R.I.P. Human Responsibility – a Funeral Homily

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R.I.P. Human Responsibility – Born: Beginning of Time.  Died:  2011

A Funeral Homily by Robin Dugall

Grace and Peace to you through God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  I have to admit, I haven’t known Human Responsibility (H.R.) in a personal and intimate way all of my life…but over the last number of years, we’ve built a very good relationship.  It is my honor to be able to reflect with you over the next few moments as we talk about his legacy.  For in one way or another, all of us have to confess honestly that HR has made at least a small impact on our lives.  For many of us we would not be the people we are today without his illustrious influence…so, those of you who are here to honor his memory but you don’t know him that well, please forgive those of us who have known HR well as we become a bit indulgent with our recollections of someone who has made a life-altering impact on who we are today.

H.R. had a bright beginning from the moment he was brought into existence.  In other words, it was an illustrious start to a long life as HR was birthed as the twin sibling of H.F., Human Freedom.  Both HR and his twin were born in a place called Eden, a gifted place of the presence of God in a purpose-filled world.   HR and HF started to grow and flourish as other creatures inhabited their world…a tender relationship was carved out between HR and HF and those who would become their close neighbors, human beings.  Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for these neighbors to start playing favorites when in came to the twins.  It soon became more than obvious to HR that these humans much preferred HF (at HR's exclusion…of all the gall!)…it was that relational damage that would go on to chart a specific and eventually destructive course in HR’s life as time went on.  When his life journey began, the Creator gave H.R. a key role in human decision-making.  He was a partner with human beings in taking care of the world and engaging in life-giving work that made life purposeful and enjoyable.  HR gave these human beings a sense of value as they took him seriously and he taught them how the balance their relationship between the he and his brother.

Then, in a pivotal moment that we all remember, two of HR and HF’s friends, did something that went on to test their relationship with the twins.  As I briefly alluded to a moment ago, this moment in HR’s life would go on to be the defining moment for the rest of HR’s years on this planet.  I don’t want to belabor a very trying and destructive time in HR’s life, but the decision that "A" and "E" (otherwise known as "dirt boy and dirt girl") made to actually start to abuse HR’s twin brother, HF, was the moment that forever hurt their relationship with HR forever.  It would never be the same again…the moment HF was abused, A and E tried to avoid HR.  They ran from him like he was an infection preferring rather new friends like Blame, Shame, Victimhood and Death.  After a while, this story began to be tragically repeated over and over throughout HR’s life.  He was the easy one to try to avoid…it was easy to pick on HF and get away with it because all anyone ever had to do was run away from HR and ridicule him. 

I don’t want to go and on about this – but let us suffice to say that HR’s life from that moment on became one of loneliness and desperation.  All the years that HR was alive could have been best summarized by the word, “pain”.  Every time his brother, HF was abused, which became an addiction for all of Creation’s creatures, HR was more and more isolated.  Yes, he had some good friends…Confession and Repentance were close to HR but they too soon became the butt of jokes and appeared as “old school” or “old fashioned” to those who thought they knew better. Over the past years, Individualism, Excuse, and Relativism joined HR’s old nemeses Blame, Shame Victimhood and Death as those who took precedence over the influence that HR desired to make on life.  Apparently, they had slicker and more attractive personalities especially since H.R. was so old.  Add that to the fact that HR was, frankly (we all know this) a bit forthright, cranky, and a bit of a pain to deal with, people slowly started to embrace new relationships.

Over the last few years, HR experienced most of the debilitating effects of his loneliness.  Governments with HUGE debts decided that they would be more popular to leave to that debt to future generations or blame people who have befriened HR and made something of themselves…famous people looked to their problems as addictions or psychological disorders which gave them permission to embrace Excuse rather than be HR’s friend…others would spend time with Blame looking to genetics, upbringing, the past, the color of their skin, ethnicity or place of birth rather than visiting HR. People learned from “Sponging off the System” and from “It’s your Responsibility not mine” and lastly from “You take care of Me” rather than give HR the time and attention he deserved.  And friends, don't get me wrong…because we all have to admit right here and now that we’ve taken advantage of him as well.  Let’s face it, we all neglected HR and in so many ways, our lives are worse off because we didn’t spend more time paying attention to him and his message in our lives.  For many of us, we’re stuck, dead on the inside and lifeless because new life always comes as a gift from God by way of a relationship with HR. 

HR passed away from a broken spirit over the last several years.  His deteriorating influence and health finally caused him to succumb to deadly forces that sucked the life out of him and left him a lonely, broken, and empty shell.  I must say, that I wish there were more like HR in our lives…we needed him and he was the first person we ignored.  Heaven forgive us…and may we find some way to honor the legacy and memory of Human Responsibility at some time in our lives!

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Social Networking revolutionizing how we live in community…

Google-logo_content_page My goodness…just watched this video about a hour ago and my head is still buzzing.  This new program looks like Facebook on steroids…it appears to be able to do what many of "us" have looking for from Facebook and that is the ability to be very "precise" in communication in specific circles of relationships.  In other words, not all of our "friends" are intimates…not all are "compadres" or partners in Kingdom living.  As with all of our relationships, there is a smattering of different circles of relationships.  Joe Meyers got this right in some of his books…we need to rethink "community"…not in a discriminatory sense, mind you…but in a relational context that is honest, forthright and honoring of the appropriate depth of relationship.  In other words, sometimes you simply need to communicate some information to a group of people you know but not everyone of your friends need to have the same information…sometimes you just want to share some stuff with those closest to you…other times, you can announce to the world about how you like an article, movie, link, etc.  There needs to be unique circles of relationships…

Well, it appears that Google (you know, THAT Google that now is BIG KID on the cyberspace block) is getting more into the social networking world with a new tool that appears to do just that…I wonder…will it replace FB?  It that its pure intent?  I don't know…I can only speculate…but I tell you, if this comes down, I'd be tempted to switch!  Check out Google+ HERE… And one more thing, the Wall Street Journal's article on Google+.


An older post…but something that still needs to be said and experienced…

I wrote this article on this blog over 5 years ago…I ran into its text in searching for something else and it caught my attention.  I think what I'm trying to say in this post is still relevant…so take a peek!  I decided not to change one word of what I wrote in the past…I might (myself) quibble with some of what I wrote if I were to look at it critically…but the 'spirit' of the post is true…we need less emphasis on memories and money and more on trust, dependency, risk and living in the "winds of the Spirit."

Disneyland_tshirt "Clutching a fistful of pocket change and a full ticket book, I remember running into the “Magic Kingdom” as a kid.  Yeah, it was 1970 and, yes, I’m old but give me a break…everyone who is a bit “younger” should let “old people” have their little walk down memory lane.  OK?   The “Ticket Book” for Disneyland was full of tickets with letters on them; the higher up the alphabet, the more exciting, imaginative and awe-inspiring the ride.  I remember hounding my grandfather for his “E” tickets.  I would promise him the world…take out the trash all summer, mow the lawn, walk the dog, wash the dishes…whatever it took to get more of those coveted “E” ticket rides.  “D” rides were good on most days, but those “E’s”. 

Disneyland for most of my life had always been a place of imagination and fascination.  From the very beginning of the park’s inception, Uncle Walt desired to make Disneyland a place where magic occurred on a regular basis.  Disneyland was supposed to be a place where not only a kid, but also an adult was “encapsulated” in a world of fantasy that emitted the sense of awe and wonder in the heart of the visitor.  I have to admit, I took the bait.  I loved going to Disneyland.  Even when my family moved to California in 1971, I made my way back time and again to see things that were only in the creative mind's eye.  Even when the “all park pass” replaced the “E, D, C, B, and A” tickets, Disneyland was still the place to go for a dose of ingenuity.  It was not only fun but also exciting to be engulfed in somewhat of a mythological world.  Inanimate objects moved and appeared life-like.  Robots didn’t look like the metal contraptions that scientists thought they would look like in the early days of robotic technology.  These “characters” moved and spoke and even looked like people.  I remember the chill that went up my spine (even when I was in my 20’s) when Abe Lincoln would stand and recite part of the Gettysburg Address.  I remember having a blast seeing pirates magically chase women and appear drunk with pigs.  They all moved!  They were my heros…er, the technological geniuses behind my fantasy were my heroes.  It was cutting edge at the time.  And I looked forward to going year after year because it was a place where I thought, “hey, if they can do this, imagine what we can possibly do in the future”.  I wondered at the time how the Disney “family” was going to keep up with the future…but even as new rides were rolled out, the sense of wonder and awe stayed the same.  There was hope for fantasy and magic. 

Match that up with a recent trip to Disneyland that I took with my wife.  For a few years, we were season pass holders…more for the date night strolls down Main Street for people watching purposes than for the excitement and instigation of wonder.  The Disney “family” has transformed into the Disney Corporation.  Profits are now what run the Park.  I can’t remember a new technology or an “attraction” that is really anything that ventures close to something we might call “cutting edge”.  Things called “Memories” and “Money” have replaced “Creativity” and “Wonder”.  No, I’m not some old scrooge getting cynical about a treasure of Americana.  Rather, I’m simply pointing out that keeping “guests” engaged in a new world…challenging people’s imagination and fantasies…being the purveyors of “Imagineering” seems to no longer be what drives the Disney engine.  Walk Tomorrowland sometime…there’s nothing there!  They closed the best ride in the park, Space Mountain, to make “improvements”.  There’s nothing “Tomorrow” about Tomorrowland.  The Starwars ride you can get at any video arcade or miniature golf park.  3-D movies…been there, done that.  Going around in circles on a “rocket”…I put my granddaughters on those types of rides all the time.  That’s it!  Even California Adventure is a rehashing of the old…nothing that spurs the sedimentary heart and mind.  This article has nothing to do with cynicism; it has all to do with just calling a spade a spade.

You know, the Church isn’t much different.  Creativity, Imagineering, wonder, awe and excitement are often replaced by the “bottom line”…memories and money.  The status quo needs their memories.  In fact, the Church is addicted to memories…an addiction that prevents many in its hallowed walls to be in denial about the real world and internally “satisfied” with the lack of spiritual engagement and impact on a world that is desperately looking for a “big story” filled with wonder and awe.  I remember going to the student ministry group that eventually was instrumental in “reintroducing” me to God.  There was something in those meetings that moved me.  Awe, wonder, astonishment, ingenuity…the leaders took a “meta-narrative”…a story that was bigger than the universe…something that by its very nature was exciting and compelling beyond belief and presented it in a manner that engaged my life.  Over the years, I was told that approach was something that was purely for “high school kids”.  Someone, in fact, many “some ones” told me without reservation and with a pasty smile on their face that I would get “over” that approach and come to appreciate the “old” ways.  And you know what?  I did appreciate the “old” ways.  They are worth appreciating but not living on as a steady diet.  My experience of the church became like my experience at Disneyland over recent years…something that I did to remember what it felt like to really love and be passionate about God.  Risk in the churches I attended was constantly put through the “memory” and “money” filter.  Either we “couldn’t afford it” or “couldn’t do it” for some unknown, unspecified, unspoken, unquestioned reason.  Over the years, a trip through the pews and sanctuaries of the churches I was a part of felt like a trip to the old “Country Bear Jamboree”…I knew every line, all the jokes, all the inside workings of the attraction…overtime, it all became just one big act to get me to remember and to give to support the memory.

Ministry and Christ-following in Community should be something that sets a heart on fire.  Participating in the greatest story and endeavor in the history of humanity include more than saying a bunch of things that people have said and sung for centuries.  I’m looking for wonder.  I’m looking for a group of Christ-followers who are spiritual “imagineers”…looking to use earthly tools to construct a taste of the Kingdom.  I want to have a “fistful” of excitement when I urge a friend to come and join me as a bunch of people get together to play with wonder.  As much as we have tried to analyze and exegete the Church, you think we would get it right.  But that’s been part of the problem!  Exegeting the movement of the Holy Spirit is exactly what we should NOT be about.  Exegeting is a science…it borders on something that smacks of a material, natural world…not the supernatural.  Trying to comprehensively understand a phenomenon leads only to the science of “copying”.  And there’s a major problem with that…copying what God is doing that is exciting in one place is like Knott’s Berry Farm attempting to copy the Matterhorn.  It’s outrageous!  Why not just “put up a sail” of openness and willingness to be led by the Lord and simply see where He will lead.  I know that sounds “mysterious”…but it should sound that way.  I know of church plants within certain denominations that only happen when a measurable group of denominational adherents agree to form an institution based around the workings of a constitution that has as a part of it a built in structure, polity, financial structure and religious practice.  In that model of church planting, all you add are the memories and money and, wonder of wonders, a church comes into existence.  No wonder (pun?) the church as a whole is losing its grasp in this culture.  I guess inspiration, wonder and the leading of the Spirit have to take second place to “memories and money”.

The church today needs people to take the risk of being on the edge!  Little gatherings of believers who are passionate about a risen Savior and Lord need to expose themselves to the danger of newness in order to engage people in the wonder of God.  When I was leading a church in Utah, I remember many people coming from the “predominant religion” in the state and finding in the worship experience something they had never experienced before.  I remember people leaving wondering, “What was that?”  It was then we were able to point to the “wind of the Spirit of Jesus Christ”…a wind that blows and you have no idea from whence it comes (cf John 3).  The Church needs that again.  No more “memories and money”.  No more denial of what is really happening.  As far as I’m concerned, Disneyland can close until they regain the mission they once had.  As far as I’m concerned, let’s close as many churches as possible until we start to regain the passion that kindled the fires of heart of people who turned the world upside down centuries ago…let’s close as many churches as possible until we see the Spirit of God ignite a new fire which leads wandering hearts and lives into heavenly wonder, imagination and awe."

Wedding today…Perkins tomorrow…home in a few days…

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All pictures today…wedding happens in a few hours!  As you can see, our daughter and granddaughter are geared up and ready to go…my sisters and Dawn's boyfriend are flying over in the Red Baron (Gary's twin engine plane)…tables and set up happen in a few minutes…dogs over to Gayle's for the day (thanks Gayle – what a gift)…family and pals and hanging out soon.  Then back to Camp Perkins for a some fun and teaching…then home on Wednesday to our faith community and new pals in Monroe.  Won't be around my blog much over the next few days…now you know "the rest of the story". 

The “Pup” is getting married! Oh, and a shout out to my Canadian pals…go Canucks!

Chaya Yep, this Saturday Chaya is getting married!  Kelly Knopp (artist and Boys/Girls Club Leader/Director…oh yeah, skater, humorist, all around nice guy) and Chaya are hitching up on Saturday this week.  Many of you don't know that since she was a wee girl, I've called her "pup"…so now you know…the pup is a few days away from being Mrs. Knopp.  By the way, you can check out Kelly's work (including their very "unique" wedding invitation) on Kelly's blog (where he posts his work – click here).  So, we are in the midst of decorating, dress fitting (that would be HER dress, not mine), and all the other festivities that usually are associated with weddings.  To say the least, we are excited and blessed!  Kelly is a good man…I am usually a pretty positive and affirming person, but when it comes to MY daughter, I'm pretty particular.  When I say that Kelly is a "good" man, I mean it.  He has a good heart, a relaxed spirit, he loves our pup and her pup (the amazingly wonderful, special K)…he is creative, a conversationalist, a patient…he is inquisitive, intelligent, and diligent in putting his hands and life to work to make people's journey in life a more enjoyable one.  We are proud of what the Pup is becoming but we are just as excited to see what God is going to bring about through this new union.  May the Lord bless this new "entity"…their lives together…the growing sense of family/friends and the steps they will take together!  We love them both…including, Kae, we love them all!  Let the festivities continue…

Oh, and by the way, YES, I am a sell-out to all my Canadian friends…GO CANUCKS!  You see, I grew up playing and loving hockey when there were the "ORIGINAL SIX"…I am a Detroit guy…I couldn't pull for the Bruins if my life depended upon it!  So…again, GO CANUCKS!

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The Blackberry Bush by Dave Householder, surfer, spiritual instigator, story-teller

Blackberry_bush The Blackberry Bush was a surprise…because I had never read anything that Dave had written in any length before (except his blog posts, which at times…), I had no preconceived notions or expectations.  Having read his enthusiastic anticipation of the book’s release, I knew a bit about what the premise of his novel would be yet that is where any speculation on my part ceased. 

The Blackberry Bush is an amazing journey…it is an intentionally relational book…it is about family, dreams shattered and awakened, struggle with internal as well as external darkness, and hope.  In fact, the story’s culmination is satisfying as Dave follows some interesting characters though the decades to a home of healing and love.   Because of the intentional character of the book’s familial focus, I found myself thinking and meditating on my own family and what has been handed down to me not primarily via genetics but through the mystery of human experience.   The scriptures say a few things about the “sins of the fathers being visited upon the generations”…I’m sure that it is not just our failings but our wounds as well as triumphs that have a tendency to make it outside of the confines of our life span…that alone should give us cause for pause and reflection.

The book is different and that is what made it surprising and delightful.  I would regard myself as a bit of a fiction addict especially in specific genres.  Yet, this tale is woven carefully and deliberately…it is at one moment a history lesson at the other moment a glimpse into the human heart and spirit.  I found Dave’s “angelic” host of the story’s progression to be aspects of the book that I looked forward to and cemented in my mind some of my deeply held beliefs in the “multitude of witnesses” (see Hebrews 12:1) that must have a “front row seat” to the steps of our mortal journeys. 

All in all, I would recommend the book for something that would bring a bit of a “shake up” to what might be an otherwise dull summer reading season.  Predictable it isn’t…provocative in a sly manner…deeper than you would imagine.  Oh, one more thing, I liked the fact that Dave included the questions as well as the interview at the end of the book…that made the conclusion of the story a bit easier to take…truth is, I’d like to hear more about these characters, and if you think about it, isn’t that what good fiction should do in the first place?  Bravo Dave…now I’ve got to read your other stuff! 

Some reflections from Richard Rohr’s new book…Falling Upward

4648-caution-tripping-hazard I’ve been reading Richard Rohr’s new book, Falling Upward.  Good book…full of precious gems of wisdom from a man who is wise,  humble, loving and “generous” in his orthodoxy.  The book’s main premise is helpful for those of us who are making our way into a latter “stage” of life…but there are many things in the book that are encouraging and challenging.

One of the most encouraging is the reframing that Rohr does with issues having to do with life’s challenges, pains, struggles, failures, and set-backs (you can fill in the blank with whatever word you want as long as it has to do with issues that you have a tendency to avoid in life).  Here are a few quotes from the book:

“…the way up is the way down.  Or, if you prefer, the way down is the way up…we do not want to embark on a further journey if it feels like going down, especially after we have put so much sound and fury into going up… BUT, normally a job, fortune, or reputation has to be lost, a death has to be suffered, a house has to be flooded, or a disease has to be endured…it is not that suffering or failure might happen, or that it will only happen to you if you are bad (which most religious people think), or that it will happen to the unfortunate, or to a few in other places, or that you can somehow by cleverness or righteousness avoid it.  No, it will happen and to you!  Losing, falling, failing, sin, and the suffering that comes from experiences – all of this is a necessary and even good part of the human journey.” 

I love those words…Jesus did say something about a grain of wheat needing to die for new life to spring forth (John 12:24).  I don’t know what it is about suffering that makes us all (myself included) want to head for the hills…we’ll avoid it, try to deflect it or even numb ourselves in the middle of it…we’ll pray to be released or delivered from it (that’s a faithful prayer)…but to endure it and look for the words and work of the Spirit in the middle of it is a HUGE step of maturity.  I need to be reminded that suffering has a purpose…it is NOT something randomly doled out by a distant and/or uncaring God…but rather something in which we discover the ever-present reality of simply “that presence” of God in the midst of it.  We discover the pillar of cloud and fire as we journey the wilderness…or the presence of “angels” (usually in disguise) bringing us restoration as we walk those lonely steps. 

If you are like me, and I bet you are in many ways, we need reminders like this…I know I do…I hope it makes sense to you and that it gives you some hope.  Tough times are not meaningless…they are part of the process which leads you to a fuller and more meaningful, richer life.  More to come…

Why we need MORE theological sophistication and NOT less as followers of Jesus…

  130199517852Theological Sophistication – I almost hate to mention those words on this blog in fear that most of you will sign off quickly…well, stick with me.  What I want to briefly share is important and are thoughts that have been hanging around my brain and have embedded themselves in my conversations over the past months.

There is a glaring issue in today’s faith communities (otherwise known as local churches) that needs to be addressed…it needs to be addressed primarily because it is an offshoot of the secularization that has occurred within our culture as well as the selling out of the church to “pragmatism”.  What I’ve casually noticed in my years as a local faith community leader and participant is an increasing theological de-sophistication that is plaguing many gatherings of Christ-followers. I don’t necessarily know all the facts…George Barna has been bringing this up over the past several years primarily through his research within local churches as well as in his books (primarily, Thinking like Jesus)…but I can say this, for most followers of Jesus, the most significant time of theological discourse, thinking, processing and investigation occurred (if ever) years ago.  In my denomination, that would have occurred in something Lutheran Christians call, Confirmation…a two year process of deep investigation into the creeds, the Lord’s Prayer, issues having to do with Sacraments and the Church as well as scriptural truths.  Unfortunately, as consumerism and materialism has gripped our culture, many local churches have opted for “building a crowd” by primarily projecting a message aimed at speaking to “felt needs” within people rather than training and equipping followers of Jesus for mission and for active life of growth and maturity.  Trust me, you can build a crowd if all you are talking about is what God can do for you and me…you can build a crowd with the messages filled with direct felt need application in ways to have better marriages, more well-behaved kids, bigger bank accounts, and more happiness.  Now, don’t take me wrong…the scriptures do speak to some of these issues and put these issues in perspective and it is important to take the application leap in helping people to understand that truth best experienced is that which is best lived.  BUT unfortunately, a steady diet of felt needs based teaching and encouragement only shoots ourselves in the foot over time…just like feeding yourself junk food overtime helps you only gain weight and yearn for more…so exclusivity in felt needs, application only teaching exposure just encourages that which has been a bane to our culture – that being increasing amounts of consumeristically driven lives and praxis. 

I believe with all my heart that followers of Jesus need to have a vital intellectual and spiritual formation component alive and well within their lives in order to be the people “on a mission from God” that God has called us to live and embrace.  We need to be theologically sophisticated enough to be able to process and assimilate truth into our souls in a transformational manner…for it transitions into mission are going to occur in faith communities, theological awareness needs to increase…and we must roll up our sleeves and discover and innovate ways that that can occur.  FOR EXAMPLE, I don’t know if you and me really realize that the essential components of our lives as disciples (and disciple-makers) primarily is a reflection of the very nature and character of God Himself – that the Trinity is actually part of the image of God that He gives us as a people to become one not only with God but with each other with a specified, mission/worship/community-relational context (see images below).  In other words, when you “mess with” the Trinity, you get heresy…when you mess with the essential nature of the Body of Christ and call of Jesus to worship, be in relationship and then be a disciple-maker, you get a skewed picture of a faithful life.  Or how about a deeper investigation into our identity as followers of Jesus – are we sinners or saints?  How do we live out that reality on a day to day basis?  Or how about worldview…do we really understand the depths of what it means to be a God-centered, biblically oriented person versus that which is secular, humanistic or pure materialistic (and the implications of those world views)?  Do we understand the teachings of Jesus regarding the Holy Spirit?  Do we understand the difference between having Jesus as Savior AND Lord?  Do we understand the significance of the scriptures teaching on the Kingdom of God?  You see, our time is demanding that we have MORE thinking people than less…our time is demanding that we ask people NOT to check their brain at the door but to wrestle with the profound issues of the faith (and not be frightened or discouraged in doing so).

So, that’s my brief “case” for theological sophistication…it really is more of an idea for a book…maybe that’s what you were feeling like you were doing when you were reading this post…but think about…when was the last time you significantly wrestled with deeper issues of the faith?  Why aren’t you doing more now?  And for those of you “teachers/encouragers/equippers” in the Body, why are you not rolling up your sleeves and helping people understand those issues that will help them in their confidence as a growing and faithful disciple?  That’s for you to ponder…more to come…

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