Saturday, June 27, 2009

Modern psalm of the week

Psalm to my Lord from my Front Lawn

I planted last fall the grass seed mix with faith
in water, sun and soil . I hope to see the unseen
seeds sprout in this year's Spring. It has
appeared. It has taken root and mingles
with three leafed microclover. Taking a blade
in one hand, and a three winged leaf
of clover in the other, I lounge with my soul.
I look to our newest friend, a young oak we just
added. The newness of life fills me with longing for

Sweet Lord, who moves in the wind,
who moves me beyond my smallness,
makes me take notice of others in love,
to take notice of the young
couple living to my left raising their first
boy, not even one. Our boys , both babies now,
will grow up together. To my right, a man,
barely into his twenty, drinks the poison
of fun, parties and rootlessness. Without
aim, he finds purpose in a case of malted
mash, and cheap beer. Behind me, my family,
the gift of being alive, my baby boy discovering
the sweet taste of milk and Moma's voice.
He has learn to cry at the prospect
of sleep. Why sleep when life awaits,
demands to be experienced?

He sings the song of creation in his voice,
He will soon grab a handful of grass and clover.
For now I bring him a clover to smell,
he laughs and smiles. St Patrick would understand.
Today, my baby discovers a new smell.
Today, people fight for their freedom in Iran,
people mourn the death of Michael Jackson.
Today, we will share dinner with friends. Today,
we will place ancient flagstone of coppers red
and earthen browns on the side of our house
and plant creeping thyme to fill the spaces
between to stones. Today, I will sing
praises to my Lord.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A poem of a post

Love Transcends Self
Why I believe in Jesus
a poem

Reason slaps imagination, as imagination is shackled to make-believe.
Yet, reason ungrounded walks in jackboots demanding papers. And

what to do with memory? Does the beating I took for my defiance
at refusing to eating spinach nails me to a personality of martyrdom? Forever

asking the world to answer injustices. I imagine the three year old I was.
Pleading for understanding as his father strikes to the rhythm for "be

a good boy." It has been forty years, get over it. Memory acts
as counterrevolutionary sentencing the future to the doom of repeating

patterns of the past. The funnel cloud of the mind lays waste to the mind.
Through the dark crevices of the mind, the rabbit chases the shadow of self,
multiplying the doubts, and gnawing the green leafs and the budding flowers


Then, as if by spring, the mind empties. The name of God wells up
from the depths and breaths into the nostrils. The logs from the eyes

fall, and see a baby with wide blue eyes. Empty beyond the point
of myself, I can begin to see beyond my own ideas, and begin to see

clearly. God is real for no other reason that God is real, real in the running
water, real in the touching of live skin, real beyond the way I name

the world. Overcome, not by a vision, but by reality, the mind drops
ideas and love washes away the illusions. And Jesus is present in the living
of life, and in the living water, and in the living word. In the Beginning ...

Monday, June 22, 2009

Jon and Kate Gosslin, the trap of fame, and freedom

Locating freedom in action leaves the individual unchanged; the individual trapped by personal history, and a self constructed by the past or desires. Manny, indeed most of us, recognizes that the self defined either by desires, the past or both will lead to a shallow life. Take a look at reality TV. Hasn't become a collection of hubris punctuated by justification? Jon and Kate Gosselin protest that they are parading their lives in front of the camera for the kids; fame and fortune are the not the reason, they claim. Too bad that shame in not a product placement. It is also sad to see the Gosselin in prison of their own making, trap by their own personas warped by their desires, their pasts and their delusions. They are neither tragic nor comic but trap in a puragtory between the tragic and comic. They are all too human.

The problem of living in a consumer culture, which forces us to turn ourselves into products on a grocery shelf, no better than toothpaste, becomes more toxic when we try to understand freedom as an action. We are force to sell ourselves in almost all human encounters, and then at the same time, any challenge to our desires is view as oppression. One needs to be desired in order to get what one desires. The trap is sprung. We are left thinking of own branding, of marketing our being, afraid of the other. Is it any wonder we value authenticity in such a false desert. We are called to define the self by one of three things: by what others say, which we must guard like a marketing director, by what we have, which announces that we have freedom, because we gotten what we want, and by our control over others, as in a competitive world one controls or is controlled. And such is our freedom, such is the way we define the self, such as the way we lack any true freedom as we are being defined by our a false self.

Christianity differs in its view of freedom in that freedom comes from a radical reordering of the self. Jesus was misunderstood by the way he called for his followers to be born again. In the third chapter of John's Gospel he converses with Nicodemus about this topic. In the very next chapter, he encounters the woman at the well. The woman then under goes this very rebirth. No longer just the disgraced woman of the town, she leads the town bay to Jesus. Freedom then comes from love and relationship to the Divine. She is transformed and no longer her false self. If there is no transcending of the self, then freedom is but an idea, hope or prison.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Freedom One tweet at a time: Iran and the fight for freedom

Freedom, the word calls out into the dark night of man's soul. Like the thousands fighting for their freedom in Iran today, freedom makes men demand truth, truth despite being misled in cloak of lies, truth in having their lives honored. They are now using the tools of twitter, blogs, and Facebook. They are gathering one tweet at a time. What is the freedom they are fighting for?

As said in the my last post, freedom tied to ones desires actually enslaves us. Then what frees us? The road to freedom begins with love and respecting the dignity of the other. When the government of Iran, feeling they were going to lose control, betrayed what they said they believe and made a sham of the elections with voter scams, they violated the integrity of the people, and are now paying the price; the price will be paid even if they crack down on the protesters. If they hold on to power, they do so only out of fear and blindness. They will fail. For to base power on fear corrupts the soul, draining life out of man. Dictators may hold onto power, but they do so only by being warped beyond being human.

I understand the current struggle through my own faith. There is a reason why Jesus refused political power, real power finds expression in the transformation of the spirit of man. He is about changing the heart of man, not the controlling of man. Christian freedom comes from living life in love and with a purpose. The Great Commission is a gift, because it gives us meaning, insight, and purpose to our lives. We have read it as a chore to perform, and yet what does it call us to do, but love our fellow humans in the name of Jesus, making us closer to God and our fellow human beings. Is it not a gift to live a life full of love. Support those who are rising up against the tyrants by honoring them. Here is a good resource for help online.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Freedom is another word for nothing else to lost

We are slaves to freedom. John went to live in Vail after college in the mid-eighties. When I met him, he was in his second decade in Vail, still skiing, still waiting tables, still scamming on women after a late night of drinking. We worked together as waiters at a restaurant in Vail, the defunct Dancing Bear. John turned to me and said he heard I was a Christian. Yes, I answered. He said he could never be a Christian as he loved his freedom too much. He was in his early thirties, alone, and as a ski bum, with few prospects for a future. I asked him what freedom meant to him. The conversation then staled as the lunch rush started. Ten years later, and I still wonder what became of John. If he was still free in his prison?

Ever since the French Revolution, freedom has been defined by action; freedom from oppression meant no external force should constrict our actions; freedom to do meant we chose our own actions. Liberation and hedonism are the twin Gods of freedom. Down with the tyrant, overthrow the dictator, power to the rebel become slogans to relate to Government, Church, Parents, and anyone who would restrict our actions. Teenage rebellion has become a rite of passage. The other person became the limit of our freedom. Advertisers have learn to manipulate us by appealing to this freedom, freedom being expressed by buying their products, by being blind to their control. How many CDs has Marilyn Manson sold by plugging into this ethos? Irony drips from the fangs; freedom makes plump turkeys to be plucked by the latest fade promising to liberate us. Freedom construction as action imprison us.

From the vantage of freedom in action, anyone who restricts our freedom is by nature a limit on our freedom. So, where does it leave the individual? If the other limits our freedom, then the other enslave us. Jean Paul Sartre, the radical prophet of this freedom, rejected God and also is famous for his quote in No Exit, "...hell is other people" Sartre was logically consistent. If he embraces freedom of action, then he must reject God, and view others with, at the very least, suspicion. This freedom reduces, indeed, eliminates the possibility of Love. Is it any wonder that we, in the western world lead rootless lives defined by a certain vacuum-like existence; the vacuum sucking out everything but our latest technological toys. "I do what I want." "You are not the boss of me."

Jesus promise freedom. Certainly, he meant something beyond the storming of the bastille, violence to all who would restrict us, I-do-what-I-want type of freedom. Looking into the eyes of my new son, I experience freedom. Freedom beyond action, as I can tell you that in the middle of the night, his cries of hunger cuts against my wanting to sleep. I answer his call, and feed him. My wife has had her freedom in action limited by our baby. Yet, she has been liberated by loving our son. Jesus looks beyond action and transforms the person. The most profound question one can asks about freedom is who is the one doing the choosing. If the self is defined by desires, then freedom can only in be enslaving.

Freedom can be understood beyond action and though of as ontological. Such a freedom comes from the social understanding. Freedom coming from being known and knowing a community. Such freedom comes closer to what Jesus meant. We know this freedom when we first taste love. We see the object of our love and we are overwhelmed, and yet we are free. When I see my wife and the baby together, I not only understand this freedom, I live it. Such freedom is immune to manipulation. It is like the light at the center of our being. Hell ceases to be the other, and the other becomes the very expression of freedom. While this is much closer to what Jesus promises, there is still a way to go to get the full understanding of what Jesus means about the truth setting us free. Next, Christian freedom.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Poem about the new atheists

I found it fun to write this poem.

The Adventures of Don Sam Harris

Don Sam Harris and his merry band of atheists
went out to battle the windmills of faith.
"Sir Dawkins, Sir Hitchens, Sir Dennett let us
go forth and fight dragons of mankind. We
will lead man to a new golden age, free
from intolerant fools of religion. To those clowns
of bygone beliefs, we will teach to be free,
and if they reject us, we shall lock them
up as child abusers. Such is our mission
of enlightenment."

On went the shield of reason, strapped to the bottom
their feet, making it hard to walk or ride. On went
the sword of science, strapped to their bosom chest,
poking them as the moved. They grabbed the helmet
of condescending righteousness to swing wildly
at their enemies, the windmills, shouting,
"Die, Dragons, die!! You have blown too much fire
at us." Yea, did they find followers
as the land was full of fear. The band spoke,
and declared, "We will say to all
who believe not as we, 'You are delusional, victims
of vile mental disease, and knowers not of reason.'"

So, they went onward into the promised land
of New York Time's bestseller lists. They found
places to speak on talk shows, on cable TV,
and Youtube, though they stumble as their shield
of reason is hard to walk on, for it was made
for other uses. If any who saw their stumble,
and pointed this out, Don Sam Harris cried,
"Persecutor, you dare question our evidence.
You have shown to be a fool, or worse
a religious moderate. Why attack us? Do you
fear reason?"

And Don Harris and his band
grew rich with websites, debates and conferences.
But unhappy they were, as the world continued
to prayed, and believed as before. To the fact
that most people of faith did not do
evil as predicted, the band of atheists
said, "They know not what they believe,
as if they did, they would kill and be evil
for religion is evil, pure and simple."

They continue to fling around their helmets
of condescension even unto this day
The windmills, powered by the wind
keep turning, unaware of being thought
as being dragons. Oh, to return
to the land of bestsellers, maybe Sir
Dawkins, as he writes his Children books,
or Don Sam Harris and his Reason
Project. Oh where, oh where are you
Sancho Panza? When will our bellies be full?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Samuel Wells, Man's nature and Christian Anthropology

The song goes, "Were you there when they crucified my Lord?" The implied answer is yes and I was with the crowd chanting for blood, an answer rooted in Christian anthropology.

Recently, I heard a sermon by Duke Chapel's Rev Samuel Wells, What's wrong with God? (for video), which provoked my thinking about Christian anthropology. For those who haven't heard Sam Wells before, listening to one of his sermons is like eating balanced meal; it leaves you feel full and healthy.

What I like about his style is how he can simplify concepts without dumbing them down. In this sermon, he breaks down why people have trouble with faith in Jesus into three problems. Jesus seems far away in time. Jesus seem far away in space. And Jesus seems so different from us; he is just too darn good for people who just are so mean and hateful as we are. It is the last one that made me think about the nature of man.

I cannot be certain, but I think most of us understand that we are mean and selfish in our core. We jump back in horror from the word sin not because it insults, but because it reveals the truth about us. Most of us carry around resentments directed at our parents, unwilling to forgive them, even to the point of poisoning our own lives, repeating the cycle for our children. The sins of the father visits the children for three generations, and we all know that we have the destructive patterns in our life. Such basic understanding about ourselves should gives us a small dose of humility, yet it becomes a source of pride, pride being a certainty in our own rightness.

I can be right or I can have love. These two push each other out, and only one can have space in our hearts. I, in most cases, chose being right, and that is my sin. For to be right, I commit the sin of trying to be God,with an understanding of God as control. God as love is very far away. In closing his sermon, Rev Wells made the case for the Holy Spirit transcending sin and making Jesus present in our lives. The Holy Spirit forges us out of the individual rightness and into a community of love. We can transcend our own nastiness with the help of Jesus. This is the good news of the Gospel.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Prayer, life, illusion and God's leading.

Why is it that we hate the work of the gardener, though we love the taste of fruit? God, the gardener of faith, moves us into the wilderness at times. We despise time in the desert. It makes us wanderers, having to trust God. We—drinking our own ideas—love our spiritual life to be like a perpetual flowering garden, our prayers full of fruit, and being surrounded by the green of spring. Yet, like a brooding Dane, we find our prayer not to be the way we wanted it, but at times landing on dry rocky soil, to sting us with doubt, and to make our eyes burning with tears. Time, change and process choke out our ideas of God, choke out our fantasies about God, and makes us look into the mirror. Is it more noble to suffer these darts of dryness? To face our weakness? Or do we run headfirst into the sea of our outragous illusions? Prayer in the lifeless part if life draws us toward God, even as we feel alone. Like ground be prepared for planting, our assumptions get broken by a plow of truth. Weeds need to be pulled. Lving water needs to be added. The seeds of love need to crack and die. This is when we run away from prayer, and when we need prayer the most. The garden will return with new fruit, for it has been promised. The soil, dry and seemly lifeless, will return to green. Worms will break down rock, and a mustered seed will grow. Such is the poetry of prayer born in the trust of God.


Lord of my strength, break the soil
of my hard heart and make my feet
as springs on a deer. Leave me not

in the shadows of the cliffs,
but let my heart leap into tops
of mountains. Let me be with the people,

and be with me in my loneliness,
making your love flow through
the pours of my skin to who have breath.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Faith, righteousness, and human condition

Faith, indeed, makes a man; a man mirrors where he directs his faith. Most often man wants to be right and have his faith in being right. He then attaches his rightness to God, peace, freedom, science or his favorite football team. Make no mistake, his faith is in his being right, and not in what he proclaims as his faith. He loves himself and could care less about God, peace, freedom, science or his favorite football team. Does this faith constitute the human condition? Man capacity for self-delusion springs from his desires to be right; call this the human condition. Call it sin. Call it inauthenticity. Call it living. None of us are beyond justifying, beyond blinding ourselves with our own opinions. To be a true Christian is to be intimate with this weakness; a weakness brought out by pretending to be God.

Faith in a loving God then forces to see our own delusions for what they are, delusions. Faith in our own rightness kills us, and as rightness manifests itself in hate, it acts out violently toward the other, if the other challenges our rightness. Faith in God calls us to confront our own nastiness and transend it. If prayer simple affirms ones thoughts, then it lacks what it needs to be prayer, and becomes vainglory. One who prays and is never challenged, is praying to oneself, a good way to avoid God. Prayer to Jesus illuminates the fact we have left people in our lives unforgiven, that we do not love our neighbor and enemy. Do unto others and then spilt is funny because it reveals the truth of man. Man loves to be right.

The reality is that most of us lack faith in what we profess and have more faith in ourselves. I am certainly guilty of this, and need to transend my own vainglory.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

My Wife's birthday, Lectio Devina, and waiting

Next Sunday is my wife's birthday. I love my wife's birthday as I am reminded to celebrate her existence beyond any accomplishments. We can rejoice in her being alive. In my time of prayer, I meditated on the nature of waiting. I had paused on the words in Hebrews 9.28. Those who wait on the Lord made itself home in my mind. I kept thinking about God and time. My wife and I took our time to get to the altar. Couples met, married and had children before we finally traded vows. We did get there and declared our love before our community and our God. I remember the day, my joy, the way my wife looked as she walk down the isle, the car ride in a friend's '72 Cadillac. It took us to four years to get there.

In the first part of the verse, Jesus comes a first time for our sin and then he comes a second time for our salvation. I think that this is also a pattern or structure of life. First, we must confront our sin, pick up our cross, look hard at our own nastiness. Next comes our salvation, or joy. I had to wait to be in our day of celebration., because of some unresolved sin. Jesus purifies in a hot fire. Now, I have a son. What I am to say about waiting? I have been waiting all of my life for my family. I have been waiting for all my life for the abundant life. I have been waiting for all my life for Salvation.

Hebrews 9.28 made me think that waiting on the Lord is accepting what is here in present in full anticipation of the promised future. I wait as I am in the presence of my life with my son and wife as I wait. I am in the presence of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Being in God's presence is Salvation. Salvation is being connected to God and life. Come, Lord Jesus come.

Monday, June 1, 2009

I and Thou, The twofold world, The nature of Love

The mystery and nature of love surrounds us. Wonder fills me. Martin Buber's I and Thou begins by declaring that the world is twofold.When there is a deep connection between the other and man, the divine is present, I-thou. When man sees the other as an object, than the world is perceived as I-It. I looked into the eyes of my baby boy, and I understood God. God beyond our ideas of God. The God that is love touched me. I have no idea of how long we looked into each others' eyes. The moment was real. When Buber wrote that in I and Thou, the other fills our being, I thought it was poetry and not reality. I was wrong. It is poetry and real. I look into my sons eyes and I experience my son as filling my whole being. Yet, there is a mutual emptying out of ourselves in love. I know this is grace, for if I try to recreate it, it will slip from my hands. Any attempt to control it jerks me back into the world of I-it. The world of thou occurs as a revelation. It can only be expressed dimly through poetry. Like a
kaleidescope, the shapes turn within our minds and we are dazzled by color, shape, and wonder. Revelation unfolds its red petals in the light of awareness. It follows the sun as a yellow sunflower. Faith becomes a guiding hand. It is as real as any experience; it just moves beyond language, shattering words as drops of rain hitting the nakedness of reality.

God's hand caresses us even in our unawareness. Grace is the only word we have for it. I gaze into the eyes of my son, and Jesus touches me. Ask me for proof, and I can only give you poetry. Such is the nature of love. And why we write poetry.