What’s Your Name?

See what ye think.

The Postmodern Mystic

How often do we pray… “Dear Lord… thank You for [fill in blessing]… and please [intention, intention, intention]. We ask this in the name of Jesus… Amen.”

We say or hear this as often as Christians gather, do we not? Nothing wrong with this at all.

But lately, over the past couple years, my “prayer circuit” has been modifying somewhat. I sense far less call to “direct God and His grace” through the micro-management of my prayer, and far greater call to “ride the wave” of His love and care from the voice of the Spirit within my heart, as He expresses Himself back to the Father. I guess you could say I “amen” Him, far more than generating my own words.

I have become vastly less concerned with “persuading God” to move in blessing with power and grace, and far more concerned with simply “loving” the object of my…

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A Tale of Two Pastors

Thinking Deeper than Skin

church

I read a post last week from a pastor in response to a list made by African American State Senator Jamilah Nasheed of this country’s current injustices, citing her reasons for declining to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.

Before I tell you about that pastor’s reaction, I’d like to tell you about my pastor’s response to a similar occurrence.

Eric Reid, 49ers safety, who took a knee during the national anthem with Colin Kaepernick, is a member of our church family. Our pastor, who is from European ancestry, knows Eric and knows his heart, but didn’t understand or necessarily agree with the gesture. What did my pastor choose to do?

He reached out to Eric, and asked him if he would be willing to have a video taped conversation to be played for the entire congregation over our four campuses. Our pastor wanted us all to have a better understanding of this issue of racial injustice, and the response to it of many who are taking a knee or sitting out the Pledge of Allegiance or the National Anthem.

Before Reid and Kaepernick took a knee, they had a conversation with Nate Boyer, former Army Green Beret and Seattle Seahawks long snapper. One of their goals was to find a way to show respect to the military while still honoring their own protest and beliefs. In the conversation with our pastor, and in other interviews, Eric Reid said:

“Colin was speaking to something that’s very true and prevalent in our country and those issues do need to be addressed and I discussed this with him and prayed about it. We wanted to make a statement but we wanted to be respectful. That’s why we knelt. There have been things that have happened lately that have struck a nerve with me. I mean, we’re America. We should be the best at everything we do. This is bigger than football.

“Tweeting at each other doesn’t accomplish anything. Sitting down with each other face to face, having a conversation with someone who doesn’t see eye to eye with you, that’s how you find middle ground, that’s how you find understanding, that’s how you put yourself in somebody else’s shoes and that’s how you make our country better.”

“Sitting down with each other face to face, having a conversation with someone who doesn’t see eye to eye with you, that’s how you find understanding, that’s how you make our country better.” Eric Reid

The pastor of our church is dedicated to grace, to spiritual maturity, to healing, to reconciliation. He is dedicated to building bridges and community. Thank you, Pastor Steve, for continuing this conversation and for leading and encouraging our ekklesia – gathering of people – to begin this conversation on our own.

So, back to this other pastor.

This pastor stated that he addressed Senator Nasheed’s list of injustices in light of his recent trip to a poverty-stricken, war-torn country, comparing in part the injustices in this country to the injustices of the other country. That is certainly one way to approach the injustices here; however, this pastor could have used his experience to should sharpen his focus on our own injustices, allowing him to contemplate a different cultural perspective. If he could place himself in others’ shoes in another country, why not in ours?

When Senator Nasheed wrote of the injustice of police brutality this other pastor said, “I’m sorry, but I’m sick and tired of this ‘police brutality’ business…Why not compare our supposed brutality to that of the cops in Iran?” Placing “police brutality” in quotes as he did, and preceding it with ‘supposed’ invalidates the experiences of a large portion of our American population. The unexplained death of a woman stopped for a traffic violation and assaulted by the policeman inside of her car for smoking a cigarette is brutality. And that is only a single instance.

When Senator Nasheed listed the injustice of poverty — the underfunding of our public schools, the other pastor wrote, “Seriously, how is being poor an injustice when the poor in this country are infinitely more wealthy than the majority of people in [war torn country]?” Again, that does not invalidate the economy of this country or the systemic differences in the way public schools are funded here. Go into any two public schools – one in a poor, urban community and one in a wealthy suburban area and compare textbooks, libraries, computer labs, science equipment, gymnasiums and sports equipment. It becomes readily evident.

When Senator Nasheed listed the injustice of voter suppression — passing Voter ID laws, the other pastor said, “So it’s injustice – as opposed to being just and lawful – to require that a person placing a vote in an election actually show proof [of] legal citizenship of this country? Do you even understand the definition of ‘justice’” Our American higher courts have defined justice quite clearly.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned North Carolina’s voter I.D. law and stated North Carolina legislators had passed the law with discriminatory intent,” and that its provisions deliberately target African Americans with almost surgical precision” in an effort to discourage black turnout at the polls.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Texas that struck down the voter I.D. law found not only that the law discriminated, but that it was intentionally designed to do so.”

A U.S. District Judge in Wisconsin struck down several provision of its State law, stating, “preoccupation with mostly phantom election fraud leads to real incidents of disenfranchisement and exist only to suppress votes.

And in North Dakota, a U.S. Federal Judge blocked a law required photo I.D to vote stating, “The public interest in protecting the most cherished right to vote for thousands of Native Americans who currently lack a qualifying ID and cannot obtain one outweighs the purported interest and arguments of the State. No eligible voter, regardless of their station in life, should be denied the opportunity to vote.”

No eligible voter, regardless of their station in life, should be denied the opportunity to vote.” U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland

Senator Nasheed also listed the injustice of not having health care, the injustice of unlivable wages, the injustice of unequal pay for women, the injustice of mass incarceration and the injustice of economic disparity. The other pastor wrote equally misinformed reactions (equal pay for women: “This a load of absolute baloney;” mass incarceration: “I suppose letting drug dealers, rapists, muggers, back out on the street just because of skin color would be the best choice?”) to the remainder of Senator Nasheed’s list, but I believe this is enough to see the comparison between the two pastors, and my own responses would be too lengthy to go into here.

I will only ask this pastor, as the shepherd of a congregation of Christ’s church – of His ekklesia – wouldn’t it be your mission to provide unity, encouragement, leadership and a safe place to worship for every member of your flock? To be well informed, invite conversations and seek solutions rather than condemnation?

Another of our pastors, Steve Ingold, spoke to us this past Sunday of the need for critical conversations. He said:

“Get to know someone different than you. Get to know their hearts. Choose to listen and understand. Choose to call someone and ask instead of choosing to judge and criticize and distance yourself. We have to do better as His church.” Pastor Steve Ingold, Cornerstone Fellowship

I respectfully and humbly pray this second pastor extends an invitation to lunch to persons of color and to women and begin to ask questions – not as someone superior, not as someone who thinks he knows better, but as someone who is ignorant of the experience of someone different than him, as someone who is humble enough to say, “I don’t know; teach me.

Healing Hurts

©Wikipedia.org
©Wikipedia.org

Invisible affliction occurs

And stirs wounds, exposes scar tissue;

Those who are living outside my skin

Cannot help or hope to harbor

Empathy or like circumstances.

No, you strike it from your point of view

Granting no value to where I’ve been.

So you simply say, “Move on.”

We must both gather to heal at dawn

At mid-bridge, on love to take a chance.

Cornerstone

chief-cornerstone

In giving honor today,

For all who are fallen –

In remembering who are our heroes

And who is our enemy –

 

In giving honor today,

To the One who fell;

The same One who has risen

And remembering who the real enemy is

 

Let us give thanks

To all those who embody Him

Who stood and stand tall

And transmit His light and grace

 

Those who are bold and courageous enough

To fight when fighting is appropriate

To be living sacrifices

To never hate and always love

 

To those who raise His standard

And rush in to be His hands and feet

Lay their bodies and hearts on the line

Thank you.

"Tribute in Light" memorial
“Tribute in Light” memorial

This is what the Almighty Lord says:

I am going to lay a rock in Zion,
a rock that has been tested,
a precious cornerstone,
a solid foundation.
Whoever believes in him need never be shaken.”
(Isaiah 28:16)

Then Jesus asked them, “Didn’t you ever read this in the Scriptures?

‘The stone that the builders rejected
has now become the cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing,
and it is wonderful to see.’ (Psalm 118:22-23)

I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation that will produce the proper fruit.” (Matthew 21:42-43)

 

Thank you to John Lewis at Not For Punks for the inspiration for this poem.

I will make you fishers of men

meadow-lake-fishing-campSunday I was fishing with some friends on a local lake. The weather was beautiful, though a bit hot (87F) at midday. While I enjoy going out with them on our annual trip, they are not the greatest of fishers. As I said, the weather was hot, and so was the water; rather than fishing out in the deeper areas where the water was cooler they kept picking the shallow areas, as a result we got nary a bite, much less actually bringing something in. But, fishing has always been just a reason for us to get out once a year and enjoy each others company while our non-fishing family members enjoy their company at the pavilion. Continue reading

Wrestling with issues of faith

Did you realise that every global faith has something really important in common with every other global faith? Every global faith has at its core (something akin to) “love your neighbour as yourself”. It’s the God bit which gets messy. The God definitions, size, shape, genealogy, and all that “stuff” – that is where faith falls out with faith. But at the core of each faith is that we should each love each other as ourselves.

Who would have thought!

A UK children’s charity: Barnado’s  has put together a “faith toolkit” resource to support schools dealing with bullying – specifically with regard to different sexualities and faith/religion dogma (for more information and contact details click here)

As part of a local UK Christian conversation we were asked to look at different “challenges” and rank them in order of “difficulty – which scenarios would be least/most comfortable (or not).  Our small group focused on gender reassignment as the “trickiest”: the scenario being one wherein a long-standing church member was transitioning from male to female – discuss.

And as the conversation ranged back and forth, here and there, covering all the expected bases … I got a very loud and persistent word banging around my head: transformation.  That this “fictitious person” (who might sit next to us each Sunday) was transforming from bondage to freedom – from whom they were not to who they are. And looking around the room – looking at each who had earlier sung together (with passion) a hymnal chorus: “I have Jesus, I have Jesus, I have Jesus, for that (every second of life and living) I have Jesus!” – looking at each one who stands and praises the Lord, who prays to the Holy Father, who all lead worship in their own churches, and some of whom are ministers …

EACH of us has been “transformed” from what we were to what we are.  EACH of us has transitioned from who we were to who we are.  Each has had doubts, each has struggled, each has changed their lifestyle and priorities, each has changed friends and acquaintances, each is “different” – or else what is “being saved” and “coming to the Lord” all about?

And then He took me on a journey I have never been before. One I have yet to see the destination. It is this:

If we have been transformed, if we are so different to who we were, if this life changing conversion is so real … why do we let God make such little difference to our lives?

WHY were we sitting there discussing and wrestling our discomfort, our uncertainty that we are “allowed” to embrace “them”, and why do we even think that “how your hormones jive” is something we should interrogate (on behalf of God – obviously) …

This session was called “Wrestling with Issues of Faith and Sexuality”.  The issue of LGBT (and now “Q”) is divisive – within national boundaries, across international boundaries, within denominations, and across different faiths – each “wrestles” with these difficult issues. We wrestle for years, over generations. We wrestle with whether the bible (and every faith’s “sacred writings”) actually allow us to embrace “them” or not – we wrestle with “are we committing a heinous spiritual crime” in even contemplating whether to embrace them (or not)?

And with that wrestling comes silence. With that uncertainty comes bitterness. With that silence comes dogma. With that silence come the fundamentals. With that silence comes polarisation. With that silence is when violence on the spirit and on the body happens.  Yet we seem content to remain detached.  Each of us content to stand and sing “I have Jesus” while we park our discomfort for someone else to tackle (to our own satisfaction – obviously).

“Love is always the answer, now what’s your question … ?”

Never seemed more relevant than during this session of “wrestling”.  The simplicity of “love is always the answer” never seemed as simple. And the universal inter-faith belief of “we should each love each other as ourselves” never more pertinent.  Because why do we always “wrestle”?  Why do we always see complexity?  Why do we choose NOT to see simplicity?  Why do we choose NOT to see universal “love each as yourself”?  Why do we choose make God a complex and tricky “issue”?  Why do we always leave love (and God) outside while we “wrestle” with the (more attractive?) intellect and academia of “religion”?

Why?

I spoke in this session.  I was heard.  Yet “wrestling” seemed the better way.  And I wonder why.

Because my “transition” and “transformation” is still ongoing.  My “being saved” took decades.  I had doubts.  I changed my mind.  I avoided the whole thing.  Yet somewhere inside was always a niggle. Always something that tugged.  And when my “transitioning” was well under way – when I “came out” – I was welcomed.  I was embraced (by others who had already transitioned, already been transformed).  Each of us who have a friend called Jesus, who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who gather together to worship and praise – who have each “come out” –

Each one of “us” has changed our spiritual gender.  And (as an institution) each one of us is now a “them” to others.  We have become as much a “them” to them as they are a “them” to us.  And in this wrestling session the most frequently used two words were “them” and “they”.

And despite that – despite seeing love and God parked outside while we wrestled – this Barnado’s toolkit – this session – this subject – was openly discussed in church.  “They” were openly named in church.  They were acknowledged.  They became real.

And maybe that is the first step on a journey to simplicity – a first step on “transitioning” from fear to freedom.  Maybe if all these faiths finally(!) recognise that each has something that is massively universal in common with every other faith …

Maybe that can filter down.  Maybe that can also become real.  Maybe that can also be named in church.  And maybe then we can all see that there is no “them” – that there never has been a “them”.  And maybe then we will finally understand that “we” ARE “them” together.

And just imagine where that journey might end …

 

Barnado’s Children Charity

Barnado’s Faith Toolkit