A Wet Blanket & Freedom

If I’m not careful, and sometimes regardless, I give in to wickedness that covers me like a wet blanket I mistakingly think will keep me warm. Freedom from the cold weight comes when I realize even though I harbor and perpetuate, evil doesn’t originate with me, it’s in the cultural air I breath. Then I begin to feel relief. This, I am coming to know, Jesus teaches and embodies.

Now to give into love and nothing else. And change the culture. That too, I seem to be learning from the Human One.

A Place Here

Everything happens here.

While it’s true things happen over there too, someone is already occupying that spot. I’m physically here instead. Even Jesus was in one place and time when on earth, at least before his body was resurrected. But neither you or I have one of those yet. He just moved really fast and would suddenly appear or disappear, but I digress.

It’s important to care about “over there” since what happens there affects over here. But not just for my sake. It’s important because it’s happening at all, whatever it is. Justice is justice and anything else is not. I like to play like it doesn’t matter, when it’s “over there” or even here for that matter, but that doesn’t change its wrong and right.

In my world, everything happens here. What I eat and drink comes from or ends up here and sometimes it’s a little of both. What I wear I’ve purchased here or has been delivered to my doorstep. How I get around happens here too, whether in a ton of material and some oil and gasoline, or on a much lighter and more agile metal frame with two wheels, or on my feet in sandals designed hundreds of miles from here near a Southern California beach and made in–well, in who knows where? But I think that’s part of the point.

And there are other people here, too. Quite a few actually. So we interact in the same place, minimizing or maximizing our interaction. We share the same roads, similar vantage point, perhaps the same restaurant and coffeehouse. Sometimes we share the same living room, kitchen, and bathroom. Not always in the exact same place, but like the bathroom, if you’re there I’m most likely not, however I’m nearby and will surely use it later. Either way, I’m here and so are others. And for me that place is Sacramento, Midtown to be exact. So what others do here matters; what others don’t do matters still.

Whatever we do, we’re doing it from here. Will our interactions bless or do good for others including ourselves in this place? Will our behavior slowly estrange us from our neighbor and cause community dissension and bad situations to continue?

What we do may be significant to this place in our community next. The same goes for what we won’t do.

Because everything happens here.

“Good” Friday: The Machine and Someone

On a Friday, a long time ago, evil overcame goodness. As you can imagine it was brutal.

Evil was a machine that kept churning and spinning, with no one seemingly willing or even able to stop it. Like a woodchipper pulling in a single branch only to spit wood out to the air in a million pieces, ready for the next object to enter its mouth.

But the machine cannot operate by itself. Someone has to do maintenance. Someone has to make sure the parts are in working order. The wheels have to be greased, so to speak. It needs to be well-oiled.

The machine also needs food. Someone has to offer it material to crush and split. Someone has to stand at the ready, giving the machine more matter to destroy.

It was a stormy day. I stood by as I watched, simultaneously willingly and yet against my own desire participating in the destruction. A dirty, oiled rag hung from my pocket, my hands held the limb in place.

The machine was primed and pumped. The machine received its feeding.

Someone died, gasped their last breath. The machine purred to an idle.

Relent: Simplify

A(nother) Lenten thought:

Simplify.

We live in a world (those in the “1st world” anyway) that seems to value quantity over quality, busyness as a marker of success, and doing more as a means to being more or being better or even being a good follower of God.

But Jesus lived an intentional, slowed-down, your identity as well as your neighbor is one of already being a child of God life.

May we free each other to be who God created us to be. Breathe in God’s graceful presence this day, and every day. Your identity is good, return to it.

Live simply.

Relent: I’m Giving In

Relent. This is what I’m telling myself these days.

As Florence and her machine (Florence + the Machine) sing so beautifully in their lenten-like song Never Let Me Go: “I’m not giving up, I’m just giving in.”

To be clear.
This does not mean oppression does not matter.
This does not mean sin is just accepted.

Giving in, instead, means someone else does not rule my life.
Giving in means something else, like money and power, does not own me.
Giving in is the way to freedom, to security, and to peace. This is the way of Jesus’s cross.

So I am relenting to the knowledge that I am beautifully and wonderfully made.
So I am relenting to be a small, but meaningful part of the whole.
So I am relenting to needing others in my life.
So I am relenting to trust God with every moment.
So I am relenting to hope, that good will overturn the bad.

I readily relent because Jesus has gone to the lowest low, taking on the role of slave/servant, coming alongside others and caring deeply for their being.

Yes, this Lent I am relenting. But I’m not giving up, I’m just giving in.

Marriage = Equal Partnership

There is a thought and belief going around, mainly among Christians, that is very destructive.

I normally don’t make definitive statements, but I have to about this: Men and women are created equal. Marriage is a partnership, in every sense of that word.

Last week Mark and Grace Driscoll – Pastor Mark is very influential in some circles of Christianity – came to Sacramento to share their thoughts on marriage, love and sex from what they consider the Biblical perspective. While we need to talk about sex, to destigmatize so love-making is not gross and to keep it beautiful so it doesn’t turn into a god, their understanding of the roles of men and women are actually harmful. They are not alone in this belief about marriage and the role of husband and wife. I used to believe this too, but I do not anymore. Many have a particular understanding of some passages of scripture (let alone the way God’s Word – bible here – is to be interacted with) and how we are created as men and women. But these unique roles are actually based in “the world” and not in Jesus Christ.

There’s much written about marriage and men and women in the Bible. I’ll address just a couple of them, but it gets to the heart of the matter, the essence of the Gospel in a world and culture that can strangle the life out of people.

Paul and others wrote the pastoral letters – books written to specific churches in the First CE. In Ephesians and Colossians, typical Roman “household codes” in the description of Christian life are addressed. Both letters address marriage roles for men and women in slightly different ways but both are counter-cultural in a society where men basically owned women in marriage. Paul may have left a “leadership” role for men intact, but the pervasive notion of submitting and love from both husband and wife stand out in his teaching. There’s nothing about how they are created differently, with men in a more powerful position and women as the “weaker sex.” To do that would actually reflect this particular ancient cultural norm Paul was combating!

The problem with reaching for standardized “leadership” roles for men and women from a Christian perspective is that this measure is actually based upon oppressive cultural mores and not Jesus’ gospel. We are all to be respected. We are all to be loved. Equally.

God has created both male and female, but in Christ we are one. To quote another piece of Christian scripture which highlights our equality in God, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

This is freedom. We, men and women (including those who “blur” those lines – Queer, Transgender, etc), are created equal and are one in Christ.

If you need a leader in your marriage, seek Jesus Christ not your mate. Husbands, don’t oppress your wife. Why would you want to do that to her, your love and if you’re fortunate, the mother of your children, anyway?

God Isn’t Against Science

It feels somewhat obligatory, but I don’t want some of my friends or others for that matter to think science – as determined by scientific theory and most scientists – is not a good endeavor. Science is even a holy pursuit. I actually believe God’s Spirit is in the midst of all that we can know empirically. I believe that everything physical is inherently spiritual. I also believe that there’s something “behind” what we see, something more that we can know. What you see is what you get basically and yet we continue to know more about creation. I believe, essentially, in Intelligent Design.

If you didn’t know, there was a “televised” event with Ken Ham of a Creationist Museum and organization and Bill Nye, who you might remember from PBS as the “Science Guy”. There are others better at explaining and discussing the issues raised and those which were not addressed and most certainly could have been. But here goes:

A very small minority of Christians believe in a “new earth,” one that literally believes, because of a particular interpretation of an ancient Hebrew and Christian biblical text – Genesis –  that the world began 6,000 years ago, as if these scriptures were a calculator or math book. So I need to say one can very easily, and I would say, more accurately say, because of taking this ancient text seriously, believe that the 6 days of creation, for instance, mean periods of time or that they can be taken metaphorically. Much of the Hebrew Scriptures are beautiful narrative and poetic works. And spiritual ones at that.

Also, Mr. Ham’s assertion that for one to be saved by Jesus Christ and “forgiven of sins” one has to believe that the ancient Hebrew scripture of Genesis is a literal, scientific account of creation is untrue. God is bigger and greater than this in my estimation.

So, hear it from me since you didn’t hear it during the debate last night:

God Isn’t Against Science