Spiritual Practice of the “Island Life”

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Beach in Sinkyone Wilderness [Photo by Jeff Richards]

My office-mate just returned from a 3-week vacation to the Western Pacific. While visiting family, he spent a lot of time on the beach and in bars relaxing and enjoying the “Island Life.” Hmm… that sounds really nice. And I don’t think I’m the only one. Work is good, but so is rest. As we talked about the declining health of particular elders in our family, our conversation turned to working out and taking care of our bodies as an essential way of living.

As created spiritual beings our bodies are where the Spirit resides. We are temples, cracked and chipped as we are, as our Brother Paul wrote. And we know this to be true. Prolonged stress or inactivity leaves our bodies overtaxed and underused. This causes us to squelch the God-given spirit within and cut us off from sensing what Jesus is saying to us as well as our ability to do what he says. If we’re stuck in fight or flight long past the moment of alarm we overextend ourselves, leaving us frayed and exhausted. And when we don’t physically care for our bodies we leave ourselves weak and inflexible.

From what I understand, being a land-dweller leaves my perspective skewed; the Island Life is an integrated life. One that is easygoing, taking stress in stride, doing what needs doing and yet enjoying the beauty of creation, including yourself and those around you. Yep, I want that life. I want to be flexible and strong, sensitive and healthy. That sounds like life empowered by the Spirit.

Which way to the beach?

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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.

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…

LIFE TOGETHER

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.

#rethinkchurch: settle

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Broken, yet settled beautifully into and arising from the earth. This can be said of the clay pot and the flowers growing in its center.

Where we end up, or certainly where we find ourselves, might not be where we planned or hoped. But that doesn’t mean beauty and growth cannot come from the brokenness we have encountered along the way. Perhaps this is the means of authentic beauty and life well lived, one that, in spite of the atrocities of life, goodness still comes up out of the mess.

To me, this broken and beautiful image portrays the good news of Jesus Christ.

Sermon: Deeply Moved

Deeply Moved

This is a sermon I preached about Jesus’ remarkably touching response to Mary and Martha over their brother Lazarus’ death and Jesus’ delayed visit in John 11.  Jesus’ expression of his own feelings about Lazarus’ death (and subsequent resurrection) bring me to my knees and tears to my eyes.

Further context: This was preached at my home church and shared shortly after my grandmother had died after a long bout with illness, the cancer-causing death of a middle-aged woman from my church, and a young man who committed suicide. This sermon came out of a lot of death.