12 Years

On this date 12 years ago I started a blog with some friends. It was narrowly focused on how the culture had shifted and how the church might adapt.  Specifically our little corner of the church.  It seems like a lifetime ago.

I’ve had a lot of contact lately with people that consider themselves in the midst of deconstructing or having had deconstructed their faith.  I relate to much of what I’m hearing. I struggle with the concept of deconstruction when I think of myself.  Many of them have been atheists or still consider themselves to be.  My belief system was never that binary.  I think it first came to my awareness on a summer day in 1998.

In summer of 1998 I decided to grow my faith differently.  My wife and I were visiting my Mom for the weekend.  That Sunday we went to the church that my Mom still attends, the church I grew up in.  (Some of you reading this still attend there.)  It was near the end of worship. I looked around and noticed almost everyone really immersed in the moment. I could feel the Holy Spirit in my bones, yet I paused.  As I scanned the sanctuary I said to myself “This isn’t for me.”  In the moment I felt guilty about that.  As we drove home that afternoon I was reflecting about that experience. I realized then, the type of church I grew up in was not designed for me.  Yet because of this mystical sensation that God was there with us I couldn’t throw out the church et al.  This set me on a path to explore what new ways we could live into the teachings of Jesus in community.  I’m still on the trajectory.

There are many reasons that I have not had to completely strip away my faith.  Maybe in the future I can share that journey in more detail.  It was that summer day in Lansing Michigan that was pivotal in my construction.  I’d rather speak of faith in more organic terms.  The seeds of my faith began to germinate into something new.  I’ve done some pruning along the way, but I have’t had to cut the whole thing down. When I need to I’ll graft new beliefs in and prune some shriveled beliefs off.  This is how organisms grow, in that respect I am no different. I’ll do what I can to share some of that process with you.

I couldn’t let the anniversary of that blog launch to pass by without a post. By the way, here’s a link to the first post.  Enjoy, I did as I reread it today.

Thanks for stopping by.  Be uncommon.

Icons of a Ritual

I think most of you have noticed that I’ve been posting on Instagram our new view a lot lately. I just can’t help myself. I wish all my friends could come and gaze out on the beautiful landscape with me. Since you can’t, I just keep posting.

Things often change with a question. Our friend Karen was visiting us last weekend. While on the deck sipping out coffee and tea she asked if posting those picture was a ritual of mine.  I pondered her question for a minute.  No, the photos are not the ritual.  They are the icons of my ritual.

An icon is visual representation, or a remembrance of something that holds meaning.   In this instance I’m referring to a spiritual symbol.  In Eastern traditions of the Christianity icons have been and are still important part of worship and spiritual practices.  Icons are meant to help us connect to God.  They give us something to focus on.  Icons help us to visually remind us of an ancestor in our spiritual family that empowered to change the world around them.  I think if we stop and think we all have icons that we favor.  Currently mine are right out the kitchen window and a long my drive to work.

Rituals are subscribed practices set for by an organization or a spiritual community or organization.  Merriam-Webster wasn’t that helpful in this case.  What I mean by ritual is something we do personally or corporately to worship God.  It could be something standardized like the liturgy or singing 3 songs before a sermon or partaking in communion/The Lord’s Supper/The Eucharist.  It could be something like yoga and scripture before breakfast or a walk on your lunch.  A ritual can be a practice that helps enrich your life and give it more meaning.

My younger, more Evangelical self, has a push-back to those words.  When I was in high school I the world ritual had some negative connotations.  Rituals were things that pagans or dry, lifeless forms of church did.  Icons were foreign to my church experience so like most unknown things I feared them.

Then, at about the same time my assumptions about these words were challenged.

Ritual was challenged by an invitation to church with a Catholic friend.  His parish was full of life.  People there were joyful and passionately partook in the aerobic nature of the liturgy.  I was greeted with huge smiles and energetic handshakes.  It was wonderful to see so much joy where in the past I had only seen what confirmed what I thought I already knew.  I had rituals all wrong.

Soon after that my soccer coach shared with us about an important icon to him.  I attended a Christian school that had a spiritual retreat every fall.  During worship he explained the importance icons in his Greek Orthodox tradition.  I don’t remember what he said that day.  Whatever he said changed my assumption.

When you look at my Instagram feed, now you know.  Know that accompanying the  photo you are enjoying was a moment or two of gratitude and worship to God.  A moment I felt the wind on my face, salty air in my nostrils, being more grounded in my body that God handcrafted.  I invite you to join my rituals.  Feel free to barrow my icons if it helps.  Their not really mine anyway.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Be uncommon.

 

White People Say the Darnedest Things

I saw this video on a friend’s FB feed.  I laughed and cried. We have so much work to do.  By we, for now, I mean White people in the USA.  I hope we can ride this recent wave of awareness in the media of violence by White police officers to people of color. Much more needs to change, I hope we can see that. I hope we can change.

Now that I’ve done some more work on my inner self I feel more comfortable pointing the type of comments and attitudes in this video in daily life.  I get strange looks of course, especially in my neighborhood (Upper Queen Anne, Seattle). I know that shame is involoved and we defend ourselves with those kind of looks and rebutals.  As if I don’t have the right to point out racsim to an aquiantence or someone I just met.   As if you’ve got the right to be Racist.  I guess you do, and that’s the problem. Deep cultural changing work will be done with longterm relationships anyway, I’ve found that I must do something. We’ve got to do something! I have much more to say. That’s all that’s going to be said on Christmas Day +1 when I have a sugar cookie hangover.

Thanks for stopping by. Be uncommon.

Wedding Experiment

Weddings. Most of the weddings I’ve officiated I’ve enjoyed. So much love and anxiety in one place. So much loss and joy about new beginnings. A happy tear and sad tear cocktail. I enjoy walking with people through that fertile ground.

I’m officiating a wedding this weekend. This my first since moving to Washington.  The wedding is of a former student who is also the daughter of a former co-worker.   It’s good to see them again and hopefully I will be able to make more time to see them when I’m out of school.

I’ve had the notion for years that there’s a better way to do pre-marital counseling.  I’ve had feedback from a lot of the couples I’ve married that what I was walking them through didn’t make sense until they were married.  I think that’s probably true for a lot of our learning isn’t it?  Our learning becomes more meaningful when it’s applicable to life or work.  With that thought in mind, I’ve wondered if it would be more beneficial for couples to have some counseling after they’re married.  I have not had any takers on my theory yet.  I know that most of the couples that I’ve officiated have begrudgingly met with me beforehand.  Those are the vibes I usually pick up before they met with me.  Most couples have been able to see that it wasn’t just me telling them how to live, it was me facilitating their conversation on how they wanted to live together.  Often these conversations are not a priority or they are just avoided hoping for the best.  I think those are silly ways to live, even though I have the same defenses.

Getting married is a life transition.  If we’re honest we often struggle through major life transitions.  Most of us who have had a therapeutic presence trough a transition know that it is worthwhile.   (When I say therapeutic I’m using it in the general sense.)  Some of us would say we couldn’t have made it with out that life giving presence.  So why not accept my kind offer to walk along side you?  The reasons are many I’m sure.

Sophie and Ryan, the couple I’m marrying tomorrow, have decided that they would allow me to experiment with them.  I think this may be an optimal situation.  They are laid-back and flexible people.  They love life and love an adventure.  They’ve been open in talking about  life with each other and myself.  I’m excited to see how this goes.

Until then, Godspeed you two.  May you continue to play and explore the world together.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Be uncommon.

 

Theological Musings Past and Present

Since coming to The Seattle School I’ve made some realizations about, well… everything. What’s on my mind currently is theology and ecclesiology.   I hear of these theologians writing about cultural shifting.  They’re using descriptors like postmodern, later-modern, post colonial, etc.  I notice when they wrote the article I’m reading or hearing a lecture on and it’s from the 70’s or 80’s.  I immediately jump to the question: Where were these people when I was first wrestling with new theology and new forms of church?  I could have used some of these voices from 2000-2004 especially.  I just remember frustration that there was no one to read. No one to talk to about my wonderings. No one to talk about how church and theology could be done different. Unbenounced to me they were there.

Those of you who were grappling with me on such things here’s a list of people you might like to hear from.  Most of them do not have a dominant cultural worldview.  It’s quite refreshing and challenging.  I dare you to read some of these people:  Colin Guton, Stan Grenz, Musa Dube, James Cone,  John Webster, and Gustavo Gutierrez.

They were there.  If I only new.  Maybe, in the muddling through these things with comrades was the best thing after all.  I just wanted some affirmation that I was still orthodox.  Which I got eventually from some unexpected people.

Thanks for stopping by.  Be uncommon.

volunteering at a jedi luncheon

I had the privilege of volunteering my time at The Story Workshop this past weekend.   The workshop is a conference offered by The Allender Center.  I got to refill coffee, water, M&M’s, salad, and gluten free goodies.  I got to clean tables, bathrooms, garbage bins, and a coffee percolator.  I was honored to move tables and chairs.  I had the privilege to give directions, pats on the shoulder and warm smiles.  It was an honor to put together an altar with a friend and place communion elements.  I feel truly grateful for an opportunity to be a part of a weekend that creates space for so much life change.

In one of the sessions there was a palpable sense that I was participating in something special.  I felt God’s warm, kind, fierce, unrelenting presence amongst us.  As I was sitting in the back of the room with other volunteers I had a wonderful view.  It was like I had a box at The World Cup Final.  I saw tears and smiles.  Some on the same faces.  I saw heads shaking and hands tightly clenched around paper napkins.  I saw disposable cups rolling through fidgeting fingers.  It was a glorious scene.

When we came to the last session of the weekend I was struck with realization: I amongst some very gifted souls.  Dan Allender gave bouquets of flowers to each of the facilitators.  He honored and blessed their beings and their commitment to health and life in the lives of others.  To the last one they are brilliant and gifted therapeutic practitioners.   It was as if I was at The Jedi Temple participating in a luncheon for the Council.  Such a gifted and compassionate group of warriors.  They put themselves willingly between the forces of evil and the participants.  Guarding, guiding them through the putrid suffering and glorious goodness in their own stories.  I was happy to see them at work.  To serve them, who valiantly serve others, was quite an honor.

Such a sacred space.

One day I hope to craft my own lightsaber.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Be uncommon and may The Force be with you.

bring in the old school and the new me

Last night we arrived home from a Church of God Family Camp and my head is still bubbling with much to ponder.  I’m glad to share some of the happenings and thoughts I’m digesting.

First thing for you to keep in mind is that this week was a boys week.  Jen dropped us off Monday and came back after work Friday.  Last year was quite a struggle for me, if I’m honest.  This year we’re all a year more mature.   Over all it was a great week of memory making with my boys.

I’m motorcycle sitting while my friend is out of town for two weeks.  It was a marvelous ride from Seattle to Easton.  I’m glad I had a ride, because there were some key things that we forgot to pack.  On the way back from the store a pickup intercepted an eagle in a dive.  The eagle, the truck, myself, and prey were unscathed by the encounter.

We camped in the far reaches of Double K Retreat Center.  I was considering pitching the tent by the RVs so we could have water and electricity.  I also considered this so it would force me to know more people.  After discussing it with the boys we landed on the familiar space from last year.  We were secluded, but it was a good balance.  Next year when Joel is more comfortable on his bike, it will be near perfect.

Format.  If you’ve been to Family Camp, Campmeeting, or a Week long Tent Revival you know what we did.  If you are unfamiliar with such things… here’s an overview.  There’s stuff for kids and adults in the morning. Lunch, free time, and then dinner.  There’s a worship session in the evening.  After worship there’s usually a bonfire, snack, or activity of sorts for everyone who wants to participate.  We partook in all group activities except the late night ones.  I’d usually let the boys play until it got closer to dark.  I lured them back to the campsite with at treat like s’mores or brownies.  Then we’d finish the night off by reading Harry Potter.

This year the PNA (Pacific Northwest Association of The Church of God), went for a new format.  In years past there has been the Annual Meeting near the end of Family Camp.  This time Family Camp was Monday-Thrusday and  Pastor’s Day on Friday.  There was worship, ministry info shared, teaching, reports, discussion and voting.  There was ample time for relationships as well.  I met a lot of people that day.  At the end of the day I feel more like a pastor than I have in years.  I realize that talking, praying, and dreaming about what God wants us to do in the world brings out our calling.  It at least reminds me of my calling.  It shows me that there is also an affirmation of my calling from the Body in a public forum.  As far as the new Pastor’s Day, I think it was successful.  I have to say I would have liked more time with more pastors.  I try to mingle meaningfully.  A day isn’t enough time to connect with a lot of people.  This is where I missed my homies in MI.  The Church of God in MI has an all day Friday and half day Saturday General Assembly.  It’s in a hotel that most people stay in or at least stay to mingle.

During the Executive Director’s Update, Lloyd Moritz, shared some encouragement, admonishment, and the state of the PNA.  My key point that I took away was that Lloyd will be framing everything in a team mindset.  Team PNA!  Which I will have you know I was the first to tweet #TeamPNA. Thank you Lloyd.  I’m drinking the Kool-Aide.  I have lots of thoughts about how I might be able to help the team.  We’ll see what ideas hit the street.

Calling.  My mind was on calling though out the week.  No doubt I’ve been called to the Northwest.  Probably somewhere in Seattle.  With whom and where exactly is still unclear.  A missional community, yes.  The likes of those that I’ve pondered and experimented for years.  Calling was renewed and highlighted this week like it hasn’t been for a while.  I should be clear, my calling is a pastoral calling.  Will I be a therapist? Yes. Will I be a pastors?  Yes.  Looks like The Seattle School of Theology Psychology is a good place for me after all.  I of course type that with a smirk and a wink.

There’s the other part of calling that I’m pondering.  I still feel called to the Church of God. Many of my friends have jumped ship.  Jumped out of ministry, ChOG or both.  As sad and aggravating it has been and will be, I am still called.  It would be much easier to leave and just do my thing.  It’s still clear to me that I cannot abandon the ship.  It’s taking on water and its time to grab my bucket.  I hope others in my generation will do the same.  (This will be the focus of the book I’m going to try to write.) (Oh man, I just broadcasted that! Crap!)

I couldn’t help but notice some differences between last year and this year.  Most of the difference was within me.  My eyes are open to how I interact with people.  I spent time alone when I needed it.  When I needed people I sought them out.  Even when I felt like I didn’t want to introduce myself I did so without emotional dissociation.  I took some risks and it was nice to be seen and hear stories from a variety of people.

It was a great week and we’ll be back next year.

 

Thanks for stoping by.  Be uncommon.

 

Note: I will be updating this with a link to a highlight video for those who want to see some pictures and a couple video clips.

 

Dear Church

This is a companion to my last post, Dear Mr. Zimmerman.

 

I can’t help but contemplate how the world would be differant if more of us lived the ways of Jesus through his Spirit.  Young black men could walk places and not be shot. My friends could go to Costco and not be harassed because they’re Latino.  [I’m going for my White Ally badge lately, so you may have to excuse some of this if you haven’t considered your Whiteness, privilege, or power.]

Church, I’m just wondering where the love is? Love that we live out that changes lives. I’m not talking about handing out 6oz water bottles to affluent people at parades. I’m talking about looking your neighbor in the eyes and valuing their humanity the way Jesus did. That kind of gaze can change a life. By gaze I really mean embodiment. Truly living with, for, and on behalf of those around you. Love can win.  Love has won and some of us are not even in the game.

I’m wondering where the courage is Church? Fear and hate are still alive for certain. Fear of difference. Fear of the loss of power. Fear of being mocked and excluded. Fear of not being invited over to the popular kids house for dinner. Fear of Zombies. What are we afraid of? Fear. Love can drive out fear.  If we live with courageously through love fear has no place.

What will you do church? How will we change the world around us.  How will we allow God to work through us?  How much longer can the world wait?  The Trayvon Martin’s, sex slaves, and child soldiers of the world can’t wait any longer.  Dear church, get in the game.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Be uncommon.

a 3 year old back

For those of you who just met me, you’re going to want to watch this video. Three years ago today, about this time of the morning the Father saw fit to give me a new spine. I was born with scoliosis.  I had taken 4o High School students and leaders backpacking in Wyoming and Colorado. I was out of shape and my back was killing me.

For others that were on that trip, don’t forget what happend. Our prayers were answered!  Everything from trivial animal sighting requests to moving dangerous thunderstorms away form the mountains we were hiking, our heavenly Dad heard and moved them all at our request.  Remember, we simply asked what our Father wanted to do, then we asked for him to do it. Then SURPRISE! He did!

Those of you who were healed with me, and prayed for us: You were part of something special. Don’t forget that!  God is alive, well and is in active pursuit of us! He wants to work in us, and through us in this broken world. Let him love you, and let that love flow through you to others around you. Especially those who don’t know Him by name yet.

Today especially I celebrate and praise the Father for his goodness.  My back is still straight.  Thanks for coming along with me.

Glory to God!

Climb ’12

This week I’m heading to the Pacific Northwest Association of the Church of God’s [PNA] annual Camp & Conference. For us Michiganders this is like General Assembly + Camp Meeting. I’ve been asked to lead a conference as well. There’s a lunch and meeting with Church Planters and pastors of young churches I’ve been invited to. That’s what got this adventure primed in my head a few months ago.

Jen is dropping us off today, and it’s boys week. I could use some prayer on that. No van, no wife, going to an unknown camp with my 3 sons.  There’s stuff for the kids throughout the week, and I’m hoping that they’ll make some friends to play with too.

I dare say I still have introduction fatigue, but I’ll power through and meet a bunch of people.

If I have a signal I’ll blog the week from my phone. I’m excited to see how the PNA rolls.

Thanks for reading.