Monday, November 25, 2013

With our tongues we bless and curse

James 3:9-10
With it (our tongues) we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth comes blessing and cursing. My brothers these things ought not be.

I don't keep to many mementos from storage units I buy. I am not a sentimental person and tend to hang out to too much. But there are a couple of pictures I have kept on my desk for a couple of years.
They are school pictures from the 1950s. They are pictures of African American school pictures. This is before segregation. I wonder what happened to these kids, I wonder what life they lived?

I get fired up on occasion and the way we treat other people really irks me. I was listen to a friend talk last night and her daughter who has autism was speaking about her daughter. Some well meaning person came up to the family and said I am praying for your daughter to be healed. Her daughter within hearing distance said I am not broken.

Minorities, special need people, anyone not fitting into the social norm why do we generally curse and chastise them? Why are we so concerned about having different people fit into our culture?

I have just started reading Fear and What follows "the violant education of a Christian racist" by Tim Parrish, very interesting read. A true strory set in the south during the 1950s. I have asked myself what would my response have been if I had been in that setting. With the majority of southern Christianity affirming racism would I have had the guts to do what is right or would I have believed what was being preached and truly questioned it?

If the whole world looked, thought, and acted the same then we could be pretty certain God was exactly like us. Of course it isn't that way.

So if God created this class of African American students, my friends daughter, Kyle and every other different person perfectly, why don't I see them the same way?

Why does my first response be to look at people through my lense and think if they just did this, and acted this way then life would work.

It looks different when we connect with people in areas of weakness rather than strength. Last night we were in the county jail, and I was worried for my friend Art to speak. There were a lot of young men, some of who I knew and I thought they are going to raze, and not listen to him. They are going to be disrespectful and this is going to be a bad experience. It didn't turn out that way at all.

The reason it didn't was because Art spoke from a place of weakness. He spoke about his life, imperfections and a lot of the trouble he did and had gone through as a young man. It was so quiet in that room as he spoke. This was after all sorts of shenagans happened as they all came in.

As I was observing the young men were engaged, they had probably been cursed for much of their lives. They had been ridiculed, they had been beaten down, but here was Art and he was blessing them. He was giving them hope, he was giving a tangible story and person to see.

With out tongues we bless and we curse. How easy it is for us to curse everyone and everything wrong. With the week of Thanksgiving how am I blessing people? How am I using my tongue to build up? Not condemning, not asking how can I fix your brokenness (maybe they aren't broke) but rather how can we learn from each other to be the people God created us to be.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

different decisions

Last night my wife and I were watching "the internship" a movie about two street smart minus book smart guys doing an imternship at google. I was laughing very hard at one scene specifically. They  played some harry potter game with brooms balls and crazy weird stuff. I was as clueless about this game as the two street smart guys in the movie were. Jill was a little miffed because she had read harry potter and understands this game that I cant even pronounce. In this specific scene the game is tied and the underdogs have momentum they have figured out the game, then all of a sudden this guy in a yellow suit jumps onto the field and one of the guys looks bewildered and says "who the blank is that?" My thoughts exactly. I guess the point was to grab that guy and steal some tennis ball from him and you win.
I have no idea I dont know anything Harry Potter.
Movies make light and exalt the different person. Not only are they usually the underdog but they are culterally clueless. They do things different than what everyone else is doing or do it in a totally different way.
It always amazes me of how much of my routine habits and general views of life are pretty ingrained and I view them as normal. Are they normal? To me they are. Generally speaking Im pretty comfortable with the way I do things. But does that mean that I would change if I was challenged?
Yesterday a group of us were talking about following Jesus and the word radical came up. Im under the impression that Jesus lived a life where people expected Him to follow the social cultural and religous norms. He did none of those. He made difficult and different decisions. I dont think He acted out of spite or shock. But yet He did shock people.
I have wrestled for a long time of what does it mean to live like Jesus. Ive wanted to see it in others.
What living like Jesus is probably looks a whole lot like the clueless guys in the movie. They probably dont know the church culture real well. When something that is normal to us they exclaim what the blank is that? We look at them in astonishment I cant believe you dont know that tradition or cultural importance of that.
Those are the people Im most curious about and want to be around. I want see those who may not be so concerned with pleasing the majority rather doing what is right.
It is very hard for me to read the Bible and not think that the heros would be chastised in our current culture. Building an ark(noah) being a converted murderer(paul) im not sure our culture would give them the time of day.
Yet throughout Christianity those who didnt succum to the religous culture are the ones who continue to inspire admonish and emulate the life of Jesus.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Who is the most unlike you person in your contacts on your phone? Who do you know (well enough to enter into your phone) that is different?
I have been thinking a lot about Jesus lately, and thinking about His life and my life. If I had written my perception of God and the story when He sent His Son here the script would have been much different.
I would tend to think of Jesus spending a whole lot more time in "religious" places. Carrying on deep theological talks with well versed and intelligent people. Not that He didn't do those things but that is not the context of most of the stories in the gospel. His story was carried out in the "normal" world with normal and even abnormal people. But maybe they weren't really abnormal.
I have been trying to wrap my head around something for sometime, how much of God's creating man both as a whole and individually has been screwed up by us humans?
What I mean by this if man was created in God's image how much of imperfection diasability pain etc is caused by sin and how much is actually good we just misinterpret it?
For instance what does Kyle look like in heaven? What is a perfect Kyle for eternity?
Of course there is all sorts of thoughts of running and physically doing things that he wasn't able to do on this earth. But is a perfect Kyle him with physical abilities. Im not sure, and the reason I am not sure is because of the way Jesus acted here on earth.
Perfection in people is not what we think it is, it would have been pretty easy for Jesus to say all you need to do is sit with the Pharisees and the religious people and that is what heaven is going to be like.
If heaven is so much like those religious places it must have been extremely uncomfortable for Jesus to spend a good chunk of His time in places that were nothing like heaven with people who did not resemble those in heaven.
Now I am not saying that Kyle won't have a whole body in heaven and won't be able to do physical activities, but I am not sure that is the point. I am pretty sure God has not anointed the white American healthy male Christian as the perfect species of creation. I am pretty sure I am not the lense that God views everyone else through. But yet that is what I sometimes believe or act like.
I am pretty sure there will still be a huge amount of diversity in heaven, but we won't care. I am pretty sure perfect teeth aren't going to be such an issue. I am pretty sure material possessions have little to no value. I am pretty sure the attritubtes of love joy peace patient kindness goodness and self control are going to overwealth us.
As I look at Kyle this is what I see- I see these fruits in his life, I see that he is emulating Christ even with his physical disabilities.
I don't think Jesus' point of spending lots of time with the the normal and the ab-normal as a way to turn them into religious rather I see there being a whole lot more like Jesus than we are comfortable with.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

the disconnect with Jesus

A couple of months ago I read a job posting the title of the job was "act like Jesus" pastor. It was amusing as I read the job description because it described a different way of life than most people are use to or even would want to emulate. As I think more about this concept I realize there is a huge disconnect between the life I live and Jesus' example.
I began to think of Jesus' life in practical terms, what did He do? How did He interact with people? What was important to Him? If I want to be like Him how would my life change?
This isnt extensive but just begins touching on what I see in Jesus' life.

-his interaction with materialism. This is so hard for me to grasp. Culturally we have an idea what moderation looks like. We have a thought in our minds of how we want to live comfortably. Im not sure if Jesus owned much if anything of physical value. When He was crucified the guards basically rolled dice for his last remaining possesions. If Jesus wasnt entirely concerned about physical possesions why am I? Why is this even anywhere on the scorecard of life? If anyone asked me to borrow anythong why would I say no even if I knew they wouldnt return it? I dont have a good answer to any of those questions from a faith perspectives but this is the way I live my life.

-being passionate enough to cause a problem. How awkward would it have been the day Jesus walked into the temple and basically put a beating on everyone using it for their own gain? Im sure there have been at least a few times in past 2000 years that the church has needed some shaking up due to using God for our own gain.

-not defending Himself. Jesus never demanded people to follow Him. I dont read His words attitide or posture as arrogent or condecending. Now He was straightforward loving but never rude. It is so hard not to be defensive when we talk about faith or other issues we feel we are right about

-he didnt cater to those in perceived authority. Why in the world did he pick the disciples he chose? Why was He calling out the religous people constantly? Why did he spend time with the underbelly of society? Why did he care so much for the sick and disabled? Why is it so hard for me to treat the outcast the same as someone who can help me ?

-he wasnt scared of socities outcasts. Touching lepers not stoning the adulteress being accused of being a friend of sinners.

Im curious to meet the person who was hired to be the act like Jesus pastor.  I can imagine it being extremely difficult not just because it is our culture but im not sure this flies in most organized religous contexts.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The perfect life

It won't be long before we get the first snow storm of the year. There is beauty the morning after a snow storm before anyone has touched it. It is perfect like a blanket covering the world. It doesn't take long before the perfection is taken away by footprints, cars, plows, and shoveling that perfect picture of the snow is gone so quickly.
We view life much like the perfect snow sometimes. At some point in time in our life we had a view of perfection in our life. We had an idea of what it was going to look like. It was going to be untouched beautiful, and perfect.
Then something happened, we married the wrong person, we were abused, our job wasn't all it was cracked up to be, we started a cycle of addiction, we became fat, our children became a lot more work than what we imagined, we didn't have enough money to pay the bills. I am sure there are a ton of other reasons why we are disappointed with our lives.
But we became disappointed. We may have had faith and we believed that God would give us the perfect snow life. We thought there would be time in the morning where we were relaxed and not worry about anything and enjoy coffee and time alone with God. Then we didn't and we felt guilty and so we added a different type of relationship with God than what we wanted. On top of all of this we think that we are the only ones.
We see others around us living much better lives than what we have. We see people in pictures smiling and having great times on facebook, and all we long for is that perfect life.

I may be entering middle age years, it seems like over the past few months a year I realize I am getting old. I have begun to realize that life isn't going as planned. It isn't a bad thought, but it is a realization that life isn't going to be perfect in the sense that I once thought.

Through the summer of fire, I think Jill and I have learned a lot. This was a summer I wouldn't wish on anyone yet it probably has been some of the best growing times we have had. Through broken bones, kyle sleeping less than he use to, and other family problems, it has not been fun or ideal by any stretch of the imagination. It has not been the perfect snow day. It has been the snow by the side of the road after the plow goes by, full of mud, gravel, and is pretty nasty. But yet it has been through this environment that we have begun to appreciate what is important.

I think there is so many misconceptions about faith and the role faith plays in ones life. I don't believe that God's role in my life is to make me happy or even to give me an easy go of it. I love comfort and desire comfort, but I also know that my life doesn't change through comfort. Comfort makes me lazy, comfort stops my desire and even the perceived need to grow. Life is perfect.

When life isn't comfortable than things begin to change, if by pure necessity. If the problems and the pain givers of life do not go away the choices are pretty simple fall prey to the pain or become a different person. Neither one is an easy choice, but unplanned pain brings us to a crossroad.

As I think about snow in the morning untouched and perfect, I also realize that snow is a whole lot of fun to play in. Whether it be sledding, building snow men, having snow ball fights etc. Much is life once we realize that it isn't going to be "perfect" and that is ok. Once we realize that we have unconditional love from God, we don't need to fear Him striking us down. Once we realize that all those smiles on facebook may be moments removed from an awful dragged out fight, once we realize that everybody we run into is struggling with something else also.

It is unfortunate that we feel the need to project perfection (as in the perfect snow fall) when the perfect life may still be what we have. The perfect life may not be the untouched snowfall but it may be the snowball fight, or sledding together.

The perfect life may not be the absence of problems as much as realizing that there will be some sort of problem or pain and enjoying the special gifts God gives us like the perfect snow fall.