(Un)carnational

For me, this is the gospel: The incarnation, or an entering into and inhabiting, turning bad into good or proclaiming that what is believed to be bad is actually good. Hence the ancient spiritual phrase, the good news of Jesus Christ. So, I attempt to live out and embody this incarnational gospel.

But I’m not very good at it. Perhaps that’s because Jesus requires everything. Not just some of my time or effort or ability, but all of it. All of me. Yes, that’s probably why it’s difficult for me and perhaps for you as well. I don’t like anything that requires everything.

Now, bad might actually be bad or it could be something (or someone) understood as bad or even depending-on-the-context bad. You follow? It’s not enough, and it’s not right, to assume everything and everyone is bad. Particularly when the Judeo-Christian scriptures are clear that some (the bad) oppress others (those the bad think are bad or treat as bad). Am I still making sense? Is there bad we all – the oppressor and oppressed – experience even if it’s two sides of the same crap? I think so.

It’s a sticky mess, yet really simple. Some are bad and some are treated bad(ly). Perhaps many of us in a democratic republic feel, as I do, like we have bits of both or are equally able to deliver- as well as receive- damage from the wickedness of badness.

But I’m digressing, I think. Or at least getting carried away.

The incarnation declares all flesh, all people are inherently good, which includes our bodies and I’d say even our body’s needs. “For God created man…and called it very good.” “You are my beloved, in whom I am well pleased.” “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…not to condemn the world but to save the world.” “God humbled himself and took the form of a slave or servant.” “Creation groans.” “Jesus poops.” Oh wait, that last one could be a paraphrase.

See, it’s not bad it’s funny (I hope).

There is goodness, maybe even complete goodness in our bodies. It’s just the truth. God says so by creating it and then even being one like us. This is very good news. This is the incarnational gospel. Even news in the flesh.

I am participating in Uncosynchro, a blogging project started by UNCO 2014 participants. Check out all the blogs here.

Inhale. Exhale.

I’m finding it hard to breathe.

There is so much to grieve. People of darker shades and dimmer family histories reporting they cannot go anywhere without being suspect; people like myself hearing a clanging noise telling me to judge, if not ignore and keep away at arms length.

I’m finding it hard to breathe.

The willingness to not be like Christ to others; the willingness to not see Christ in others. Am I like Peter sitting around the warm fire, saying I don’t know of this Jesus you speak?

I’m finding it hard to breathe.

Maybe if I stop breathing I can find new Breath to inhale.

I cannot let cries for mercy go unanswered. I cannot. No more. There is so much to grieve. It’s time to exhale.

(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.