Out of Hand

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It amazes me how things slide for me so fast…

  • Attraction turns into Lust
  • Respect turns into Idolatry
  • Awareness turns into Fear or Apathy (unawareness can do the same)
  • Concern turns into Anxiety
  • Relaxing turns into Laziness
  • Celebration turns into Addiction
  • Desire turns into Greed

What is interesting to me is that the latter (lust, greed, etc) are elements of our fallen-ness.  They are of the world.  No one wants to be associated with them until they become them.  A porn addict wants to keep looking at porn.  A fear mongering person gets a sense of accomplishment by scaring us.  An anxious person wants you to join them.  A lazy person doesn’t care once they embrace it.

These (the latter) are incredibly deceptive.

They use the former to lure us in.  The former (concern, attraction, etc) are God given elements of us designed to draw us to God and appreciate (worship) Him and respect our surroundings.  But people that are operating out of latter know that they can convince us to join their ranks using the former.

Things I’ve heard in the last month…

  • “Isn’t she attractive?”
  • “Why aren’t you worried about this?”
  • “Look at how great _______ is, did you know he ________?”
  • “You need to do what’s best for your family (concerning making money and not a God lived life)”

And on and on…

And once we are operating in the latter, we will spend our time, money and energy there.

That’s why God is so important… He keep things in check.

When these are directed correctly, we get “fruit”. see Galatians 5v22-23

  • Attraction turns into Love
  • Respect turns into Faithfulness
  • Awareness turns into Patience
  • Concern turns into Goodness and Kindness
  • Relaxing turns into Gentleness
  • Celebration turns into Joy
  • Desire turns into SelfControl
  • And the culmination is Peace.

With Growing Peace

***Technically Love is the ultimate fruit…

Being Outraged Is Not Necessarily Caring

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Being outraged is easy.

There are 4 responses that I see that are pervasive in social media, media, and in conversations.

  1. I’m outraged about ________
  2. I’m outraged that _______ is outraged about __________.
  3. I don’t care because it doesn’t affect me (or I can’t do anything about it).
  4. I see something wrong/unjust/off and I’m going to do the work to make a difference.

Now my sampling size is limited but I’m seeing a lot of the first two responses, very little of third because why should I…they usually don’t care to say anything, and a growing number of the last response.

I’m starting to believe that there may be a progression.

Maybe the being outraged is the initial (immature) response. Whether it is guns, gays, governments, or _________, the awareness that something is ___________ usually sparks an emotion.

However, after that new emotion shine wears off, we “mature” and frown upon, mock, or make clever memes about those that are currently outraged.  We view ourselves as more stoic or mature, but really we are just on a cynical path.

If we do this long enough, we eventually move to the “I don’t give a _____ because it doesn’t affect me”.  Now we may never say it this way, but you can see it in our attitudes, emotions, calendars, and bank statements.  We know _________ isn’t right but “who cares”.

The risky thing is to remain in this cycle of outrage and cynicism.

Media (both social and network) are really good at making us feel both afraid and helpless (which sparks the outrage and cynicism).  So we naturally seek out a person of power, whether they are a preacher, politician, or a boss, and hope they will bring the change that subdues the fear.  They usually let us down.  Then we become more outraged or cynical and the cycle deepens.

But then there are the others…

They battle the outrage and cynicism as well.  They get frustrated.  They get tired.  However, they go down a different path.  They realize that they can do something and they change their actions.  They don’t blame others and wait for permission. They see things “out of whack” and they start to model what they see as right.  They realize that anger and apathy won’t create a better place for their kids, grandkids, and friends.  They understand that the best critique of the bad is the practice of the good.  They become difference makers on the small scale, large scale, and sometimes the scope is so small that they are just beginning to make a difference in themselves.  They also spend less and less time trying to convince others to think like them and use that energy to be an example.

  • If they are outraged about _________ company, they just stop buying what that company is selling.
  • If they are outraged about _________ industry, they consume less.
  • If they are outraged about ignorance, they become teachers.
  • If they are outraged about abortion, they mentor at-risk teens and adopt/foster unwanted children.
  • If they are outraged about the lack of God in ________, they privately pray in those places and act as “salt/light” there.
  • And on and on and on….

They actually care about what others just yell about.  I want to be like them.

The Truth is “being outraged” can be used as cortisol, where it cripples you, stresses you, and makes you think less of others. OR  “Being outraged” can be used as adrenaline, where it motivates, focuses you, and gives you strength to combat the unjust and evil things in this world.  (I like this analogy, because too much cortisol or adrenaline destroys you just like being outraged all the time)

No one can stop you from being outraged, but also, no one can stop you from actually caring enough to alleviate some of that which outrages you.

Just Reflecting,

PS.  I write this to myself because my only fear in life is becoming an old grumpy white man who complains about the world he created whether by action or inaction.

PPSS. I’m lying…..I’m also still afraid of wasps.

Stop Being Right

SW1

Through many conversations, I’ve found that our doctrines are fluid.  We tend to act like things are black and white, but most of us know that this is a coping mechanism for dealing with complexity.  Most of us, when by ourselves or with those that we feel comfortable being honest with, don’t have “hard lines”.   We tend to be contemplative, compassionate, and generally philosophical.

We will use phrases like:

  • “That’s interesting”
  • “I’ve never thought of it like that”
  • “I don’t know”
  • “Hmmm”

Now I’m not naïve in believing that this is the default posture that most of us navigate our day to day operations with.  I’ve just observed that it exists within us and has a latent quality that a little prompting draws out.  You can’t point at it (this quality in us) and tell it to “come on out”, rather it needs to know that it is safe for it to be out.

It has a certain trait, like an abused dog.   Maybe that is because it use to run free and then the world beat the crap out of it.  So this posture and thinking became timid and was replaced by the group-Sith Lord thinking.  *The thinking that operates in absolutes and “you’re either with me or against me”.

It’s easier to be absolute.  It makes us feel sure and strong.  It makes us look convicted and clear.

*Well at least we look this way to the people that are acting the same way on the same side of the same issues.

(the group on the other side of the issue thinks “what an judgmental/arrogant prick”)

The Truth is we are unsure.

…and those of us that are Super Sure!!! are really insecure in our thinking because we have spent most of our energy/time agreeing (not thinking) with the position of a puffy chested figure that we idolize.

*The Super Sure have a library of one book with multiple titles and multiple authors*

If we can’t read, listen to, and have a beer/coffee with those that fundamentally disagree with us and learn something, then we’ve lost something that we were born with.

(Being right is a lousy posture for a son, husband, dad, friend and brother…I know.)

I think my life would be better if I spent more time on getting it right instead of being right.  The hard part in doing this is that it is messy and that I’ll need to realize that I’m going to be wrong a lot of the time.

On the bright side, it is become easier for me because I’ve been so wrong so many times in the past.

…If that’s the case, then why in the world would I have complete confidence that I’m right, right now?

With humility and caffeine.

Baltimore (Take Two)

Choice photo

I’ve heard many arguments on the topic of choice.

That people have a choice.

That our circumstances/situation/environment shouldn’t (really) dictate our choices.

Now I’ve always appreciated the good-long-standing debate about whether it’s nature (a DNA predisposition) or nurture (the environment).  I think it’s intriguing to think about whether I am the way I am because it’s my genetics or because of the people/experiences as a child.

However, the choice argument is basically negating both…

I’ve heard family members tell me that I’ve done “better” than they expected.  They didn’t mean this in a condescending matter.  They meant it to be uplifting.  They understood that losing a parent, having financial hardship, and an emotional unstable home usually produces a very similar situation.  They understood “apples fall close”.  Whether it’s nature or nurture could be debated, but what wasn’t debatable was that we tend to experience a very similar life as those that bring us up.

The few that don’t are the outliers to the majority.

Kids listen with their eyes.

Parents correct when their kids deviate from the “norm”.

What is socially acceptable and, more importantly, what we should expect, are learned psychologies.

So I see a lot of people on social media, that are very predictably a product of their parents/environment/experiences, yelling at others that do likewise.

To me, I see people that are a product of generational blessing yelling at those that are the product of a generational curse.  The only difference are those in Christ that express gratitude/humility for their blessings and mercy/passion to those that don’t.  To those that espouse CHOICE, you have two outcomes, PRIDE or SHAME, and neither are a Fruit of the Spirit and byproduct of being saved by grace.

….and yes, I espouse grace because it’s either in my nature and/or a product of my up bringing.

Baltimore (Take One)

When you think of the rioting, do you think of this?

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Or do you remember the one in 1861?

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Do you think of them as fighting tyranny?

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Like the Arab Spring…

Or maybe when it signifies the fall of suppression?

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Like the Berlin Wall.

Or maybe when the riots, protests and violence take down a monarchy?

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Like the French Revolution…..which inspired others to revolt.

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There are usually two responses to rioting and protesting.

One group that sees and understands because they can relate to the oppressed.

The other that can’t empathize at all because the systems/structure are security to their privilege.

In the past, we have dealt with the issues in different ways.

Sometimes it’s repression. (see China)

Sometimes it’s concession (see USA 1960s).

and today more than ever…..distraction.

However we should never be surprised because power/authority/privilege are always megaphones and magnifying glasses of sin.

(whoever holds the conch will always abuse it, Scripture and History repeats this over and over)

Always remember that one’s man terrorist is another man’s Freedom Fighter.

“I have come to set the world on fire, and I wish it were already burning!”

-Jesus

It’s hard for me because I’m against the violent and unjust, and I’m not sure who is which at times.

I’m a racist against racists.

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I confess this to you.

I realize that puts me categorically in place to get criticized (but the only way for that not to happen is to sit down, shut up and eat my vegetables)

Now I may publically attack racism that comes from white men*, but I don’t like any racism.

(*I have authority to speak on this because I grew up around a bunch of public/closet racist white men and now that I am a white man, I have to fight what is latent in me.  Every time that version of me rears it’s evil presence, I either pimp slap it or lead it into the light to be exposed for what it is – sin.  The “pimp slapping” is less effective I might add.*)

The Truth is it’s in all of us, and the “let’s ignore it or act like it’s in the past” crowd would rather point the finger elsewhere, make a political point, and act like it’s because of other “things”.

It’s not.

Most of us group together in a very tribal way with those that look and think like us.

I’m no different.  I have to work at spending time with all types of people.  It’s hard for most of us, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth striving for.

I’m not going to change anyone’s mind here, but this is rather a confessional striving in my life (and those closest to me).

I love the Huxley quote because I see people try to paint groups with one brush and it’s almost always a group that they have never really understood and subsequently are afraid of.  It’s okay to be afraid initially but it’s not okay to spread it.  (or share it on Facebook).

                “There is no fear in love” 1 John 4v18

I wrote as a confession so….

  • I confess that I’m a racist against racists.
  • I’ve seen the pain and destruction it has produced and it makes me angry.
  • I don’t like them and may God soften my heart.

Rudy Rasmus and I once grabbed a bite to eat (and maybe a beer) and he pointed out to me that maybe our theology is wrong because when put into practice it separates us. 

Not just on Sunday, but Monday through Saturday as well.

Unnecessary

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A while back, while working in the institutional organization behemoth of the United Methodist Church, I wrote some stuff deconstructing the church.  The truth was:  I was having a field day throwing rocks at every stained glass thing I could find.  I thought if I could breakdown enough stuff, people would start looking around and notice that shit is broken.

But they didn’t.

They just saw the immaturity (which was valid) and discounted my intuition of the institution on the basis of the immaturity.

I was mad.  So I left.  I packed up my notes, my sermons, my experiences, and my voice.

It’s taken some time to regroup and part of me doesn’t want to regroup.  Organizing anything around God seems to absorb egos, preferences and judgments.  It’s like a sponge for the most rootedness of our fallen-ness.  When I see it being practiced, I see politics, bigotry, and greed.

What I don’t see is freedom.

I see sheep looking for rules, 3 steps to _______, and quotations of religious “leaders” that are out of context to justify our prisons of personal perception.

It’s a weird, sick gravity that keeps us returning to the desert.  Maybe we are destined to wander until we understand that God is enough.  Maybe there is a biblical cyclical force that we have to understand to understand what God is doing.

It’s easy to see it in older churches just because there more evidence that religion is now the “fruit”, but I can smell it in church plants and in missional communities as well.  It’s an aroma of “we need to do this”.  It’s subtle and can be slowly subversive, but it’s an attack on faith.

Even Laodicea was fruitful at one time.

I’m not against boundaries and disciplines to a degree, but just because they are useful doesn’t make them necessary.  You can understand and experience God without any of them.  I’d even posture that those that disagree haven’t completely arrived themselves.

Maybe there are non-negotiables, but I doubt it.  I’m not doubting God as much as I’m doubting people and their “authorities”.

Maybe I’ll write more on the extensive list I’ve written in the past…

Or maybe it’s unnecessary because people who are religion “pushers” know that they aren’t the freedom fighters.

Pious Bias

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If you are disciplined, then you’ll love religion.  You’ll love rules.  You’ll love being better at it then others (if you don’t “get it”).

Now there is no problem with being disciplined.  It’s a gift (or a personality type).  I’m usually striving to be more disciplined myself.  Being disciplined has many benefits as it breathes life into maturity and selflessness if done for the right reasons.

The temptation is to slowly come to the conclusion that what you or I’ve mastered is necessary for others.  Instead of appreciating the progress we’ve made, we regress.  Gratitude should be the byproduct of discipline, not announcement and/or pushing others to do likewise (directly or indirectly).

People declare that they aren’t religious or a rule pusher but you’ll quickly find that they have their non-negoliables.  And that’s fine, but that doesn’t mean God agrees.  God was constantly breaking laws and then the religious leaders shortly after (and still today) are trying to say that He didn’t go against the law.

The pious need to believe that God doesn’t break the rules so they bend the theology…just a bit.

Being disciplined with our words, thoughts and actions is great and noble, but if we are doing it in hopes of getting others to follow us, or to have authority over others, OR BECAUSE WE THINK THEY NEED US TO BE….we may have a little idolatry of self working it’s way through the bread.

We need to be grateful for where God has given us discipline and let the gratitude/thanksgiving be the fruit of our discipline.

“How you know your preacher is in it for the money and power?”

This is a quick list.

You’re Pastor…

  • Has a jet.
  • Has a TV program that asks for donations.
  • Has his/her picture on a billboard.
  • Sells his/her books to his congregation or uses his/her platform to sell their books.
  • Has their name on everything.
  • Collects fee from outside the church for personal needs (this is subjective…but not hard to filter).
  • Would be considered successful compared to the average member of their congregation.
  • Doesn’t preach sacrifice and/or suffering.
  • Preaches sacrifice but doesn’t sacrifice.

It’s a harsh list, but it’s honest.

We don’t want to follow poor preachers because we can’t idolize their lives…so we make most of them* rich.

*Most of them = the preachers where the majority of people are going.

Playing Dum

Dumb and Dumber (Screengrab)

Playing dumb is a interesting phenomenon to me.  It’s like the antithesis of curiosity.

As I’m growing up and as I’m raising adults, I’m starting to realize that this is a learned behavior.

  • Maybe it’s a defense mechanism.
  • Maybe it’s an internal masseur that helps us deal with the hard facts of life.
  • Maybe it’s an effort to ignore the Truths of those that we violently disagree with.
  • Maybe it’s just a conscious decision to “wash our hands” of any accountability.

Whatever it is, it’s a disease.

“I didn’t know”

“I wasn’t shown/taught/told how to _______”

“I wasn’t aware of their background/wisdom/experience”

“I was born with these views taught to me”

“I don’t understand why liberals (or conservatives) think _________”

Beware of following people that repeatedly use these statements.

There are (many) times when it is impossible to know everything about everything before acting or speaking, but curiosity should precede actions and the tongue.

(This phenomenon is exponentiated by technology.  The curious begot more curiosity and knowledge.  The “playing dumb” crowd share more half truths and state that they didn’t know the whole story…but that’s not their fault… it’s the fault of the propaganda that they expose themselves to.)

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