Wednesday, October 25, 2006

it's love

do you remember love tugging at your sleeve?
where anyone can fly if they could hold on and believe?
Well, I still believe.
It's one of the things I do so well.

-liv taylor

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Monday, October 23, 2006

flickr pro

There is something that I’ve wanted to do since we got home from vacation this summer and I ran out of July bandwidth to upload PSV pics to flickr. But alas, post-vacation catch-up was busy and before I had a moment, it was August and my bandwidth usage was wiped so I went at it again.
When I got back from Santa Fe, I had only a tiny amount of upload left, and it is fall picture time. So last night I bought myself (at Allison’s urging) a $24.95 Flickr pro account, and went nuts with photos. I uploaded pics I took yesterday, I dragged out archived photos from two years ago, I just kept sending pics up the pipeline.
The result is that today I have a lot more pictures on flickr. I perused about 7 or 8,000 pictures, and grabbed ones that jumped out at me. The result of that is that I didn’t look at them as visual accounts of events or trips or special days, but as individual photos. For me, though, they do all have context. This makes me happy. I really don’t want to bore people with my 768-image documentation of vacation. If I’m documenting a trip, I’m liable to take pictures of the sock drawer at my hotel. But few of us get bored looking at pretty pictures that stand on their own. I guess this is the male version of scrapbooking. Over time, I’d like to archive some of my favorite individual pictures I’ve taken of my favorite people, places, things, emotions and concepts.
So, I don’t know, humor me, and check’em out. I’m categorizing, and mapping them, so you can even click the map button and see a satellite image of where the pic was taken. Some of the satellite images have high enough resolution that you can practically see the context of the photo.
I think that is pretty cool.

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Saturday, October 21, 2006

kingdom is near

Everyone who’s ever been on a short-term mission trip, knows that it is never what is expected on many levels. The least important level, though perhaps the most stressful in the moment, is that nothing ever goes as planned. Usually however, everything seems to go as it is supposed to, though one never knows that at the time.
On a more important level, it is not what is expected because those who go to “minister” are always the ones ministered to. This seems like a profound surprise during the first short-term trip one takes. The real profundity though is experienced on subsequent trips when one believes in experience that he’s got it all figured out, will expect to be blessed as much or more than he blesses, but then as if he’s never done this before, is taken completely by surprise by once again being the receiver rather than the minister.
This has been my experience on several trips to Eastern Europe.
Two years ago, though, I experienced it vicariously when Allison went to the Philippines, and I posted some pics and a scripture. Greg’s response pointed out what I’ve said about the reversal of ministry and hospitality.
I have friends from the Philippines and if I were to make a general assessment of all Filipinos based on my knowledge of my friends, apparently I’d be dead on. Evidently they are the friendliest, most hospitable people on earth. My friends spent a weekend in our home a couple years ago, and though we thought they were our guests, they basically took care of us and fed us the whole time they were here. Not only did they do all the cooking for the weekend, but they also prepared and froze food to last us a good long while after they left. And all at their own expense. I blogged about this, and some interesting inquiries were raised. Greg wondered at whether Jesus may have prepared the meal for Zacchaeus. I wondered at the fact that Jesus had cooked breakfast for the disciples after they’d been fishing all night, and how he told the woman at the well that if she knew who had asked her for a drink, she’d have asked him for a drink.
My friends’ visit here and hosting us in our own home had a profound impact on me. I’ve pondered the whole experience ever since. Last year at the emergent gathering, I watched a missionary on furlough from Scotland come in and host everyone else. I have since learned that he basically does that everywhere he goes. Someone will invite him to dinner and then call and ask him what he’ll be cooking so that they can get groceries for him.
This week, all these thoughts have come together for me as I read the accounts of Jesus’ sending of the pairs of disciples. He appointed and sent out 72. At first, as I read, I thought about how Jesus seemed to be sending the disciples to experience precisely what I’ve described as the short-term mission trip experience. Go and be ministered to. And I guess that is in fact what he did. But the subtlety of the strategy is easily missed, especially by those of us who thought we were bringing something, but ended up receiving.
Jesus tells the disciples to take nothing for the journey, no food, no money, no jacket, nothing. Stay in the people’s home and be provided for. Hmmmm. Oh, yeah, and tell them the Kingdom of God is near. Perhaps we think we’re merely taking a message, but in fact we’re bringing a kingdom for them to participate. In this kingdom, people love and care for and provide for one another. We actually provide part of the message by providing the context for them to participate. Nothing exposes a person’s worth to himself like being needed and caring for someone else. The room is equalized by people serving together. Remember the woman’s response at the well? “How is it that you, a Jew, would ask me for a drink?”
Perhaps we are so hardheaded that this concept eludes us. So God causes it to happen, and we still feel like the beneficiaries of the blessing. How many times have we said, ‘no no, you sit, we’re here to serve you?’ And therefore, how many times have we messed up the picture of kingdom living to those to whom we’re trying to bring the message? Jesus said that he’d come not to be served but to serve. But sometimes he served by allowing people to minister to him and thus participate in his kingdom. He did this at Bethany for the woman with the perfume. He did this for the woman at the well. He did this for Zacchaeus.
Finally, I’m struck that my profound dumbfoundedness at being the receiver instead of the giver on these trips, seems to be the same as the disciples when they returned. Though Jesus had instructed them that if they were not received, it was actually him that was not received and that they should shake the dust off their sandals and move on, when they came back, they were ecstatic. Jesus responded with joy and prayed:
"I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.”





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Thursday, October 19, 2006

what must I do?

Jesus was asked by a wealthy young man, what must I do to have eternal life?, Jesus responded with, “you know the commandments.” The man, told him, in apparent sincerity, that he’d kept them all since he was a boy. Jesus didn’t say, “oh you have, have you? Well have you ever told a lie?” The gospel of Mark tells us that Jesus looked at him and loved him and told him he lacked one thing, “go sell everything you have and give the money to the poor and you’ll have treasure in heaven. Then come follow me.”
This is a terribly intriguing exchange. Even before I get to my point, I’m intrigued that Jesus didn’t tell him to give away his possessions. He told him to sell them and give the money. I wonder if this is Jesus’ way of pointing out that what the man had was unnecessary? His stuff wasn’t even needed by the poor. I also get this feeling from Jesus contrasting his possessions with the treasures in heaven he would have if he rid himself of his stuff of earth.
My point though, is this, Jesus, knowing that the man had not kept the commandments – no one has – told him he lacked only ONE thing. And that one thing, on the surface, wasn’t even included in the commandments he’d mentioned.
No doubt many sermons have been preached attempting to sum up this one thing. Perhaps the man’s money was what kept him from following the commandments. The passage that follows after the man left certainly speaks to this, “how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Jesus could have been telling him that even if he did keep all the commandments, he was missing the point in the one thing he lacked. There is truth no doubt in all these points, but I wonder if the greater message here is that the one thing he lacked IS the point of the commandments.
Jesus’ answer is consistent with all the instances we are given of him discussing this with people. Jesus did not point out their sin. He merely said they needed to follow him, or stop sinning, and follow him.

I wonder if Jesus wasn’t setting up the lesson that all the commandments are summed up in love? Remember when he was asked what was the greatest commandment? He answered, “to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and to love your neighbor as your self.” He said that all the law and prophets are summed up in this command. In fact, in Luke's account, he said, "do this and you'll live," in response to being asked the same question the rich young man asked. Why would Jesus give a different answer? I don't think he did.
These two commands are the POINT of the law? So when the rich young ruler answered that he followed the law, Jesus pointed out that what he lacked was understanding that the law in fact was to love God (follow him) and love people, (sell his stuff and give to the poor). 
The way in which this would be manifest according to his instruction to the man, was in denying himself and making others the beneficiaries of what had been his. This was certainly a picture of what Jesus himself was going to do, and he said that he didn’t come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.


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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

thoughts of a parent and child

I remember after Al and I were married and moved away from her parents and mine, we would travel to visit them, or they would come visit us. We would talk, find something to do together, catch up. After we had children, the visits to our place picked up. The grandparents couldn’t stay away. The kids were always the focus of attention, and the motivation for the visit. I remember thinking how it must have been awkward before, when there were no kids to come see, to measure against the last visit, to tease and tickle and wrestle.
I was thinking about this today and remembering how much more rewarding it was to have my parents come to see my children than for them to come merely to visit me. It may have been the first time that I ever felt that I had done something for them. For I had done precisely what they had done and I was following after them. I followed them as a parent, I’d become what they were to me, and we all basked in it. I was honoring my parents by imitating them. Intensely, I felt their pleasure when I offered them my children to love and hug and kiss and enjoy.
Honestly, the more I thought about this, the more I thought about how incomplete Al and I must have felt before the kids came. We didn’t know it, but now it is impossible to imagine normal meals without kids around the table, to imagine trips home without the grumpy kids in the car, to imagine going camping without the animals we’re bringing back to the woods, or at least thinking about the fact that we’ve left them at home. Who were we before we had kids? There is an entirely new and added definition to me with the addition of kids. My identity grows to include “dad”.
My children steal away focus and attention in visits with my parents, but in doing so bring me closer to my parents. Irony. I more fully understand Mom and Dad, and I share something with them that I never knew before. I feel I honor them by becoming what they were to me, and I feel their pleasure.

Of course I can’t think about these things without pondering the added perspective I have for attempting to understand the relationship God desires to have with me. I think of joy and frustration He feels as Father. I think of my desire to imitate Him in being creative and creating. As when I feel my parents’ pleasure when they experience my children, I feel His pleasure when I attempt to imitate Him. I feel His smile when I use the tools He’s given me to share the thoughts He’s given me. I feel His smile upon the children I lift up to Him in my attempt to make Him obvious to them, to teach them to imitate Him and seek to feel His pleasure.


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Sunday, October 15, 2006

what are the chances of that?

Friday night, in the Dallas/Fort Worth airport, after I’d cruised a bit and walked off the kinks in my knees and back accumulated between Albuquerque and Dallas, I sat down at the gate beside Dave, and checked my email. At the top of the page was a message reminding me that Randy Stonehill was going to be doing a concert Saturday night at the Pavilion Coffee Shop. I remembered this and was planning on going and asking Molly to go with me. I mentioned it to Dave, over the din of the bustling airport, “HEY, DAVE, RANDY STONEHILL IS PLAYING IN COLUMBIA TOMORROW NIGHT.” To which Dave replied, “Cool, is he still 30?”.
What I didn’t realize is that Randy Stonehill was within earshot of me. In fact, I didn’t see him until we got to baggage claim in Columbia. I thought it was pretty cool that we were in the airport at the same time, but it didn’t occur to me until he told me that we’d actually flown together from Dallas. I asked him if he’d heard me talking about him in Dallas and he said no, but his ears were itching.
I’ve had lots of brushes with greatness over the years, in elevators, on stage, the golf course, Waffle House. I’ve played in the band with musical greats, opened for others, had a hero of mine accompany me on piano, but this was a the first for catching the same connecting flight from two separate cities and then waiting for our bags together.
Molly and I made it to the concert. She already thinks I’m famous, so she wasn’t at all surprised that Randy Stonehill knew my name when we first talked to him Saturday night. “Dad, it’s really cool that all these people know who you are.” I told her that he only knew me because I met him last night, but that didn’t seem to matter to her.
We both really enjoyed the concert, Molly even texted Allison in the middle: “This guy is GREAT!!!” Her favorite tunes were “Who will save the Children?” and “Rachel Delevoryas”. Mine too, I think.
A great time was had by all.



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Friday, October 13, 2006

going up and going down


The way upward and downward are one and the same.
-- Heraclitus
It is a fallacy to think that the road back is the same. I’ve blogged before about never returning by the same way. When Jack and I went to Grand Canyon in February, we got there via Chicago but returned via Denver and Orlando. But the truth is, everything has changed on the road back, it is framed by a completely different context.
I know this completely in terms of music, I teach it: there is no such thing as a musical repeat. Though the notes of one section may be precisely the same as those of another, they are not framed in the same context. If a section plays and immediately repeats itself, the first time is preceded by silence and followed by itself. The second time it is preceded by itself and followed by something else entirely. One who sees the forest in spite of the trees, also realizes that form is created by the place that each element holds. So just as important as the section, or path, itself is the role that it plays and the relationship it has in its context.
We call music that has no repeats or restatements, through-composed. Music that uses repeats, restatements, and returns, creates shape and form. But each section that is repeated finds itself framed by different music than before and results in a totally different experience.

When I started up the mountain yesterday, I talked to Allison on the phone. She asked if I had to return by the same path, or if the trail was circular. She knows about my propensity for a different return. It’s up and back, I told her.
But when I had started back down the mountain, I was shocked that the trail didn’t seem the same at all. Truth is, it was poorly marked and at times, I’d walk for a couple hundred yards before I was able to relocate the trail. Even when I was certainly on the path, unless there were landmarks by the way, it was a different experience. The play of light is different. Everything is seen from a different vantage. One sees the “other side of the story,” the opposite sides of rocks, the opposite turns in the trail. In fact, the destination is different. I found myself not coming back down the mountain, but going down the mountain, from the top. An experience has been collected, and I am no longer the same.
Perhaps the path by which we travel is a matter of heart rather than a matter of feet. We define the path not only by which direction we go, but how we experience the steps. When we arrive at where we were, we are not the same person and so it is not the same place. We bring something to it that it has never known before.

So these are my thoughts as I sit at the gate in Albuquerque waiting to board my flight home. I’ll change planes in Dallas, again, and disembark where I embarked. But I won’t be barking up the same tree.


We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.


T.S. Eliot --

"Little Gidding"






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Thursday, October 12, 2006

space

There is a scene in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in which the crew enter a tiny little tent that looks as if it could hold but one of them, but once inside, the tent is spacious, furnished, and comfortable. That is the visual that I’ve had this week since discussing the practicing of the Sabbath.
My mind has actually been using the phrase, “experiencing the Sabbath”, because it is a rest into which I can enter. Jesus said the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. It seems then that something that was made for me would be something that I should experience. Experience the Lord’s rest. To practice the Sabbath though, seems to be an understanding of the Sabbath that says that I was made for it.
To experience Sabbath is more like hearing the 4th commandment as an invitation rather than an order. “Remember the Sabbath Day, and keep it holy,” sounds more like an invitation of the kind that I give my wife when we part.
“Remember that I love you.”
That is certainly not a command, but an invitation. When you feel alone, remember that I love you. It’s an invitation for her to experience my love when we’re apart.
I’ve been invited to experience God’s rest. Why does it seem so confining and restrictive so often? Why does it feel like I’ve got to sacrifice things to obey a command, when I’ve been invited to experience better things? Why does the practice of Sabbath observance feel like walking into a confining little tent, when the invitation to Sabbath is a call to experience freedom and space?

Freedom and space.

View

I grew up in the hills of West Virginia. Montani Semper Liberi. But even then I knew people who felt hemmed in by the mountains. Claustrophobic. But I always felt that was because they lived on the surface of the experience. The true experience of anything requires one to delve deeply into it – to live deeply within it. Depth usually means exactly what the word says, below the surface. Below. But the depth in the mountains is an upward experiencing. Between the mountains IS a confining experience, but great space and freedom is felt as one moves up. The confining mountainsides slope away from one another so that as you ascend, the world opens up and the vantage is unfathomable. There is no freedom like that felt while atop a mountain.

All week I’ve been among people. Close long-time friends, brand new friends, brothers and sisters I’ve only just met. Conversing, learning, experiencing. This afternoon, I walked off alone. I walk up and up and right now I’m sitting at a lookout, all alone at over 8,000 feet.

Space, freedom, and solitude.

I accepted an invitation and I’m experiencing rather than practicing.
I’m looking out over a kingdom of paradox. It makes no sense that one would find freedom in submission, in giving up one’s rights. It makes no sense that one would find space in restriction.
But it’s all in perspective.
Throw off all encumbrances.
Take nothing for the journey.
Be cared for and provided for.

and the angels came and attended him.



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Monday, October 09, 2006

gathering 2

So the week between "the dress looks nice on you", and "full", was full. Hey, even the full moon blog was 2 days late. But I did a lot of blogging, just didn't get anything in a coherent form. I did a talk on Wednesday, that I will edit blogstyle and post, and the nice looking dress, part 2 is imminent.
However, there is a possibility that things may get sidetracked for a few days by other more immediate thoughts and responses. I'm writing now at gate 1, awaiting my flight to Albuquerque. I'll be driving up to the Santa Fe area for the Emergent Gathering. This will be my second year to attend, and I am very excited.
As I left the house this morning, Jack hugged me and said, "blog every day", so I guess I gotta. Stay tuned.

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full

Here she is kiddos. Full Harvest Moon 2006. The weather held out until she was full and then promptly clouded over and began raining.
She's still up there though, above the clouds, shining on.

Harv06

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Monday, October 02, 2006

the dress looks nice on you 1.0

listen link

Some time ago, I wrote a bit about a view of cultural relevance in the Christian community that creates extra false layers of personality. I don’t know if I posted my thoughts, but I think I did, I’m just not willing to search for them to provide you with a link. So the idea was this. Christians try really hard to look and act like those they’d like to reach so as to have a more welcome voice in that community. This no doubt, is a well-meant, good idea realizing that not being “of the world” is a matter of the heart, and that the superficial things we usually refer to are only observable appearance differences that do not reflect a person at all.
When we concern ourselves with appearances and such, we actually marginalize and push aside folks to whom we are meant to minister. Nevertheless, in order to “be set apart”, and to be “in the world, but not of it,” and to “avoid the appearance of evil,” and to know who’s in and who’s out, we acquire a façade that covers who and how we really are, and gives us a counter-cultural look that we eventually realize creates a barrier between the harvesters and the harvest.
Paul certainly realized this and became all things to all men so that be any way possible he could win some. He set aside the superficial “set-us-apart” stuff so as not to set himself apart from those whom he wanted to identify with Christ. Some of this stuff would have been very confusing to the people outside of the groups to whom he was ministering. He mentions that he subjected himself to the law for those under the law.
We know that he circumcised Timothy to give him more credibility with the many Jewish people who were in the area, although he had preached of the spiritual insignificance (and spiritual dangers) of circumcision under the new covenant. He mentions that for those not under the law, he acted as if not under the law (though not free from God’s law, but under Christ’s law), this must have meant behavior that some would have frowned upon.
Ok, I got a bit carried away there. The point is that some will now realize the need to become all things to all men so that by all means possible, they might win some. The problem is that in desiring to become all things to all men, we put on a fake-looking, superficial, inauthentic cultural façade that covers our churchy façade that covers who we really are, and end up with two layers above our real selves. Somehow we don’t notice that the top acquired layer looks strikingly similar to the bottom layer that we’re hiding. So we come off as very “fake” and “put-on”. The bottom culturally relevant layer is real, why cover it and try to recreate it inauthentically? How did Paul avoid this?
I think this is also a matter of heart and humility. Paul realized that in himself, he was no different than those to whom he was sent. He avoided putting on differences that set him apart from them. We, however, somehow feel that we have to lower ourselves to “be like them.” Our “putting-on” is condescending to those to whom we “become all things.” If we didn’t feel that way, wouldn’t we just shed the layer that hides our real selves rather than put on an extra layer that resembles our real selves? I wonder if we are somehow dependent on the fact that it doesn’t come off as real, because in that way we are seen as sacrificing, and feel that inauthentic look somehow hides the fact that in ourselves we are no different than anyone around us.

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Sunday, October 01, 2006

one october

The sun is sinking on October 1. It’s early evening, so the sun is not really setting, it is just riding low and throwing that October evening look into the back yard. The shadows are long and comically distorted. The entire yard is shadowed, save a single broad beam of bright light illuminating the woodpile. The remaining Hickory tree is precisely half in the sunshine and half in the shade - there is a shadow line running up the center of the trunk – and therefore casts no shade of its own.
The first of October is a big deal. This is the month of color. But the color happens long before the leaves lose their chlorophyll. The angle of the sun makes everything richer. The October blue sky is deeper than deep, creating a dimension on which the fluffy clouds float that is unlike any other time of year. The green leaves are greener as if they surge just before they die and expose their true colors – what they’ve really been all this time.
But for now, the show is green and blue and white with a yellowish play of evening sunshine.

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