of oneness. To borrow a word from Hinduism, Nirvana. As i sit here writing I am wanting to describe what it is like, but I feel it is so much bigger than words. It is like being loved, accepted, welcomed, cared for, and at peace all at the same time. I felt this back when I worked at that camp, at an amazing concert, at various moments during my wedding week (including my wedding), and this weekend.
For those of us who were involved and connected during those moments it’s very hard to return to the places that we are from. It’s like you have changed into another person, but everything you returned to belongs to the person who left. It is very much like stepping through the looking glass out of wonderland into a dark reality. You try to explain to people about what it was like on the other side, but all they can see is a reflection of their own reality staring back at them. You feel disconnected. It was so easy to listen to and hear God in that place, but now God feels distant and unclear.
I do believe this is what the first Christians intended church to be. The first Christians were called such because they were just like that revolutionary Rabbi named Christ by his followers. They lived together in love. They connected on that deeper level. They showed the world how they were different by inviting them into this community. This community that loved each other, cared for one another, accepted everyone (most of the time), and loved peace. I don’t know maybe I am just an Idealist and create this beautiful picture that never truly existed. I do believe the concept is sound though. I do think that is a community we are capable as a church of creating. This is a big lesson, but I don’t want to spend all day writing this post. If you would like to learn more about the early church I recommend checking out Nooma video #15 “You”. Rob Bell does a great job of condensing a lot of ideas into about 11 minutes. You can purchase (it’s only a buck to watch online and 2 bucks to download) and download itHere.
My challenge to my readers today is this, strive to bring about the Kingdom. The Kingdom of God is here and all we have to do is welcome it in. We can create the Kingdom of God all around us. We are citizens of that Kingdom after all. We need to fight against hate, injustice, greed, corruption, nonacceptance, and all those things that keep us on this side of the looking glass. Let’s allow God’s love to invade our world and revolutionize who and what we are as a people. God’s love is too good not to share.

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The Economy of Mercy

I am sitting here watching out the window at a familiar sight. It is snowing again. I love snow. I feel like snow makes the world seem new and innocent. Snow makes things difficult, I know, but thinking about the fresh pure white coating things receive before the hustle and bustle of the day begins. It is beautiful. It reminds me of weddings, Christmas, family, and other wonderful things. It is a sad thing that it becomes the dirty black gunk on the side of the road by 10 am.

This time last year i was preparing for the annual ski retreat for the Yellowstone presbytery. I taught about snow. I talked about how snow is like that blank canvas that we can create all things again. I talked about creativity, creating, art, and snow. I asked a question then that is in my mind now. Is this how God felt at the beginning of the world? So full of possibility, so ready to see what God’s creation will make of itself. God looked and saw that it was good after all. I wonder how it felt to create knowing that soon it would be turning to dirty black gunk. Or is that dirty black gunk just a part of the whole beautiful masterpiece God is creating still? In my own humble opinion I do believe God never stopped creating, but that is a different post for a different day.

As I am thinking of snow, I am reminded of all that has been going on in the world this week, month, and year. I often feel down about the state of the world. I often feel very upset by the mistreatment of others. I feel often that the world has succumb to greed, injustice, fear, and hate. I feel like thinks may get worse before they get better. I am reminded often of the prophets in the Old Testament of the Bible, who often warned those in authority about the path that greed, injustice, fear, and hate take them down. They warned of destruction and pain. They often said that God was calling out to them to come back. I wonder is God calling now? Are we headed down that same path that the rulers, kings, and judges of old trod down so long ago? Are we becoming like the dirty black gunk on the side of the road, or are we receiving the new white coating?

I was saddened by what happened Arizona this weekend. This was the reason why I felt like i needed to write. I feel like we are being pushed into hate and fear. I feel like every day we are  becoming more scared, angry, and violent people.   I don’t put the blame on anybody except the man who pulled the gun this weekend. Unstable people will just feed off the hate and fear that is already out there no matter where it comes from. No, I am not saying that we should blame anyone in particular for what was done. What I am saying is that i feel like it’s time we stop treating other human beings with fear and hate. We are all human beings. We are all the same species. Life is precious and we should treat it as such.

Hate, anger, and violence seems to be the answer to everything these days. I know that is the natural reaction to things as well. I am guilty of it as well. I know that i tend to get very angry and to hate people for treating others with hatred, angry, and violence. Jesus once presented an idea that was so counter-natural that it made people hate Him. He told us to love. Love those who hurt you. Love those who persecute you. Love your enemies. I wish that we could do that in all areas of our lives. What would that look like? I would love it if the politicians who make such a point of presenting themselves as “Christian” actually started acting like it. Wouldn’t it be awesome if political ads were all of a sudden positive. “Well I want to make sure that we feed the hungry, my friend would like to create a better justice system. Vote for whichever you thing we should focus on at the moment.” Wouldn’t that be incredible? What if we stopped forcing people to do things by using emotions? What if we stared just being truthful and honest? News reports may be more grim, but I think it would lead to much less stress and pressure on society. There is enough to worry about in life!

Jesus told us to not only show mercy and grace, but to go the extra mile. The band Switchfoot a few years ago had a song called “The Economy of Mercy”. In the chorus the song states:

In the economy of mercy
I am a poor and begging man
In the currency of Grace
Is where my song begins
In the colors of Your goodness
In the scars that mark your skin
In the currency of Grace
Is where my song begins

I was thinking about that today. What if the way we won disagreements, wars, and other such struggles was through an economy of mercy? Yes, compromise would be best, but sometimes you just can’t meet halfway. Sometimes there needs to be someone who gets their way. What if it was the person who was more merciful, and graceful? I don’t think that would ever work since it requires a divine element which we seem to lack. The song goes on to say:

These carbon shells
These fragile dusty frames
House canvases of souls
We are bruised and broken masterpieces
But we did not paint ourselves
And where will I find You?

I like to remember that it is stated that “God is love”. Really we have come a long way away from God. We are broken fragile dusty carbon frames for weak and helpless souls. I think these souls need contact with mercy, grace, and love to survive. I think we need that to recharge and fill our souls. What I find most interesting is that it is just waiting there for us to plug into, but we choose to ignore it. We feel more comfortable as broken beings than full completed ones. Why is that? Why can’t we love each other? Why is it so hard to love our enemies? Why is it so hard to love those who persecute us? Why must we vilify them, instead of befriending them?

I look at the snow and i think that we always have a second chance. The snow always reminds me that there is another chance to create. A new place for us to create every day. It is up to us whether we create something beautiful or something dirty and black. It is up to us whether we fill our worlds with love or hate. It is up to you to decide to love or hate. You decide what to fear and what to accept. Don’t let anyone else sway that. Make up your own mind. As for me I choose love. I choose to create beauty. I know I don’t always succeed. I know I fail a lot and end up creating dirty black pieces sometimes.The most wonderful thing is that God still uses those dirty black pieces to create a wonderful masterpiece.

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