Enough is Enough

Disclaimer: I am tired. It’s been a very long week, and I feel like I have worn through all of my diplomacy. I apologize if what I’m about to say seems harsh to anyone. I certainly don’t mean to offend, but rather spur to action. If you are offended (this is something that I’ve been wanting to say to several people this week) then maybe you should examine yourself. Why are you offended? Is it really because of something I say here or is it because of something inside yourself?

When is enough going to be enough? Two mass shootings in a week. Two of them in places where I have ties. Both of them a few short miles away from family and friends. Not just have there been two in a week, as of me writing of this, there have been 355 mass shootings in our country in the year of 2015. The only thing we as a country have actually accomplished to date is to solidify the cliché-ness of “Prayers”.

For me, prayer has been a difficult issue. When I was growing up and going through tough times as a teen I didn’t feel completely safe going to family, and I didn’t have a whole lot of friends at school. So I turned to people at my church who I thought welcomed and accepted me. I tried to lay out my problems and there was that cliche ready and waiting for me with most people I went to “Oh, I’ll pray about it.” Eventually I began to discover what that really meant. It meant, “stop bothering me with your problems.” Granted that is an over-generalization of the people in the church I grew up with, but ultimately that is the impression that stuck. This beautiful thing that prayer is got twisted and mangled in my mind into a weapon. I heard people pray that others would come to harm. I heard people pray that politicians would not win. I have heard people call me the devil through prayer. I heard people pray for things that never coincided with the message of love I read from the God of the Bible. But still I would pray. It was difficult for me. Meditation and prayer have never been easy for me. My brain always gets easily distracted. But I tried. A few years ago I heard a statement from Father Richard Rohr as he was speaking at a FORMA conference. I don’t remember fully what he was speaking about but this statement stuck out to me. “Prayer is not about changing God’s mind. It’s about changing yours.” After that I found it much more difficult to pray. Since, I am a human being, and we are after all egotistical narcissist monsters  that assume we are the end all and be all of creation. There is a part of my brain that feels that I don’t need to change my mind so I don’t need to pray. That part has unfortunately won out for a long time. To be even more honest I started to resent prayer. These things have coupled to twist, even further, the beautiful and life-altering practice that prayer is meant to be into a worn out cliche. But I have since been rediscovering the richness (get it rich-ness? because his name is richard?… nevermind) of his statement. Prayer was never meant for God, it was meant for us. It was something meant not for us to pull the arm of the cosmic slot machine and maybe get our way. No, It was a way for us to quiet our minds and souls and find out what the God of love would have us to do to encounter the situation we now face.

With the original definition of prayer in place I wonder how many of us are actually praying about the situation that we now face. How many of us actually want to hear what the God of love would have us do in this situation? Or, as we are so oft to be, are we terrified of what God might say? I am suddenly forced to examine myself and see if I am part of this problem. I have a lot of youth group games that involved “killing” or “violence”. Yes, these things are simulated and often in very innocent ways, but what if they are helping to create a more violent generation. In my opinion they don’t, but I need an outside opinion. So therefore I pray. I seek council with the Creator of the Universe.  I ask how I can be a comfort to those who are hurting, and that it may be revealed to me how I can make a difference.

It’s time to make a difference. We can no longer sit idly by while continued injustice, pain, and death is inflicted on our fellow human beings. Yes, we human beings can be messy, but take a deep look at yourself. You are a mess too. We need to say “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!” and start cleaning each other up. If you say we need to take care of our own first, wonderful, then do it! Seek council from the God of the Universe with what you are to do to make a difference, and do it. If you need some help I know of a terribly silly viral video that Shia Lebuff put out this year that may help you. But let us stop killing each other. Let us stop the violence. Let us stand together and stop bickering about whether legislation would actually do anything and try it. Let’s stop letting fear win. Let us let love win. Enough is enough!

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The Problem with Superheroes

Last year I met up with a high school buddy of mine. We had done a bit of catching up and reminiscing. The conversation turned to the finer points of the two comic book giants, DC and MARVEL. He brought up an interesting point. He said that DC was the comic of those who were godlike in their power and set apart from humanity, those who were to be worshiped. He went on to say that MARVEL was for those who would become heroes; ordinary people, becoming heroes.  It was an interesting idea and one that I hadn’t thought about in that way. I think both have had a huge impact on society, and have changed us; whether we’d like to admit it or not. Though I think there has been a change made in us that is extremely dangerous.

We have come to expect heroes to come to our rescue. We put things off and expect someone else to do it. I think that this is partly the result of our laziness, and the result of the popularity of superhero culture. Granted, I’m not condemning it at all. I love superhero movies, comics, video games, etc. as much as the next guy. But when I think about it I see so much of this in our culture. Or we excuse our inaction by saying this problem is bigger than that problem. When asked who will take care of that problem it’s the same answer as above though, Somebody else.

What baffles me even further is that when someone does actually find that thing that they care about and want other people to care about it with them, they are attacked for not caring about issue b, c, or x. I don’t think we were built that way. Granted, I do care about a lot of issues, but it is impossible for us to take on everything. For instance, I may care about issue A and you may care about issue B. That doesn’t make either issue more important than the other. It means there are a lot of issues we need to take care of.

I have been thinking about all of this because of our recent state of affairs in this country, coupled with the manipulation and fear-mongering of media and social media. A lot of people are very afraid, and I totally get that. But as George R.R. Martin put it,

‘Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?’
‘That is the only time a man can be brave,’ his father told him.

We shouldn’t let our fear rule us. We shouldn’t shut our doors and windows and believe that someone else is going to take care of the problems if we don’t. Because the truth is we were all made to be heroes in our own right. It’s your choice whether or not to be a hero or a villian.

I have seen a few viral posts going around about helping our countries veterans before we help our refugees. But one of the biggest and saddest truths, whether you admit it to yourself or not, is that almost none of those people who have posted that would lift a finger to help a veteran if they saw one. Why? Because they are afraid. I don’t like to be cynical, and in this instance I know a lot of people will instantly dismiss me thinking that I’m just being cynical. But the facts are there. Look at the statistics of support and help that they are receiving when they return. You can find article after article about both sides of the aisle politicians voting against veteran care bills. These are the people that we are expecting to “help” or to save from our current issues.

The hard sad truth is, we really don’t care. The American people have been conditioned to be afraid and complacent. It’s very sad. I can tell you that the majority of the outrage over things is just that outrage. No action ever comes from it, because we don’t hold our “heroes” accountable. Look at the approval rating for congress. It’s worse for the president who is actually trying to do things. Yet, we keep voting for them. Or maybe we don’t even vote. Because we want someone else to do it.

There is good news though. There is a being that believe in us. Some one who believes we can be heroes. A being that can fix everything with a snap of It’s fingers. I know this may sound like “pie in the sky” idealism, but I very much believe it to be true. The truth is you can do something to change the issues that impact you so deeply. The truth is there is nothing holding you back, but yourself. If you believe in an evil entity, that evil wants you to sit around and just be angry and not do something.

So get up! Be a hero! If you are outraged by red cups at your local coffee place, fine don’t shop there. Send the money you would have otherwise spent on coffee to your local VA. If you think that Veterans are more important than refugees, fine go and contact your senators, representatives, and other elected officials and tell them that they better take care of that legislation that needs their vote. AND in the meantime find a homeless veteran, take them in, give them a meal, help them get back on their feet. Don’t attack other people who care about other issues than you either. Because the truth is the world needs all of our help. EVEN YOU!!!! They will be working on another issue. I may care about refugees, and you may care about veterans, GREAT LET’S BOTH GET TO WORK!!!! So… BE BRAVE! BE COURAGEOUS! BE A HERO!

Edit: I had something that I decided I needed to add. I heard somewhere, if you change the world for one person, you have changed the entire world. So don’t think you can’t make a difference. There is something right near where you live that you can do to make a change in someone’s life. So go and do it! I will too.

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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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The Continuing Adventures of Missing the Point

I know I often write about faith and culture, about the dichotomy that does not exist between them; despite the constant rhetoric from the western church that it does. I was sorting through my I-tunes library this morning in an attempt to get more of my good music that I haven’t listened to in a while onto my I-pod. (wow, how yuppy do I sound right now) I came across a song by Steven Curtis Chapman that I loved when it was first released. My friend Johnny G. can attest to that! Anyway i would like to share the lyrics with you before moving on:

See the Glory

By: Steven Curtis Chapman

I never did like the word mediocre
I never wanted it to be said of me, oh, no
Just point me to the top and I’d go over, over
Looking for the very best that could be
So what is this thing I see
Going on inside of me?
When it comes to the grace of God
Sometimes it’s like …

I’m playing Gameboy standing in the middle of the Grand Canyon
I’m eating candy sittin’ at a gourmet feast
I’m wading in a puddle when I could be swimming in the ocean
Tell me what’s the deal with me
(I know the time has come for me to)
Wake up and see the glory

Every star in the sky tells His story, oh
And every breeze is singing His song
All of creation is imploring
Hey, come see this grand phenomenon
The wonder of His grace
Should take my breath away
I miss so many things when I’m content with …

How could I trivialize it
This awesome gift of God’s grace?
Once I have come to realize it
I should be speechless and amazed

Wake up and see the glory
Open your eyes and take it in
Wake up and be amazed
Over and over again

God’s love is calling to you and to me
Wake up, wake up
Open your eyes

Yesterday I was chatting with the pastor of the church i work at. She had me looking for a quote which i was unable to find, despite my internet prowess. Her friend had found it before us and this made me think as well:

Why do people in church seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute? … Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us to where we can never return.”

—Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters (New York: Harper & Row, 1982), pp. 40-41.

I think that the unthinkable has happened. We have become complacent with mediocrity. We are content to live our lives ignorant of the greater reality that surrounds us everywhere we are. Have we gotten so used to the amazing that it doesn’t phase us anymore?

I am currently sitting in my office which faces the park and the Rimrocks beyond that. It is so beautiful and green. We have had a very long winter and in fact it keeps trying to sneak back in the door without going through the usual seasons of summer and winter first. I see people running around the park playing, picnic-ing, and enjoying the surroundings. I wonder though, how many of us have just taken the time to observe the incredibleness of spring. We have come out of a season of death and cold. We are now observing the season of new life. A resurrection of creation that is taking place all around us in the northern hemisphere. We miss the point.

Unfortunately, I feel this story is true about the majority of the western church as well. We are missing the point of the incredible gospel that is told to us every day. I mean we hear the words “God loves you”, but do any of us really believe it? Or do we rather go through the motions to just be labeled as “spiritual”, “holy”, or “religious”? How many of us actually believe that? How many of us actually let it impact us? Like Anne Dillard said, We are children playing on the floor with our chemistry sets! We have no idea the power and the beauty of God’s love, power, and care for us! We have put those things aside like they didn’t matter. We are missing the point.

The church has become so influenced by culture that the church has become an agent of culture. We just end up reinforcing the ideas of general society instead of becoming the counter cultural revolutionists that Jesus once was. We have put a beauty pageant sash on Jesus, and made him up. He doesn’t look like the same person. He now looks like this nice guy who likes everyone and pets little lambs. That isn’t Jesus. Do you know that man? He was a counter culture reformer. He was telling people that the kingdom of God is here! He said that God had already made peace with the world. We didn’t have to earn God’s favor! I think it’s funny that the church likes to quote so often the verse that states “Be in the world, not of the world” John 8:23b, Jesus isn’t even talking about culture there at all! Jesus is talking about belief. He was saying he was different than all the other teachers. The dichotomy that doesn’t exist should be our message. It should be the power and message of the true gospel, which states: “God loves you, there is nothing you can do about it!” That is what should set us apart from the world. The world that wants you to think that you have to appease the powers that be. This, unfortunately, has become the “gospel” the western church is obsessed with and therefore made it into an agent of culture. This “gospel” states: “be moral and turn from your evil ways and maybe God will take notice of you”. There is a whole lot more to this idea that will have to be saved for a different post on a different day.

I think it is rather appropriate that Lent takes place during the winter and usually ends toward the beginning of spring. It’s like God is using the whole world to tell us, “There is always a second chance!” Wow, that is incredible is it not? God loves us so much that there is nothing at all we can do to screw it up. No matter how bad we get,  No matter how much we ignore it or God, No matter the circumstances God loves and forgives us! That is the Good News is it not? If we truly believed that why don’t we live like it? Do you live like God loves you? Do you live like God loves everyone and everything?

I don’t know about you, but I want to live like that. I don’t want to continue overlooking the beauty and the grace that surrounds me every day. I don’t want to continue ignoring the power and majesty of God’s love and grace! God is here! God is now! God’s kingdom is here! God’s kingdom is now! I am a citizen, are you?

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Injustice, Greed, and Corruption

As I sit here to write this post, I have this incredible urge to do something. This week a rather uninformed public media figure decided to make a really stupid statement about social justice and the Church. This statement equated the idea of social justice with the common western media stereotype of evil. This person decided to go further and state that if you heard that phrase in your church or on it’s website you should run and leave that church.  This obviously got quite a backlash from Christians. So I just brushed this off as well people say all kinds of crazy things on television. As this week continued i started getting more and more messages and people talking about injustice, greed, and corruption. I usually start to pay attention when i hear things more than twice.

I started to look around a bit after a good discussion in sunday school the other week. We were going over the passage Micah 6:8 “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (NRSV) We had a few scenarios that i asked our class to discuss and comment on. As we were discussing one of the adults stated. Well the problem with these is that our economy and the systems that we have set in place are corrupt. We can’t work within them to help these people.

That statement stuck with me. It was the first of many statements that have me thinking about what it truly means to be a world changer. I recently watched a couple of documentaries, I just like them I guess. One was a television series by Morgan Spurlock, who did “Supersize Me”. Anyway he put people with different opinions into situations where they would have contact with them continuously for 30 days. Some are interesting, and some just made me angry.  Then I watched a film by a famous documentarian who I will not name here since I know many think that he is completely wrong about everything, though I think he does make some very valid points. After watching these i was sickened. I saw that people are greedy, corrupt, and in-just. I saw that people wanted to get theirs and didn’t care about anyone else. “As long as I am happy, I don’t care about you.” Seems to be the mantra of our species.

Our systems and are corrupt. What is worse is that we allow them to be corrupt. We have become the mindless, brainwashed masses that allow these things to continue. As I have stated before we are zombies. I don’t want to be a zombie anymore. I have had it! Though i don’t know what to do about it. I have never asked my (well to be honest probably only 2) readers to comment on my blog before, but I need some help. I will put what I need help with at the bottom of the post.

So to name a few of these systems i am going to list some of the injustice, greed, and corruption i noticed:

Fred Phelps: I don’t think i need to say anymore. I was researching different ends of the spectrum of how Christians view homosexuality, and as i read his statements i started yelling at my computer (seriously, ask the pastor she heard me). If you need to know more look him up, though i don’t recommend it.

Crapitolism, oh sorry spelling mistake Capitolism: Our economic system was not set forth by our founding fathers. It is not God’s will. It does no longer provide for the open door to opportunity. The rich get richer and will step on, over, through, or past anyone to get more. Our system is a new form of slavery. No we don’t have Masters, but we do have owners. These owners are creditors and they will stop at nothing to get their money from you. We have been branded by our slavery numbers, credit scores, and placed in this system designed to keep you in debt and keep you paying out to people… Not to mention that our government  handed over 700 billion of our dollars to these people because they screwed up. What did they use it for? To line their own pockets…

Politics: This has a little to do with the last one. People who make us promises and never follow through with them. People who are engaged in this system to continue to tell us that it is ok. It is all God’s will. We aren’t doing anything wrong. It’s the other guys in the other political party. I am not calling out either side. I am saying all politicians do it! They may say they are trying to change it, but there are so many that are ok and happy with it the way it is (mainly because they get richer). I voted for our president because i wanted change, and so far it seems he can’t deliver.  I pray it changes.

The Church: Yes the Church (big “c”). In stead of money that drives the greed and corruption in the church it is something else. That thing is power. They want people to think the way that they do. They want to control, manipulate, and bend people to their will. I am not saying i am completely innocent of this. At times i am tempted to play this game too. That is what makes me sick sometimes too. It seems the lords prayer has become this. “Oh me, holy is my name. my kingdom come, my will be done, everywhere i go. I am going to get my bread and all the bread i can, so screw you. I’m not going to forgive you unless you have something i want, but you should forgive me over and over again. I’m going to go where i please even if there is temptation. For mine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory.”

And the list goes on and on…

I have been doing a Bible study with my youth on the book of Romans, granted none of them have showed the last 3 weeks but it is forcing me to study the book of romans regardless.  I have been amazed at this read through because there have been things that i never noticed before in there. I studied a little bit about Paul and his world view on things and it really began to bring to light some new things. Paul talks a lot in the first part of Romans about there being two ways to live. Paul says there there is a way to be human, and another way. We all chose the other way. He says that there is good news though. He talks about God coming into the world and showing us that there is a right way to be human. It is acting justly toward your fellow human beings, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God. I guess he read Micah. Anyway, Paul talks about God keeping God’s promise to begin setting everything right, so we should walk in that. In 2000 years since I don’t think we got it. I don’t think we realize that that big event  where God reaches into human history and changes something has already happened. We are still waiting for something bigger, but I don’t think it’s coming anytime soon.

So the reason i asked you readers to comment is this. How do we work against injustice, greed, and corruption? What do I do as an individual to change this? I don’t want to live like this any longer. I am not going to move… so please give me your advice.

Update: Corruption continues it seems check this out… http://www.huffingtonpost.com/burns-strider/fox-news-funds-research-a_b_504433.html

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