Walls.  They are all around us.  Some famous, some not.  Some of the more famous are the Great Wall of China and the Berlin Wall.  Some of the less famous walls are my backyard fence.  But all walls do the same thing.  Keep people out. Keep people at a distance.  But in the end walls keep me safe.

The Christian landscape is filled with walls.  Some are decorative thorn filled hedges called theology.  Some are a little more obvious like the brick walls of denominationalism.  But the truly flesh ripping coiled barbed wire wall of when someone leaves us.  Leaves our support group because they fell in love(even though we know they need more healing), leaves the tight knit group of office comrades to pursue a different job because of bigger dreams and goals(even though we know he will be disappointed with his new job), or leaves our church.

When someone leaves us, the first human reaction is to protect.  To protect ourselves and those around us.  The most obvious way to protect is to build a wall.  Walls of isolation and disconnection.

Jesus speaks about walls I believe in his discussion with Nicodemus.  Nicodemus is dumbfounded at the teaching of Jesus that one would have to be reborn.  Reborn?  Come on Nicodemus would retort.  Impossible!  Not even close to reality.  You can’t fit a grown man into the womb again.  It is simply preposterous talk.

Yet Jesus does not back away from his statement.  He then brings the picture of the wind and says “You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that.  You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it’s headed next.”

We along with Nicodemus, start with the visible and try to move to the invisible.  Jesus asks us to start with the invisible and have the invisible move us to the visible.

When we start with the visible, things just don’t make sense.  The folks that have just left the church have hurt us and damaged my feelings.  My work companion has just abandoned me to pursue his dreams.  So the walls of resentment, abandonment and hopelessness get erected.  And we, just like Nicodemus say, we don’t get it, we don’t understand.  And to understand the circumstances in any other way is impossible.

Then tucked in and fortified behind our newly constructed emotional walls of defense we feel something against our face.  It is the wind.  The breeze grazes our skin in a way of refreshment and hope.  In the breeze there is the aroma of love and mercy.  So we are compelled to find its source. To search for the invisible source of life.  So we stumble from our crumpled state and take a brick or two from the wall.  We see nothing.  But the wind is getting stronger.  So we remove some more bricks.  By now we clearly see that the breeze has turned into a wind and has turned from coming over the wall to now almost pushing the wall over.  And as the invisible source of power and my visible hands work together in a heaven and earth symphony, my wall comes tumbling down.

What do I see?  I see my friends who just left the church.  Their faces look wind whipped and red as well.  They stand before a rubble of wall as well, but the rubble is from their wall and not mine.  We both stumble across the strewn emotional wreckage of rock, brick and stone looking for the source of the wind.  It is there in the midst of fallen walls and broken dreams, where their wall and mine are so intermixed that to set clear lines is now impossible.

The unseen wind has moved us from the invisible to the visible.

Clearly set walls and lines, clearly crumbled.

The wind moves freely in whatever way He wants.

And there, somehow, to bring togetherness; amidst ruin, chaos,and…

Wait, the gentle breeze is rising again…

I have decided that I need some structure to this wet noodle of a blog.  So today is officially coined Mantra Monday.  Radio stations have the quippy Free Song Friday’s, Drive at 5, so now I will have Mantra Monday.

Now mantra may scare some.  Let’s go to the good ole Websters to see what mantra means.

1.A sacred verbal formula repeated in prayer, meditation, or incantation, such as an invocation of a god, a magic spell, or a syllable or portion of scripture containing mystical potentialities.

2. A commonly repeated word or phrase:

Well, the first definition sounds like it comes straight out of a Harry Potter novel or Lord of the Rings.  I can see Saurmon with eyes rolled in the back of his head, his slender tenderals of fingers gliding over the Palantir (crystal ball for those non-LOTR fans) and repeating some mantra of sorts to bring all sorts of evil and vice into the world of the Fellowship of the Ring.  I think this magical view of mantra is what may cause some to take pause.  Thus I would like to move to the 2nd definition to help to provide a better working definition of mantra.

My view of mantra is likely more of the 2nd definition.  A commonly repeated word or phrase.  Something repeated until it is stamped into my pysche.  Repeat it until you get it.  Not get it in my mind, but get it deep within me.  So deep that it becomes part of me.  Part of who I am, part of why I act.

So with that…

Here is today’s.  It comes from John Dominic Crossan’s book The Essential Jesus.

“Enter the Kingdom

Become a Child


Become a Child

Enter the Kingdom”

I was reading Will Durant’s book The Life of Greece.  I came across an arresting quote that reflects to me some of the themes we are seeing in America today.  Some of the statements are eerie and could be taken out of any newspaper today.

“We have tried to show that the essential cause of the Roman conquest of Greece was the disintegration of Greek civilization from within.  No great nation is ever conquered until it has destroyed itself. Deforestation and the abuse of the soil, the depletion of precious metals, the migration of trade routes, the disturbance of economic life by political disorder, the corruption of democracy and degeneration of dynasties, the decay of morals and patriotism, the decline or deterioration of the population, the replacement of citizen armies by mercenary troops, the human and physical waste of fratricidal war, the guillotining of ability by murderous revolutions and counterrevolutions.”

Sounds eerily familiar?  I would like to numerate the above and provide the modern day equivalent for today in the civilization of America.

1. “Deforestation and abuse of the soil”

WHEN SOIL GOES “MONO”

Nowadays, however, many farmers do things differently. They practice monoculture, planting the same crop year after year. Doing so may help the farmer survive economically, but it takes a heavy toll on the soil. Soil degradation may result.

Without natural ways of replenishing soil nutrients, farmers grow increasingly dependent on chemical fertilizers. These fertilizers can increase crop yields, but they affect the soil food web. Over time, the microorganisms become depleted and soil loses its vitality and is no longer full of life.

Something else happens too. Lacking microbes to create tiny waterways and organic matter that binds soil together, the soil becomes less porous, and more water runs off the surface. So some farmers need to use more irrigation water for their crops.

Problem is, irrigated land is often prone to salinization. Unlike rainwater, irrigation water contains salts and leaves salt deposits behind when it evaporates. The amount of salt that is left on the soil may be modest at first, but it builds. Once the land becomes too salty, growing anything on it is almost impossible. Ancient civilizations such as Mesopotamia disappeared in large part because their farmland contained too much salt.

2.  “the depletion of precious metals”

Off shore drilling.  See Restoring Eden for an active campaign.

3. “the migration of trade routes”

Need we all recognize that China is stepping forward as one of the world’s main trading partners and globalization is taking America from being the center stage of trade.

4. “the disturbance of economic life by political disorder, the corruption of democracy and degeneration of dynasties”

Political Disorder: Partisan politics, right wing vs left wing, christian fundamentalism vs liberal media, disorder is everywhere.

Corruption: Larry Craig and bathroom shenanigans, Oval office trysts, Exxon, corporate backscratching and cover ups to keep the financial system the right side up with the rich getting richer.

Dynasties: The Bushes, The Clintons, The New York Yankees.  All names that bring a sour, been there done that look.

5. “the decay of morals and patriotism, the decline or deterioration of the population”

Did you know Americans have lost 2.84 trillion dollars in equity.  That is $2,840,000,000.00 in lost money.  This will likely result in more unscrupulous behavior, more shady business practices and more cut throat capitalism to gain back some of that lost equity.  More than we know morals and money are very closely linked.

6. “the replacement of citizen armies by mercenary troops”

Now this one is easy… can anyone say Blackwater.  Modern day mercenaries who are not responsible to any governing authority or discipline.  Interesting.

7. “the human and physical waste of fratricidal war”

Now I am not going to talk about the current wars, but rather focus on the other invisible wars that exist in our civilization.  Drug war, sex trade war, child abuse war.  These wars are real, are happening in our cities and are sucking the life out of us.

8. “the guillotining of ability by murderous revolutions and counterrevoltions”

Ability today is still hamstrung by race, religion, sex and politics.

SO THERE WE HAVE IT.

The American kingdom is not much different than that of ancient Greece.  And the simple question is…

Anyone ready for a new Kingdom?  And a new King?  I sure am…

I just travelled through the Canadian Rockies and I forgot how majestic and magnificient they are.  They truly are a reminder to the glory and goodness of God.

Just before the trip I shared a campfire with Peter Illyn, from Restoring Eden, and he shared his passion of God’s good earth.  Peter is a rugged, funny and  a straight shooter.  He shared his simple love and care for God’s good earth.  I was astounded at the care he had for God’s creation.  His sharing was simple.

God’s creation is a good creation.

We are stewards of a good creation.

We should be good stewards, not ignorant ones.

The above cartoon makes light of many evangelical views of creation and environmentalism.  Funny thing is that one of God’s first commandments to Adam was to take care of the earth.  After my trip to Banff and Lake Louise, I am reminded of the goodness of God’s creation and the wonder of the creator.

(and yes my eyes are closed, but I could not pass up the great picture)

Soothing melodic sounds interrupt my zen like sleep.

My eyes open, I curl over and struggle to find the snooze button.  PRESS HERE, to sleep for 8 more minutes…

I just need a little more sleep.  Then I will be ready for the day…

7:06, 7:07, 7:08 then again… smooth melodies ring out.

My mind justifies, ‘Just 8 more minutes…’  Instinctually, I reach out, PRESS HERE, ahhh quiet, peace and rest again.  My mind is quiet, my body is at rest, I am still…

Again, and again my robotic hand that retreats from the reality of time reaches out to PRESS HERE, to snooze, to rest, to ignore.

So I PRESS HERE to hide from the realities of what not yet is today.

The homeless man I see standing on the same corner again…  I PRESS HERE and snooze and escape from reality that the home I go to he does not even dream of, cause all he dreams of is a full stomach.

The single mother who tries to be everything she needs to be; provider, care giver, homemaker.  Who cries herself to sleep every night from the loneliness she feels from sleeping in an empty bed each night.  PRESS HERE says she can make it, life is hard but through hard work and persistence she can make right choices.

So what makes this morning different?

Today I will be AWAKE!

I will engage the full realities of the falleness of man.

I will be AWAKE,

to the creation that groans from abuse of consumption culture.

I will be AWAKE,

to the divisions that liter our families, churches and government.

I will be AWAKE,

to the reality of suffering, death, loneliness and depression.

I WILL BE ALIVE TODAY!

I will not PRESS HERE and sleep in the false notions of peace and quiet, amid non-reality, false truths and convenient excuses.

And that makes today different.

So when the alarm of life goes off around me today, I will choose wake up and engage.

Romans 13:11 And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit”

This beatitude never sat well with me, or maybe sat with me too long. Sorta like good ole’ corn on the cob. You eat it at dinner and you are still picking pieces out of your teeth days later. Well I think I picked out something else.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit” for they are the Ones who live as though they have nothing to lose.

As I begin to ponder this description of what the Lord’s life is I realize I have no idea what it means to live as though I have nothing to lose.

But one thing I have determined is that living with nothing to lose has to do with position. Were do I stand in relation to things? Do I stand higher or lower?

The Franciscan’s call them selves OFM. Order of the Friars Minor. A modern day translation of this according to Richard Rohr is Brother of the Lower Class. At our last church meeting we were talking living with losing in mind. We talked about what difference it would make if we started signing our names with the designation BLC, Brothers of the Lower Class.

Designations and credentials are all around us. They usually only point in one direction. Upwards, achievement, success, attainment. We see then and use them as sign posts to define the activity of a persons life.

Here are some of the more common; PhD, MD, Pres, CPA, BA, MDiv and my personal favorite is AAMG (Accredited Asset Management Guru. Who doesn’t want to be a guru?)

Funny how these designations and credentials below just haven’t caught on:

PAOW-Poor and on welfare

ATEOMR-At The End Of My Rope

FA-Failed Again

MWIFA-My World is Falling Apart

CTL-Choosing to Lose

PIK-Powerlessness is Key

So I wonder what would happen to our position if we started signing our names with the reality of where we are. BLC and SLC’s, Brothers and sisters of the Lower Class. To identify with Downwards instead of Upwards, Failure instead of achievement, Emptying instead of Attainment, Poverty instead of Success.

Out of our identity will flow all of our identifiable actions.

So I challenge you, the next time you sign your name on your check at the supermarket, add your God given designation, Brothers and Sisters of the Lower Class, BLC’s and SLC’s.

Signed,

Kevin Hiebert, BLC in training

This past week before Mother’s Day I was listening to the radioand I heard a local jewerly company’s radio ad. The announcer in a great, booming radio voice projects accross the airwaves… “And this Mother’s Day give her what she has always wanted, give her a Rolex.” A Rolex. Really? Now unless my mother is related to Snoop Dog, (which I can clearly attest that she isn’t), I don’t think a Rolex is really the gift for her.

I want to understand who the advertising execs were who crafted this fine Mother’s day slogan. Now advertising folks are no dummies. They know what sells. And I guess today Rolex for Mother’s day sells. Gone are the days of Mother’s wanting flowers, cards and breakfast in bed.

What does this scream about our culture? About our materialism? About our greed? When my mother is being tempted by a Rolex for her special day, what material tempation is knocking at my front door? What package will this world system take today to induce me into slumber?

Remember, today, there are children and people who are trapped alive in China. As I sit here in my comfortable coffee shop. There are people, real, actual people who are in rubble, dying, bleeding…

I know one thing… that they are not thinking of Rolex’s, they are thinking about living or dying.

Lord, help those people and help me to see the living and dying happening all around me.