Uncategorized


6a00d8341bffb053ef00e5538d2f128834-500wi

Does this fit your mental image of what Adam and Eve looked like?  When I first saw this painting by Fernando Botero it messed with me.  Of course that is not what Adam and Eve looked like!  My mental image is one of a slender and beautiful Eve with dirty blond locks of hair flowing over her shoulders in perfect placement to cover over her bountiful bosoms. Standing beside her is Adam, self assured in his nakedness although conspicuously always pictured behind a waist high hedge (must of been lots of those hedge in Eden).

This is what this painting stirs in me.  What does this evoke in terms of my view of the human body?  And my own body(since mine bears a much better resemblance to this Adam, than the usual GQ models of typical Eden scenes)?  How does an Adam and Eve created like this affect my view of what it means to be human?   Why is Eve wearing a mullet?(ok this one is sarcasm)  How does this picture view how I would view the love between Adam and Eve?  These are just a few beginning thoughts.  But my point is…

This is what art does.  Art exposes, reveals and refreshes.

1. Art exposes our mental images

Every idea and thought we have is also associated with a mental image.  Art, especially good art, exposes those mental images and gives our mind the option of something different.  Art gets us to see something that we haven’t seen before.  Or maybe we have seen it before, but with the anchor of repression we block and ignore certain images because of what they do to us.  Some images frighten us, some pieces of art invoke feelings or emotions that we dare not acknowledge being there.

I feel this is the reason why Mel Gibson’s movie the Passion was so successful.  What this movie did was challenge our  sanitized images and versions of the crucifixion and exposed our current images as the comfortable Easter/nice little bunny season holiday that it has morphed into.  Now, although the violent monolithic picture of the cross was IMHO a little too focused on the blood and gore, it did cause me to think and to re-imagine some of my images.

2. Art exposes how static our thinking has become.

Left to ourselves we will have the tendency to hold onto those images that secure and validate our past history and current culture themes.   We cling to the images that agree with our history.  When we encounter an image that transcends our past and sends us into a trajectory that causes us to consider our own past actions and thoughts as being incorrect or incomplete, we initially want to reject that image.  

In addition to our own personal history we also have to deal with our current culture matrix.  What happens when we see an image that runs counter cultural to the mainstream culture that we are swimming in?  We can either reject the image or we can accept the reality that our image has become frozen by time and culture.  

Of course this is normal.  Remember that childhood friend that  you grew up with and have now lost contact?  When you imagine them, you don’t imagine them as they are now, but as they were when you interacted with them in grade 3.  (This to me is the reason why Facebook as a social networking frame works so well, we all want up to date pictures and images to associate with our past memories)  Deep down we all want new pictures and images.  I believe this is part of the creative God image within us all.  I also believe we have fallen out of rhythm with this creative tendency within us and instead now want to go back to the static photo album of who God has been in the past.  We must move past the scrapbook snapshots of who God was and step into the nowness of a God who lives in real time.

3. Art refreshes our barriers

To deny that we have barriers is deny our own humanity.  To be ‘full human’ is not to deny the existence of those barriers but to acknowledge that they exist and that they affect our lives.  These mental obstacles and images have a direct correlation to our lives.  

A perfect example was when my wife and I went to go visit a living Nativity.  There was a huge crowd.  Lots of people, animals, Roman Guards, Villagers etc. In the midst of it, Toree lost track of our little girl Charlotte and had the typical fear response.  Me in my, “nothing bad will happen” ideal, said to her(in the most loving and caring way of course), “Come on who is going to steal a little girl in the middle of a Nativity scene.”  The scene of love, birth and nativity had in my mind made the place a safe place, which of course, by its very nature of strangers was not.

To be fully human is not to deny the existence of those barriers but to acknowledge that they exist and affect our lives.  Art, if we allow it, can be the light that shines and helps identity our presuppositions and assumption.

What if…

One image that has become sterile and anti-septic to our souls is the picture of Christmas.  Baby Jesus, wrapped in swaddling clothes, laying in a manager. Silent night, Hark the Herald Angels Singing, etc, etc.  This season is filled with images.  I would like to suggest an alternative image of this picture in my next post.

Advertisements

So it has been a little over a month since I have gotten rid of my AT&T data plan for my cell phone.  Here is my update on what my life has been like since its departure.

There are times that I have nothing to do and I am forced to do the absolutely frightening thing and sit in stilllessness with myself.  No emails to check, no drudgereport to peruse.  Only myself, plain ole me.

I wonder if as a people we don’t really like ourselves.  I mean, ever moment we are trying to get away from ourselves.  We constantly are wanting distractions by means of music, movies, tv, email and books. Seriously, If I treated my wife like I treat myself, she would have divorced me years ago.  Maybe the pertinent question is, have we divorced ourselves?  Have I divorced myself?

There is much encouragement to spend a “date night” with your spouse, to encourage conversation, engagement and time for relational growth together.  But can I ask, when was the last time you took 30 minutes of silence and solitude and listened to the thoughts, feelings and emotions that are running through your head.  

So the disconnection I now feel in regards to my phone has been a reawakening of how much I fill my extra time with technological noise.  There were times when I am waiting for my haircut where I am actually fidgeting with my phone like a crack addict, hoping for something to pop across the screen to entertain, to sooth the pain of the silence.  When the silence becomes too overwhelming I crack and pull out a game of Solitaire, again filling my mind with some sort of noise.

How much time do you spend alone with your thoughts, please take the informal poll below, I would find the results interesting?

I encourage you, take a walk and unpack the clog of thoughts.  Heck, even take yourself on a date… you deserve it.

Whether you are just starting on the missional journey or are a seasoned veteran, here is a great page chalked full of missional links

My favorites are…

1. Five Marks of Mission and Five Marks of a Mission-Shaped Church – Notes from the famous Anglican Church statement about The Mission-Shaped Church

2. The Missiological Foundations of Theology by Gailyn Van Rheenen (Author, Missionary – in East Africa for 14 years, and Adjunct Professor of Missions)

3. Twelve Hallmarks of a Missional Church and Three Overarching Principles – A short summary from The Gospel and Our Culture Network plus a short summary from Michael Frost and Alan Hirsh’s award winning book, The Shaping of Things to Come

And a great quote on mission by Yoder,

“The political novelty that God brings into the world as a community of those who serve instead of ruling, who suffer instead of inflicting suffering, whose fellowship crosses social lines instead of reinforcing them.  This new Christian community in which the walls are broken down not by human idealism or democratic legalism but by the work of Christ is not only a vehicle of the gospel or only a fruit of the gospel; it is the good news.  It is not merely the agent of mission or the constituency of a mission agency.  This is the mission.”  – John Howard Yoder The Royal Priesthood

 

If after two plus years of political banter and debate you still cannot decide who to vote for I am providing a myriad of options for you to use in today’s election day decisions.  

The, “I Like That Name Approach”:  FOR THOSE WHO FEEL THAT A NAME SPEAKS A THOUSAND WORDS

This is simple.  See a list of names and pick the name that you like the most.  It may remind you of your favorite aunt, your first girl friend or your favorite car.  Oppositely, some names may remind you of the girlfriend who broke your heart or the gym coach who embarrassed you in front of the whole class.  In this way, a pick between Angelica Fortunato(note the hint of angel and fortune) compared with Kermit Steel(with the hint of a puppet and thievery). Now who wouldn’t vote for a Angel of Fortune rather than a thieving puppet frog?  This method does not bode will for Barak Obama for obvious reasons.

R-D Approach: FOR THOSE WHO FEEL A BALANCE OF POWER IS IMPORTANT

This technique, although simple, provides a great balance of power.  Simply done one starts at the top of the ballot and checks R-D-R-D.  For good measure, and usually only once on the ballot one should vote I (independent).  This keeps the Joe Lieberman’s in political power.  One could also start with D-R-D-R if one felt so disposed. 

First is best Approach: FOR THOSE WHO FEEL IN FATALITY, DESTINY OR THE WILL OF GOD

This technique is to vote for the first person under each category that is listed.  This is really relying on fatalism to choose our leaders.  Under this approach all the Ashes, Ashcrofts and Albarez will likely be elected while the Zebedee, Zaft’s and Young’s will be sitting it out until the next election.  Again, M is before O and so Obama is left out in the cold again.

Self Centered Approach:  FOR THOSE WHO WANT PEOPLE LIKE THEM IN POWER

Again this technique is simple.  Vote for the person who is most like you.  If you are male, you only vote for males, same for a female voting only for females.  If you are middle class you only vote for middle class people.  If you are Caucasian you only for for fellow Caucasians and if you are black you only vote for black candidates.  Some would call this racism.  And it is.  The only unfortunate thing is that I think that this is the way most people do vote.  Who is most like me.  

Honestly, if you are going to vote today.  All the above options are viable options, except the last one.  Don’t vote based on who is most like you.  That is plain selfish.  If you tend to vote this way, I would recommend changing styles and at least going with the R-D-R-D approach.  I will trust fatalism to selfishness any day.

Happy voting.

Did you see Barack Obama’s infomercial last night?  What did you think?  Was it on the level of selling the perfect set of ginsu knives promising the impossible?  Or did it provide you with some hope. Some sense that things could be different.  

Maybe cynicism has creeped in for some of you.  Thoughts of why try… why when we know that politics is a mire of muddy pigs dressed up in fancy suits. To be honest, I don’t know if the next president, whoever it may be, can bring true reform and change.  But one thing that Obama’s hopefulmercial gave me back again was a sense of hope in relation to the Church. 

Hope, is the possibility of seeing what God sees and having God’s thoughts, feelings and actions infiltrate into the core of my being.  

The question is, do I have hope that things can be different?  Can there be communities who reflect the image and character of God?  Will there be people who stand for radical love, inclusive hospitality and social reconciliation.  

Has middle classness, individual consumerism, safety and security so inoculated the christian church that we have become blind to the calling and dream of God in this world.  Maybe.  My resposnse out of fear is… why even try.  “Give in to the dark side, Luke”.  Just stay on automatic pilot in my individual world where safety and security are the throne and scepter of my life.  

But then Barack Obama’s pirated the network airwaves to spread his message of “What if…”.  And this is the reason I feel that Obama will win.  There are enough Americans who are willing to let a relatively unexperienced person be president because we want some with enough resonance and vision to dream “What if”.  But i digress onto my political soapbox.

“What if…” there were a people who took the words of Jesus seriously and practiced with their lives…

-RADICAL HOSPITALITY

-INCLUSIVE LOVE

-PEACE AND LOOKING FOR GOD’S JUSTICE IN THIS WORLD OF INJUSTICE

-REDEEMING RECONCILIATION

-DOWNWARD MOBILITY

Hope says, God sees all of these things and today I want to see my world and my culture as He sees it.

Hope says, that God has called out a people to live out this radical and subversive life as a light to all the world of what God’s Life looks like in a world of flesh and blood, suffering and pain, failures and disappointments.

Hope speaks.  What is Hope saying to you today?

This article is from a pastor in the local Portland area. I thought it appropriate due to all the media and political talk the middle class. It seems that the middle class are a group that gets all the attention. The upper class also get their fair share of press. The only group that doesn’t make the front page(or any page for that fact) is the poor. Maybe it is because we make too many assumptions.

Middle Class Assumptions

    
When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, thousands of people were stranded in the city, which was soon destroyed by wind and flood and filled with diseases.  Because the great majority of people stranded in the city were black, it is assumed that latent racism underlying American society has taken its toll again.  Racism is an easy card to play—it seems to be a problem everywhere from the LA Police to grandpa’s living room.  There is the prejudice inherent in racism as well as the system in which groups are held back from positions of power. 

    Personally, however, I don’t think that the problem in New Orleans was racial prejudice.  Yes, the far majority of folks trapped in the city, lied to and even shot at were black—but certainly not all.  Nor do I actually think that the problem stemmed from authorities “not caring” about those who were stranded.  Yes, I am sure that there are some who didn’t care about them, but I don’t think that is what created the situation. 

    I think, rather, that the horrors in the city were created from the assumptions those in power had about society in general.

    The powers that be knew that there were many people who had no intention of leaving the city, no matter how many evacuation warnings were given.  These were people who had ways of getting out of the city, but they chose not to.  So, as many authorities were leaving the city, and they saw people staying behind, it was no surprise.  After all, many people were foolish and decided to ride out the storm.

    The real problem lay in what they didn’t think about.  They didn’t think about the fact that there is a vibrant street culture in New Orleans who wouldn’t have the capacity to leave the city.  They didn’t think about the many who were injured or elderly who were incapable of leaving, and without family to assist them.  They didn’t think about the poor who rely on public transportation for their daily needs, and do not have money to pay to leave the city.  They assumed that everyone could get out of the city if they wanted to.  It was never a spoken assumption.  If it had been spoken, it could have been questioned.  But the assumption was still there, still and quiet in the minds of those in power.

    And who could really blame them?  They were under a tremendous amount of stress.  They had to figure out how to take care of their families and property.  They had extra responsibilities.  They just never thought of those who wanted to be evacuated, but couldn’t be. 

    We mustn’t judge these authorities.  It is easy to point fingers after the fact, “You should have done this!”  Rather we should think about what we would have done in similar circumstances.  Would we have thought of those who had no transportation?  Would we have thought of those who had no reserve of cash to deal with an emergency?  Would we have thought of those in nursing homes and mental health facilities and prisons, if we had no one that we personally knew in such circumstances?  Would we have thought beyond ourselves to those who lack the resources we do on a daily basis?

    These questions are easy to answer.  First we need to ask, do we think of these folks now?  This is not asking—WHAT do we think of them?  If pressed on the point, I suppose that most of us would honestly say, “I never think badly about the poor and lowly.”  But the reason it is true is because the poor and lowly are so far out of our context, out of our lives, that we never actually think about them at all- either good or ill.  If we don’t think of them now, how could we expect anyone else like us to think of them when they are facing a personal crisis?  How can we expect anyone to assist the lowly in an emergency when they never thought of them on normal days?

    The stranded in New Orleans weren’t put in a life-threatening position because of racism or even because of blatant prejudice of any kind.  They were stranded because of middle-class assumptions.

    What is a middle class assumption?  It is what most of us who are middle class assume that “everyone” has in society, because everyone we know has them.  It is what we assume is the minimum standard to live and function in our society.  It is what goes thoughtless when dealing with large groups of people—from leading a church meeting to organizing a free concert to governing an entire population. 

    Having assumptions is not wrong.  It is a part of the cultural baggage we all have.  We learn it bit by bit beginning as infants, and our culture grows and is reshaped and is transformed as we get older.  The assumptions, however, is just what we get used to—what we never see missing.  If we have never (or have rarely) experienced a person speaking anything but Russian, then “normal” people speak Russian, and everyone who is not “normal” just doesn’t come to mind when we make plans.  Sure, we can understand intellectually that other people speak other languages, that they are people who are just as important as us and that they have their own need that doesn’t include speaking Russian—perhaps they speak Bengali or use sign language.   But in the normal course of day-to-day events, non-Russian-speakers don’t count because we have never experienced them. 

    And this is the case of the middle class with the lower class.  Yes, most middle class people know—intellectually— that lower class people count as much as they do and have their own needs and issues that differ from middle class needs and issues.  However, since the majority of the middle class do not “rub elbows” with those of the lower class, then the needs and issues of the lower class are unknown, not to mention the specific needs of individuals who find themselves in the lower class because they suddenly are lost without one of the things that they assumed was necessary to survive—but never really thought about it.

What are these assumptions?  Well, it is beyond my ability to list all of them.  But below are a list of those that I and those whom I know experienced.

Ability to remain clean
The idea that everyone in our society has the capacity to a shower or bath with a change of clean clothes and proper hygiene items, such as soap, shampoo, deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, etc.    However, this is a huge assumption to make.  To remain clean in this way requires many resources that people, especially those who live on the street, do not have.  Think casually how much you pay for your cleanness—between water, a place to have privacy, all the various items to clean clothes and hygiene items.  Even a quick overview can help us realize how expensive hygiene is.  Now we can know that cleanliness is next to godliness because only the gods can afford such a standard!

Ability to gain identification
Most people assume that identification is simple to obtain.  But if you had all of your identification stolen from you or lost in a fire, then you might find that you were in a grave situation.  For legal state I.D. you need two pieces of identification.  And you cannot obtain any other identification without identification.  And without identification, you cannot even check out a library book, let alone get a job or cash a check.

Well spoken English with no or minor accent
This is an assumption that many immigrants face daily.  It is assumed that because they learned English with a strong accent that they do not know English well at all.  And this is a barrier to many avenues of our society, although bi-lingual services are being provided more and more frequently now.

Basic knowledge of national events
Most of the middle class assume that everyone has access to a newspaper or at least watch television news.  However, for those who do not have televisions or who do not choose to pay attention to news, this limits conversation and the main source of knowledge of basic cultural information for the middle class.

Personal transportation
According to the middle class, “normal” people have access to an automobile, and thus can drive to places quickly as often as they like.  However, the cost of an automobile is such that a large percentage of the lower class cannot afford to pay for the car, insurance, repairs and gas.  

Ability to travel out of town
This is the assumption that stranded many people in New Orleans.  It is assumed that if necessary, with some planning, anyone can leave to another county or state if they so desire.  However, many people are limited to public transportation, which is limited to a metropolitan area.  Or Greyhound, but if you can’t book two weeks in advance or have extra money, then you ain’t going anywhere.

Well dressed, (but not necessarily fancy)
This is the assumption that keeps many lower class folks from attending church services or weddings.  It is assumed by most of the middle class that everyone has at least one set of “nice” clothes for special occasions.  However, many people, especially those of the lower class, just do not have them.

Computer literate
It is an assumption being made more and more often that everyone has the ability to get on a computer and know what one is doing.  Along with this assumption is the idea that we can send important information to people on the internet, or through email, and that is adequate for all who need it.  However, not everyone can use a computer and a large percentage of people have difficulties accessing the internet.

Health insurance
Some assume that everyone has some kind of health insurance, although is it becoming widely recognized that most people’s insurance is extremely inadequate.  Again, it is a large percentage of the lower class has no insurance whatsoever, and a growing group is being turned away from almost any medical care due to past unpaid bills.

No mental illness
This is the most widespread assumption and the one that is most wrong.  Perhaps some 10 percent of people have a diagnosed mental illness.  And perhaps another ten percent has a mental illness that has not been diagnosed.  But every single one of us has a mental weakness that makes us inadequate in an area that most people are adequate in.  Some of us are weak socially, some are weak in mathematics, some are weak in self-assessment.  But more often than not, those of us who are strong in an area cannot understand or appreciate those who are inadequate in some area of mental ability.  What we must remember however is that mental weakness is what is normal.

Disposable money
It is assumed and expected that everyone has some money, even if it is a small amount, that they can use for an occasional lunch out or for an emergency.  However, those of low income, while they might have the occasional financial surplus, they cannot predict ahead of time when they will have disposable income.  Thus, having a middle class friend ask if they want to do lunch together is just embarrassing.

Literacy
The education system of the United States has done a remarkable job of teaching most people to read.  But there are many people—almost exclusively of the lower class, with some rare exceptions—who are not literate, except in some rudimentary ways.   But we all  establish things for others

Place to sleep
It is important for all of us to recognize these assumptions and to fight such ignorance, both in ourselves and in others.  To know that many people do not have these culturally significant items for the middle class is important for all of us.  It is especially important for those who organize events or lead large groups of people to recognize what assumptions are being made, for the more assumptions we make, the more people we are excluding.  But most importantly, it is important for those in civil leadership to be aware of their assumptions, so that they could truly represent all of their people, and not just the middle class and above.

The things I love in life… I love my hammock.  I love to lay suspended and yet held.  I love my ipod holder in my truck.  Such a wonderful organizational device.  

But I love all of these things for what they do for me.  They are the objects of my utility and that is why I love them.  I use them therefore I love them. (likely a poor definition of love and really not love at all)

I came to the realization that I may think God thinks the same way about me.  Why do I think this?  Is it because the Big Wigs who hear God tell me that God needs me as the blare horn of the impending dangers of hell or that I need to be a student of God’s word in order to give ‘right’ answers to the unsuspecting Jehovah Witnesses that come across my door.

Utility, use, work.  Soon the Bible becomes the Sears Roebuck tool catalog of the 100 uses a Christian can be to God and I becomes God’s Leatherman of multi-use tools that he can utilize in any situation.

But what if,  what if my conceptions of who God is are wrong.  What if the theology buffs who graduated from their theology schools are wrong.  

What if I am not the object of God’s utility.

But rather the subject of God’s Love.

No longer a third party tool that God uses to uses to accomplish His purposes and then puts back in the tool shed, until the day another ‘non-Christian’ steps onto the scene.  

Rather I am the subject of God’s love.  

Here is a great question to ask God.  God what are you into?  God in your spare time, what do you think of? God what do you dream of when you are inbetween helping my favorite team win the Superbowl and helping me find a heavenly sent parking spot at Walmart?

This is what I think his answer would be.  

You.  You are the subject of my love.  

You are the one I spent eternity dreaming about.  

Not for what you could do for me, but what you would be to me

And that baffles me.  That confounds every sensible and religious bone in my body.  My meritocraty, my earning God’s favor and blessing, all an unbearable chainsaw noise to the God who is screaming with the feriocity of His love.  “STOP, stop living a life in relation to me as one out of utility and become the subject of my love.”

And so the question begs, will I take my ear plugs out, turn off the buzz saw of my workings, doings and yearnings and listen? 

« Previous PageNext Page »