Excerpt from Where Was God...

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Excerpt from "Where Was God on the Worst Day of My Life

It was refreshing to see as she grew older how little time she wasted managing her image or pretending to be something she wasn't. She was learning to be who she was.

This is not insignificant. Becoming one's self is a task made massive by self-imposed and predetermined obstacles. Consider only the latter. Our mother, our body, our birthplace, our personality, our DNA is so far out of our control it can be easily assumed life is either a great joke or great gift. If it is a joke then none of this matters. If it is a gift, then there must be a giver. If there is a giver, there is someone who intentionally made us as who we are. If someone made us who we are then who we are is who we should be. It is enough. 

We are not conditioned to think this way. We are inclined to think we must become better, or purer, or different. Even religion (especially religion) can mislead us. My own particular tribe within Christianity, for instance, will routinely voice a prayer such as, "God help us to be like you." God doesn't need us to be like Him. It doesn't work anyhow. It doesn't matter how many times the prayer is repeated we will not be like him. 

Unless... we recognize the immense irony: God's Son became like us.

If you want to be like God... be yourself. 

Does God Suffer?

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Someone asked me recently if God suffers...

I'll never forget turning to be with our girl, our first child, for the first time. She was resting in the warming station. She had these immense coal-black eyes that would in a couple of hours turn cobalt, and in a couple of days would turn again into her signature color: undomesticated, pacific blue. I walked toward her, and she blinked, seemingly in slow motion, and when she did, it felt like my heart broke. I don't know how to explain it. I was in love. It was an overwhelming beauty that seemed to well up from some primal space within me. What can I say? I was exposed. I was vulnerable. Maybe my heart broke because I knew things could go horribly wrong, and if they did, if I lost this scrawny little, alien-eyed thing, my heart would be crushed. 

And maybe the reason I sigh when I lean against the windswept limber pine, right below the tree line, gazing across the Rocky Mountain canyon, to snow-capped peaks is that the beauty is overwhelming. How can I describe it? I feel, in those moments, exposed. I feel vulnerable. Maybe I sigh because I know things could go horribly wrong, and if they were to do so, if I lost the beauty of the mountains, my heart would be crushed. 

And maybe God, resting on the morning of the seventh day, watching the sunrises of a trillion galaxies, swept his gaze down upon the majestic land and waters of the earth, and then upon humanity and life. Maybe his heart broke at the overwhelming beauty. Maybe he reconsidered, for just a moment, why He was risking so much on love. How could we put this? Could we say, God may have felt exposed? Vulnerable? Maybe His heart broke because He knew things could go horribly wrong, and if they did, if He lost His creation, His children, His heart would be crushed. 

Does God suffer? Yes, I think He does.

The Best of Humanity

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I knew a girl
In a flash of a moment
Eyes burnishing
Was the best of humanity

The wound of her absence
Like a trail
Winds deep into the forest of my heart
God find me

Outside the world sighs
And breathes
Buys and sells
Bishops and kings

I float through their
Pointlessness
Endless climbing
Power schemes

But, I’ve already been there
Cobalt-royal moment
Eyes burnishing
The best of humanity

photo cred: marknagel.com

Love Theory

No Big Deal theory: if you don’t respond to God’s call, it’s not a big deal to God. He knew you weren’t going to respond. He already had everything figured out beforehand. If your response to God is no, then God just finds the next guy to fill in the gap, and then He's off to the next problem. God’s will can’t be altered, or changed, or defeated. 

Love theory: it’s potentially a very big deal when someone doesn’t respond to God. Our intentions and actions matter. When you don’t respond to love, then people are impacted negatively. When people are impacted negatively, God’s intention is altered, changed and yes, defeated. When people suffer, God suffers.

I’m a love theory guy. Love isn’t love if it’s controlling. God doesn’t control. He loves. With love randomness happens. It rains on the just and the unjust, but in the middle of all that rain, love is working. It’s creative, intelligent, and resourceful. When something bad goes down, love is with you. 

Your response to God matters. Don't delay. Move toward love as soon as you can. It will change the rest of your life.

 

Invent the Future

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The more we imagine a future full of self-sacrificing love, and non-violent relationships the more we'll pull that future into the present. It is a type of time travel! The future belongs to us. What our hearts are set on, what our minds think upon, what our prayers say reveals where our faith lies. Faith makes the things we hope for inevitable. The opposite, of course, is true as well. The more we imagine a future full of violence and domination the more we'll pull that future into the present. Choose your thoughts. Be intentional about what you dream. Pray with expectation. God invents history in interaction with those who will not give up. 

What If Everyone Knew They Were Already Loved?

LOVE-incarnate, on the cross, in vulnerability, is our salvation. The invitation of LOVE is to be human, to recognize, to embrace and authentically represent ourselves in all of our physical, emotional, mental complexity. To be who we are. God, in resurrection, validates the life Jesus lived. In doing so, He validates the life we all live. We are no longer slaves to trying, reaching, striving to become something we are not. We can live without hiding, without shame, and without fear. This is unbelievable news. What if everyone knew they were already loved?

Lose the Election/Win the War

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I've been watching Ken Burns' The Vietnam War on PBS. Last night I heard our president during the beginning stages of the war say, "We can't win this war, but if I pull out I can't win the next election." And so it goes (to quote Kurt Vonnegut). I know leaders from both sides of the aisle have made these kinds of decisions before, and will no doubt make them again. It was just a shock to actually hear our president say, out loud, that his strategy to win an election was to sacrifice young people in a war he knew we we're going to lose!

Sixty years later we are still feeling the effect. 

Contrast this to my president... Jesus. His approach was the opposite. In effect, He said, "I'm going to lay my life down, and wind up losing this election, but we're going to win the war." The people voted with hammer, nail, and cross, but somehow death and grave lost!

Two thousand years later and we're still feeling the effect! 

What Young People are Looking For

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It’s an acute kind of sickness that would cause those who rally around love to use the message in a way that would be unloving. I speculate it’s one of the largest contributing factors with young Americans currently moving to religions outside of Christianity. Young people have rightly deduced that America’s version of Christianity hasn't increased love in our world.

Consider our recent past. America, dehumanizing black people by way of mobs, lynchings, and scapegoating, sent young people across seas to fight and die over the way Nazis were dehumanizing Jews by way of… mobs, lynchings, and scapegoating. Am I suggesting it was wrong for us to defend the Jews? No. Though I am deeply conflicted about wars, in the end, I cannot make myself say it's wrong to fight on behalf of the oppressed. The actions and attitudes, in this case, of those in power in Germany were absurd and demonic. But, the point isn't to defend war but to name hypocrisy. While the actions and attitudes of those in power in Germany where absurd and demonic, so were the actions and attitudes of those in power in America. When you consider our collective religious conscious was informed by our interpretation of the Bible that has, as its central figure, Jesus, and, that our civil conscious was informed by the belief in “certain unalienable rights for all men” it may make our actions even more objectionable! We, who espouse grace, freedom, and inequality shipped our sons across seas for others, but back home we wouldn't walk them across tracks for others. In light of this, would it have been justifiable for the Allied forces to have invaded us to free black America?  

You may, if you've taken the time to read this far, be thinking that this is an overreaction, that what happened in WWII was a long time ago, that things are different now. Sigh. I don’t think so. I think the same kinds of comments and questions can be applied to Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Nicaragua, or all the wars going on in the Middle-East, and on and on. Those who call themselves Christians, in America, continue to misinterpret Biblical messages and themes. Blatantly.

The words of the Bible were never meant to be “weaponized.” 
The words of the Bible were meant to point to the Word: Jesus. 

Jesus is what the world needs. And not necessarily the Jesus the denomination, or Protestant, or Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox pushes. And certainly not the American, or Russian, or African, or fill the blank in, ______,  national Jesus. How about simply a brown-skinned, under resourced, humble, non-sanctioned Jesus? The one who lived for all people in such a way that led him to die for all people.

The kinds of things I am talking about here are the kinds of things I hear young people in my circle, and in the circles I travel in, talk about all of the time. In fact, I think this whole post may have been inspired by the image of the college age kids I saw talking, laughing, and posting pictures at church yesterday. I'm encouraged by these young adults. I pray for them. I'm thankful for them. They're open, optimistic, and willing to work for a better future. I think young people in America are looking for the same kinds of things young people have always looked for, which isn’t necessarily a radical reason to fight, but rather, a radical reason to live. Jesus embodies that reason. He embraces all. He gives up power. He challenges assumptions. He's infinitely interesting. He is love. He is life.