Love & Life 

Love. I don’t know anything more important than love. It binds together. Heals wounds. Bears burdens. Opens pathways. These are fruit of the Spirit. By them you will know the children of righteousness, the ancestors of Abraham, as it were. 

Love reminds us who we are. We all come from somewhere not of our choosing. That which breathes life into unearned lungs, by its singularity denotes our unity. Love re-members us.

There is much to grieve. There is loss, I believe. Moments of disconnecting from suffering provide respite but they do not create peace. Life and relationship matter, and though we did not own them, an experience and way of being has left us. A bone is out of joint, perhaps even fractured if not dismembered. Grief is an expression of love to that which is no more and a balm for what remains. If seen through, grief will enable what is becoming to be full of love.

Today, like in days past, wars rage and are waged. Blood is spilt upon the land. Eyes and hands are closed shut. Instead, may we make love and peace. May each life flourish on the earth. And may we behold one another long enough to see a new day together.

In a Garden 

“We are re-humanized when our skin touches soil.” These words from our Theology Pub guest speaker, Sean Gladding, caused my train of thought to halt at Capsity, The WordHouse’s office, evangelism outpost and sometimes event space in the beginning of November. 

Gladding, a community garden manager and church planter in Kentucky, keynoted this year’s Faith In Culture discussion series on Faith & Urban Gardening. He provided a biblical and theological framework for our conversation with particular focus on the book of Genesis and creation. 

As someone who grew up in a small city suburban neighborhood and spent the last 8 years in Sacramento’s center city, I have an interesting, if not disassociated, connection to food. When I was little, I remember helping my parents’ plant and harvest – probably more like playing in the dirt – at the community garden on the outskirts of town. When I was older, after the owner sold the land and my dad’s job earned more money, my mother turned part of our backyard into a small garden. At this time we purchased most of our food at the local grocery store. I hardly remember my hands ever being in the dirt, except to slide into second base on the baseball diamond. Food mainly, so I thought, came directly from the store, and then to the kitchen where my mom prepared what was placed on the dinner table. 

Since moving to Midtown, I have grown to love the Sunday morning farmers market under the freeway and the recent Midtown Farmers Market on 20th and J St. I still shop at the super market occasionally, but I’m beginning to know where my food comes from. I know the older peach and plum farmer who keeps talking about finally retiring to Idaho, hoping one of his sons takes over the family business. I am becoming good friends with the couple that quit their restaurant industry jobs to own a farm in West Sacramento, putting up a farm stand on Tuesday evenings during the summer in front of their Tahoe Park home alongside the Saturday Midtown market. I recognize the same number of young and elderly folks selling both berries and herbs from their family farm in Gridley with smiling and wizened faces.

As I attempt to follow Jesus’ voice, it seems as though I am headed further back down the path. Just last week I became a member of the New Era Community Garden. This could still flop; tilling and preparing the ground needs to happen first, let alone actually growing stuff to eat. But my neighbor and gardening partner sounds like she knows what she is talking about. There are also experienced members willing to lend a hand, I am told. Perhaps my parents can visit me in the garden too. As I get ready to put my hands back into the dirt, I feel like I am becoming more human, as though I am regaining a part of God’s image that has been dormant.

The Spiritual Discipline of Submitting: Not Getting What You Want, But What You Need

A disclaimer, of sorts: This isn’t a note about reclaiming submission as a good ideal or doing away altogether with submitting to one another. While I do believe “submission” has gotten a bad rap, it’s also clear through friends and others that abuse far to often occurs because of evil attitudes and behavior that masquerade as submission. This is neither.

What I want to say, to you and to myself, is to hold lightly to how life and work and ministry or whatever will turn out. They will be good, because the yearning of the universe is one of justice, mercy and peace. It will ultimately be good and lovely even though it may be messy and ugly. The kingdom will be on earth as it is in heaven, some day in completion. But “how” that will happen, only God knows. And this is where I can become scared, and then if I don’t submit, anxious. Perhaps the way then is through submitting?

Submitting to God in Jesus and knowing that I am also beloved.

Submitting to one another in love, while still loving God and our neighbor as ourself.

Submitting to speak the truth in love and act justly.

It’s a paradox, but when I submit this way I actually experience something greater. Life everlasting. Peace that passes understanding. I may not get what I want, but I get what I need. (I know I’m not the first, but thanks Rolling Stones.) Our neighbor’s response might not be what we hoped, but the story – including their story – is not over.

It really does seem that laying down one’s life in love means that life is returned. We just might not know the detailed outcomes along the way, but we can buoyed by peace and knowing the heavenly outcome is secure. Because, well, because we are beloved.

Missional Community: Life Together – Ask the Question

Last week I wrote that Life Together – an integrated spiritual life – formed after Jesus’ actual life and teaching is crucial for Christ-centered living and worship. This means that churches might need to reimagine and re-organize how they operate, what they do when they gather for worship, how to fellowship with one another and be on mission (i.e. serve) in their communities and the world.

These are the foundational issues I hope to address – and hopefully live some answers – as an ordained Evangelist in my denomination and as pastor of The WordHouse. Oh heck, just as a person seeking to follow in the way of Jesus.

But how do we do this? How do we live Life Together? It’s easy to offer suggestions, and if it primes the pump, that’s wonderful. But to answer the question well – if it’s to be organic and derived from the Source – it needs to be asked individually in Jesus-inspired community, with scripture of course (our history of God’s unfolding story). Otherwise, from the start, my discernment of God’s inspiration is not fully realized. The flow is blocked. Presbyterians – it’s literally “out of order.” And for everyone, the “priesthood of all believers” is not being lived out to its fullest.

The first question is simple, if we believe we have a connection with God and in some way possibly comprehend what God may desire for us in the moment. That question then is this: What is Jesus saying to me? (Or, How is God leading me? Or, What is the Spirit doing in my life? Or, What is the Divine sparking within me? Or… something along these lines.)

In community, in prayer, this is where to begin. Others can help, or provide a model, or point to scripture, or influence for good or ill, but without this question asked by yourself in some fashion you fail to make your relationship with God personal and intimate. Philosophically speaking, you cut yourself off from acting like a full-fledged (Adult) Child of God.

Cry and whine as I do, I’m tired of spiritual milk when there’s so much more taste and see. Understanding what Jesus is saying strengthens my weary bones.

Next time then, I’ll offer some ways that this question is informing how myself and a few others are living Life Together.

Missional Community: Life Together

While it’s the title of the popular book on Chirst-centered community by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian who tangled with Hitler and his Nazis and was subsequently executed, Life Together captures an important notion of living…


Too often it seems, our churches draw distinct lines between different aspects of life, instead of holistically incorporating and therefore celebrating all of God’s gifts to us, i.e. all of life. Worship happens once a week. Fellowship, as well. Learning about the bible and God’s word, where the individual is a participant and not just a recipient, once a week too. Service and/or mission perhaps once a month or once a year. Discipleship is a periodic rotating class among many topics, instead of the core of our spirituality.

I have growing fondness for “smells and bells” as the incense tickles the nose and the chimes cling to the ears. I used to think these were so foreign and far away that it didn’t connect with me. Growing up they didn’t help me worship God in community. I have realized though, that I don’t want something other-wordly or up-in-the-sky heavenly in my worship service or gathering. I want the breeze that flutters the leaves of the trees. I want the playful laugh of friends and loved ones. I want recognizable sounds and tunes that resonate within me. I want to hear others’ stories and understand their relation to Jesus’ story. I want my life to be opened up once again to God’s here-and-now grace and truth, that is just waiting to be revealed.

The remedy then, at least for me is to model Jesus’s life and worship God in all and through all aspects of everyday life. I know, however, I am predisposed to worship in certain ways while others might be different. I need to know my neighbor and care about the things that concerns them. For me, I can do this better through living life together within a place-based community, in a particular neighborhood and area. Where conversation can flow freely and unexpectedly because we have ample time and space. I need a meal, not just for physical and emotional sustenance, but for building and bridging community. I need something more than a mysterious token at Communion, and I’ve had some deeply impactful moments with Jesus here, whether a wafer or one square inch of a loaf dipped in grape juice. I want to cook together, and break bread across the table from you. I need to be able to see you and even work with you throughout the week, not just at specific times and in religiously set apart places. Your home, or the office, or a local establishment, or the park would do wonderfully.

There’s certainly a whole lot more that can be said about Life Together. We’re talking about the means for following the way of Jesus and living the good life as it is in heaven, after all. Can our churches and communities form themselves to accomplish this life, to embody the incoming and already present Kingdom of God? I believe we can, with God’s help of course. Perhaps the first thing to do is talk with one another, and we’ll see what can come together.

Washing Feet: Beautiful Humility, Beautiful Life

Today is Maundy Thursday in the Christian calendar. I am struck and stuck by the image of the Teacher and Holy Man stooping to gently wash his students and apprentices feet. Feet get gross, and when you walk around in just sandals and bathe only occasionally – well you can imagine how humbling this is for both the servant and those who are served.

There’s so much crap in this world. People hating people. People thinking they don’t harm anyone. People hating people for hating people. People dying and losing parents and loved ones. People struggling to live a good, free and noble life. Put simply, this world is a mess.

So then subtly and yet noticeably comes this image – the Master becoming lower than his Students. What kind of love is this? What manner of love?  It cannot be contained. It’s only partly understood. It lovingly overwhelms if you let it.

In our world today – on and offline – I yearn for this beautiful humility, this beautiful life. Can it be found in our neighborhoods and networks?

Feelings – Don’t Ignore Them

Growing up I’ve been taught – sometimes not on purpose, and sometimes to my face – to ignore my feelings. Even in the church. Feelings lead you down dark paths for which hell and/or hammering another nail into Jesus’ wrist on the cross would be the end result. Either option is scary. And feelings are for weak-willed and feeble-mined people. And you’re strong, right?

I see this kind belief and teaching still creep its head or be the basis for one’s relationship with God in Jesus. Oh that this were not that the case. See, quite the opposite is true. It takes a lot of courage to feel your feelings.

Have you heard Jesus’ emotionally-charged and compassionate Sermon of the Mount? Have you read about him weeping and being disturbed in spirit? Have you seen him sweat drops of blood before being arrested?

Perhaps our feelings are like spiritual antennas. If you hear them, stay and learn from them, instead of trying to ignore, you might find your feelings are an appropriate response to something going on in the world or in your life. To continue the analogy, you may find a connection with the Spirit of God even as a life-long Christian you have not encountered before.

Spiritual reservoirs open up to us when we aren’t afraid of our feelings. Your feelings may, thanks be to God, save you, and just as importantly save someone else from a particular form of hell on earth. Or maybe you will just stay true and pure of heart. “God has given you a heart of flesh, and not of stone.” Don’t harden your heart. Wade into the waters.