(Un)gratitude #uncosynchro

It’s a post-modern title, I know. “Alright, stop what you’re doing because I’m about to ruin the image and style that you’re used to.”

Apparently this is about to be a brain dump, but first: For over the next year, if I can keep up – have you seen this blog? – I will be participating in Uncosynchro, a project started by UNCO 2014 participants. We have been tasked, should we choose to accept it, to delve into the upside-down Kingdom values of Lord Jesus Christ and describe what we have found.

May you find the fruits of this exercise a fraction of what it will do for me.

I try to be grateful. I really do. It’s been drilled into me by my parents, teachers and my incessant belief that I should not think too highly of myself. Actually what I believe is much more striking. I’m supposed to think of others as higher than myself, which by itself isn’t too bad, but in order to do so I diminish myself instead. Then, whatever I receive, whatever goodness comes my way or just so happens to be expressed in my being is purely happenstance. Because nothing in me is worth being grateful for, so I believe, I downgrade the thought of my very self.

This is terrible.

There’s no celebration let alone acknowledgment that I am created in God’s image, “fearfully and wonderfully made,” as the Hebraic psalmist bellows. And it’s no wonder my sense of worth is shot.

Before you think I’m going to throw out the baby with the bath water, trust me I will not. Besides, what an awful thing to say. At any rate, I do not want to think more highly of myself than I ought. Lord knows I struggle with sin and putting God and Jesus’ ways first and foremost in my life. I am not tossing my human propensity to grievously err aside.

You see, my attempts at being grateful have been a sham. I’m not grateful. A lot of the time I’m sad, confused and angry. How could I not be? I don’t believe I’m worth much of anything.

But if God looks upon me as God’s own beloved child, with gifts and talents given me for the betterment of our world, and I believe it, than I might be full of gratitude. If Jesus is a “friend of sinners,” cares for the sick and sits at the dinner table with prostitutes and tax collectors and tells those the world says are important to give up their seat at the head of the table, and I believe it, than I might not only grateful but full of awe and wonder.

Through tears of joy, I actually may not be able to help but praise God, give thanks and be grateful. I pray it be true. Sometimes, I even believe it.

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.