Quick post…

1reminders_primar-100010846-largeI think it is interesting though that many of the forms of govt that are being “desired” by people are much more feudalistic than I ever anticipated to see in my lifetime. It sounds like the prevailing winds of politic in the USA is favoring a “cradle to grave” state system of care that is post-modernity’s form of Middle Ages feudalism. In feudalism, it was ASSUMED by serfs that the “lord” would provide for them and care for their needs. They, in turn, would serve the lord at his whim…fighting his “battles” and dying in his “wars.”  

Interesting, that’s some of the tone of the rhetoric I am hearing from those who are promoters of the entitlement state. You see, when the “lord” cares for you it is his fault if things don’t turn out your way. There is NO personal responsibility in that system. Freedom, on the other hand, demands personal responsibility. Obviously, one day, if the govt is taking care of “us” they will also demand of “us.” That will come later… Actually, Samuel the biblical prophet said the same thing to the people of Israel when they demanded a king. And, for those of you who know the bible, that “prophesy” was realized. That’s why I still assert that the “community” hermeneutic of the bible is addressing the “kingdom community” of those within the covenant and NOT that which is assumed will be picked up by a secularistic system. Inherent within a community that serves because God served us is the justice that most of us seek. My reading of the book of Acts, for example, says that people were amazed by the love that was shared and experienced within those early Jesus-followiing communities. That’s what made them stand out. People outside those communities knew that the “light of the world” was shining and transforming hearts into just action. Within covenant the follower of God seeks to actualize the full reign of God. To assume that we can “impose” actions on secular society that are synonymous with Kingdom living “ain’t” going to work…it is too naive when it comes to the base narcissism that drives those outside the transformative nature of God’s covenant!

Take a listen to what Mike Breen says about Feudalism…he is comparing it to church structure…but it fits for government too!

Workshop Teaching #2 | Spiritual Feudalism | Mike Breen from 3DM on Vimeo.

Richard Rohr and the end of Dualistic thinking…

1the-end-of-dualism“We would rather be ruined than changed.  We would rather die in our dread than climb
the cross of the present and let our illusions die.”
  W.H. Auden

Warning – Steep and Deep Waters ahead – only for
the courageous

This is
going to most likely be my final devotional based upon Richard Rohr’s fine
book, Falling Upward.  Truth is, I’ll be
moving to his NEXT book, Immortal Diamond, and process some of his thoughts in
the context of our community after Easter. 
For now, we’ll make our way through the last segment of his book as we
prepare for Holy “weekend” (Good Friday and Easter). 

I’ve long believed that life is more about paradox
and “dialectic” mental, spiritual, and emotional processing than it is about
right and wrong, good or bad, black or white, etc.  I remember when I first started to wrestle
with this idea when I was in college.  My
advisor “hammered” home the idea that we could not continue to interpret the
bible or even “do” theology from a “hardline”, “I’m right and you are wrong”
perspective.  My professor, Dr. Kallas,
was the first person that introduced me to the concept of Mystery.  In other words, there are simply things that
we cannot sort out conclusively and that leads to the appreciation and
embracing of paradox.  

The concept of Mystery originates within the
scripture…you might say that it is captured by the essence of the word, “holy”
(that being, something truly different or set part from that which is innately
human).  Something considered “holy”
was/is to be understood as that which stood outside of human definition and
categorization.  It was wholly
“other.”  Mystery is also something that
the Apostle Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 13 when he exclaims that we see
in a “mirror dimly but one day we shall see things face to face.”  Again, there are things that are simply
beyond our human experience to define. 
Thus what appears on the surface to be contradictory and “enemies” to be
separated (e.g. Jesus’ divine/human nature; the interplay between the love of
God and judgment/justice of God; the being/doing aspects of what it means to be
a disciple; etc.) are really examples of a broader conceptual partnership.  Confused? 
How about this – Paradox can
be defined this way:

 A statement that appears to contradict itself…a
paradox can be defined as an “unacceptable conclusion” derived by apparently
acceptable reasoning from apparently acceptable premises. Unlike party puzzles
or brainteasers, many paradoxes are serious in that they raise serious
philosophical problems, and are associated with crises of thought and
revolutionary advances. To grapple with them is not merely to engage in an
intellectual game, but to come to grips with issues of real import. One well
known paradox was written by the Greek stoical logician Chrysippos. The poet,
grammarian and critic Philetus of Cos was said to have died of exhaustion
attempting to resolve it.

1.   A
Cretan sails to Greece and says to some Greek men who are standing upon the
shore: "All Cretans are liars." Did he speak the truth, or did he

2.   A
week later, the Cretan sailed to Greece again and said: "All Cretans are
liars and all I say is the truth." Although the Greeks on the shore
weren't aware of what he had said the first time, they were truly puzzled.  If someone says, "I always lie",
are they telling the truth? Or are they lying?

In the last few years, this idea has been
“reshaped” linguistically to be recognized more under the banner of “dualistic
thinking.”  So, what’s the point of all
this?  To get to this sentence for you to
consider in your heart and life:

“You no
longer need to divide the field of every moment between up and down, totally
right or totally wrong, with me or against me. 
It just IS.  This calm allows you
to confront what must be confronted in life with even greater clarity and incisiveness.”  Richard Rohr, Falling Upward

There is a BIG difference between being a person
who can truly be fueled by dualism and a person who, in fact, has left that
which can and is the “small and petty” to allow God to use them in new
ways.  Remember, dualistic thinking and
living is a well-practiced pattern of always knowing and interacting with life
by the rule of “comparisons.”  It puts us
in the position of constantly being the “judge.”  Just think how easy it is to “label” things –
come on, be honest!  Notice your thoughts
and reactions to things in life.  You
will see that you will move almost automatically into a pattern of:

“…Up or
down, in or out, for me or against me, right or wrong, black or white, good or
bad…it is the basic reason why the ‘stinking thinking’ of racism, classism,
religious imperialism, and prejudice of all kinds is so hard to overcome…”  Richard Rohr, Falling Upward

The dualistic mind and heart always compares,
competes, conflicts, conspires, condemns and cancels out any contrary evidence
and then, as Rohr says, it crucifies with impunity.  And as long as you and me are thinking like this
we will stay stuck in our little, sheltered world of personal preferences and
be unable to live God’s Kingdom out in our lives with the same generous grace
and mercy we have so wonderfully received from God.  One of the other authors I read a few years
back wrote a book called, Generous
  The title alone took my
breath away because I had NEVER experienced orthodoxy as generous NOR had I
ever experienced genuine generosity in a pre-planned, systematically driven
manner.  The words seemed to be
oxymoronic…but that was his point. 
Orthodoxy, though somewhat important, is more about judgment and
exclusion than it is about love and understanding.  What the world needs to see now more than
ever is love, understanding, gracious listening, and acceptance especially from
people who follow Jesus.  I believe the
culture has seen enough battle from believers especially when it appears that Christians
are the first to take up a “weapon” and condemn others.  Remember when Jesus says things like, “the
Father’s sun shines and the good and bad, his rain on the just and unjust”
(Mat. 5:45) the “dualist” inside of us wants to yell, “STOP Jesus!  I thought WE were your chosen ones!”  But I know it is time for another way.  I believe, like Rohr does, that one of the
HUGE reasons Jesus changed the world is because he was a non-dualistic
religious teacher.  Nothing is going to
change in our lives if we continue to be those who constantly argue about the
strength of our facts over against any other person.  Instead of splitting “hairs” we ought to be
those who embrace Mystery and look for healing. 
When we are profoundly made “whole” by the moving of the Holy Spirit in
our lives, it is our calling to promote wholeness in our world.  People who created splits in everything and
everybody may, in fact, be those people who have not experienced the healing that
Jesus says comes along with the gift of God’s grace and mercy. 

So, how about you? 
Are you more about conflict than consensus?  Finding wrong than looking for right?  Pointing out the bad versus looking for the
good?  Calling out that which divides
than searching for that which can open up a conversation and a
relationship?  Remember, life in God’s
Kingdom may be more about “both/and” and either/or…it may be more about God’s
YES than God’s NO.   Give it some thought
and prayer, OK?  That’s what I’m doing!


Frankly, I don’t care about Beyonce and “Bow Down” except…

Beyonce mrs carter world tour Read whatever you want…Rush, HuffPo, E network, take your pick.  Apparently, singer Beyonce has the world by the, er, throat again.  This is a reflection of rock stardom gone to its illogical, self-absorbed and "idolatrous" extreme. Apparently, we have another "diva" getting a little more honest with the public and saying what all of us have ascertained she really feels by her actions.  Her new song entitled, "bow down to me you B**ches!" says about everything you want to know.  NOW, I'm not a cultural bigot.  I really am not.  I have listened to my share of rock and pop music over the years.  In fact, my dear wife and I have small "disagreements" about the greatness of AC/DC.  But, say what you will, rock stardom has evolved to an entirely new level of idolatry.  With our culture being fixated on fame, fortune, etc. (while at the same time becoming more dependent, apathetic, and "entitled") it is only obvious that popularity is becoming almost "biblical" in its obsession on false "gods."  When you look at our pop culture…try this, look around and attempt to give a totally objective perspective once you have immersed yourself in television, concert footage, press releases, and carefully airbrushed photography.  Look at bank accounts, attitudes and especially the influence of these wonderful people upon future generations.  Look all you want and tell me what you see.  You'll see what any person sees – narcissism and celebrity WORSHIP taken to new extremes.  I remember that it wasn't long ago when producers of concerts started to actually design shows for people to rush the stage.  It used to be that security would keep people away from artists.  Most people attending concerts would be relatively satisfied to sit in their seat and enjoy the music.  Now the artists themselves want the rest of the world to see others basking in the glow of their popularity and hedonistic love of who they are.  Truth is, it isn't even about the music anymore (since most of it is electronically manipulated).  It is about the "idol" that culture is "worshipping."  Understand folks, we are being manipulated by the idol for their own purposes.  It isn't necessarily all for the money.  I think these individuals really do believe in what they are selling…the god-likeness of themselves.  They do believe that their demands for entire floors of hospitals while they give birth to ONE baby, for thousands of dollars of food, room temptatures to be specifically set at certain degrees, and all the other crazy things you and I have heard about just underscore what they want the world to know about themselves…that in some way, they are the new gods and goddness of the modern Olympus.  Now, I could "dig" most of this if it weren't for what happens as our culture is being shaped by their narcissitic idiots.  What drives me crazy is what it communicates to young people about what life is all about.  It used to be that there were occassional celebrities that seemed to transcend pop culture.  They were adored…yes, we had the Beatles and Elvis…I get it.  But I remember reading a book about the Beatle's American tours and how they stayed in the same hotel ROOM while they were touring. Elvis, yeah he eventually became what led to his death.  But this new stuff goes above and beyond, or should I say, above and Beyonce (sorry, couldn't help it).  

Many of you don't know that I do quite a bit of teaching on the issue of worldview.  The bottom line of the issue is this – either you are a THEIST and you believe in some higher power to which you are accountable OR you are a NARCISSIST because the only one that is the center of the universe is YOU! The only reason YOU have problems in life is you are a Secularist or Humanist is because somebody else is cutting in on what SHOULD be yours.  There really are not any other options to the issue of worldview…there is either a God or YOU are the god.  Case in point below…you tell me, what do you see?  Take a gander at just some of the lyrics of her song and come to your own conclusions.  ALL I'm concerned about is the next generation…most of us who are a bit "older" understand this stuff.  But between "American Idol", "Honey Boo Boo" and other reality shows where people bask in their fifteen minutes of fame while prostituting themselves to a competition to be selected by an eligible bachlor/bachlorette or some other voyeauristic activity to say that it is NOT making a HUGE IMPACT on future generations is immensely naive.  Little boys and girls are growing up wanting to be the center of attention…being told that they are exceptional and entitled.  Unfortunately, if you think the world is screwed up NOW wait until all you have in culture is competition amongst spoiled brats for attention, recognition and fame.  Wait until all the little "gods and goddess" start mixing it up a bit because they are not getting what they demand.  Wait until more than ONE little boy or girl is saying, "bow down" and see what we as a culture net.  OK, I'm stopping here.  You can look at the lyrics and check out the video link for yourself.  Adios amigos!

I know when you were little girls, You dreamt of being in my world
Don’t forget it , don’t forget it, Respect that, bow down bitches
I took some time to live my life, But don’t think I’m just his little wife
Don’t get it twisted, get it twisted, This my shit, bow down bitches

Bow down bitches, bow bow down bitches, Bow down bitches, bow bow down bitches
H-town vicious, h-h-town vicious, I’m so crown, bow bow down bitches

I’m bigger than life, my name in the lights, I’m the number one chick, ain’t need no hype
The capital B means, I’m ‘bout that life, The capital B means, I’m ‘bout that life
Video link - not the "official" video but youtube is carrying the song!


As usual, controversy “sells”…that’s why we need measured responses

Another Christian "celebrity" (in this case Rob Bell) is stirring up the cultural pot.  I'm sure most of his comments would make more sense IF we were present at the conversation he was having during the event which is referenced.  But, as usual, the media wants to make it into a big deal.  Thank God that there are people who have some time to write down some sort of reflective, measured responses.  As usual, Walt Mueller from the Center for Parent and Youth Understanding demonstrates why celebrity isn't what needs to be listened to…rather, compassionate and thoughful comments based upon a broader vantage point.  Walt's article is worth reading!  Here is the link and text:

Rob Bell, Homosexual Marriage, and Our Changing Times. . .

A formal discussion about sexuality was had on the campus of Yale University back on Saturday, March 2nd. It was part of Yale's "Sex Weekend." The conversation took place during a workshop titled "Sex: Am I Normal?" Run by "sexologist" Jill McDevitt – who owns the Feminique sex store in West Chester, Pa. – the workshop included a time for students to anonymously answer questions using cell phones regarding their sexual practices. According to reports, survey responses indicated that 52% of the students had engaged in "consensual pain" during sex, 3% had engaged in bestiality, and 9% had paid for sex.

A report on the event from Campus Reform includes this: Event director Giuliana Berry ’14 told Campus Reform in an interview on Monday that the workshop was brought to campus to teach students not to automatically judge people who may have engaged in these sorts of activities, but rather to respond with “understanding” and “compassion.” "People do engage in some of these activities that we believe only for example perverts engage in,” she said. “What the goal is is to increase compassion for people who may engage in activities that are not what you would personally consider normal.”

I've been mulling over this report from Campus Reform for the last two weeks. I got to really thinking about it again yesterday when I read this article in the online Christian Post: "Rob Bell Supports Same-Sex Marriage, Says He is for 'Fidelity and Love.'" Of course, Rob Bell is no stranger to controversy. . . controversy that usually arises at about the same time he releases a new book. It seems that during an appearance at The Forum at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco he was asked if he was in favor of "marriage equality." Bell stated that he is "for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it's a man and woman, a woman and woman, a man and a man. I think the ship has sailed and I think that the church needs to to just. . . this is the world we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are."

My great concern in all the discussion is that the starting point for many are emerging cultural norms (Rob Bell's "the world we are living in"), the high court of public opinion (majority wins. . . or even more accurately, any minority option is valid and right), and an appeal to compassion. . . even Christ-like compassion. A vein that runs through all these starting points is the pursuit of personal happiness and fulfillment. . . without borders or boundaries. That's what was at the root of Senator Rob Portman's struggle to reconcile his Christian faith and conservative views with the homosexuality of his son, Will. Last Thursday, Portman publicly renounced his stand against same-sex marriage. On Friday, he penned these words in an op-ed piece in the Columbus Dispatch"Ultimately, it came down to the Bible's overarching themes of love and compassion and my belief that we are all children of God."

The great dilemma in all of this that's faced by people like me is this: "How can I best maintain faithfulness to God, Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior, and His revealed will in the Scriptures?" I oftentimes look to the story at the beginning of John 8 as the teachers of the law and the Pharisees stand a woman caught in adultery before Jesus. Jesus masterfully confronts the compassion-less sins of the Pharisees while simultaneously confronting the sin of the adulterous woman. Rather than saying to her "This is the world we are living in and I affirm your adultery" . . . or "love and compassion trump the wrongness of adultery," he confronts her sin, forgives her, and implores her to "go now and leave your life of sin." As I ponder how to best honor and remain faithful to the Lord, I'm brought face-to-face with how I view and confront sinners, while maintaining a clear understanding of the sins that I and all humanity so easily slip into and embrace. I don't want to be or give people good reason to think that I am self-righteous. Rather, I want to humbly serve the Lord and others without compromising on truth. Sadly, the reality is that any equating of homosexual behavior and/or same-sex marriage with "sin" or "wrong" is seen as compassion-less and intolerant.

Not coincidentally (I believe), I've been reading through N.T. Wright's After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters. Wright states a compelling case for a more proper way to approach our lives as Christians here in the midst of our broken world. . . a way more proper than 1) the belief that Christianity is all about conformity to a set of rules (the Pharisees!), or 2) the more widespread contemporary error that Christianity is all about following a Jesus who "accepted people as they were, and urged them to discover their real identity, and to be true to that essence." Wright goes on to say, "The idea of a goal, an ultimate aim, calling us to a hard road of self-denial – the idea, in other words, that Jesus of Nazareth meant what he said when he spoke of people taking up their cross to follow him! – has been quietly removed from the record, no only of secular Western life but also, extraordinarily, of a fair amount of Christian discourse." I couldn't help but reflect on these words from N.T. Wright as I read the reports on Rob Bell and Senator Portman.

It seems that in today's rapidly emerging cultural climate, any effort to state any kind of opposition to same-sex sexual behavior/marriage based on Scripture leads to a default response that lumps one in with the Pharisees and position #1. It also seems that the accepted proper place for Christians to land is at position #2. But neither should be an option.

So what option should inform our thinking and acting on this and other issues? I think N.T. Wright nails it: "We urgently need to recapture the New Testament's vision of a genuinely 'good' human life as a life ofcharacter formed by God's promised future, as a life with that future-shaped character lived within the ongoing story of God's people, and, with that, a freshly worked notion of virtue."

God's promised future is one of restoration. . . the restoration of the shalom lost at the fall. . . a re-ordering of things that are not the way they're supposed to be (including in relation to our sexuality and broken sexual impulses. . . whether they be heterosexual, or homosexual, or whatever-sexual) to what they were intended to be. When we grasp that reality and look to God's Word, we are all going to be confronted with deep discomfort over ourselves and our culture. Shouldn't we all be for fidelity and love? Shouldn't our first fidelity and love – even if costly – be to the revealed will of God and our Groom? I don't say this arrogantly. . . Nor am I being nasty. . . I'm deeply concerned. . . .

And so I continue to think about that weekend at Yale. . . a university founded in 1701 by New England clergy "wherein youth may be instructed in the Arts and Sciences through the blessing of Almighty God may be fitted for Publick employment both in Church and Civil State." The school's motto? "Lux et Veritas" . . . "Light and Truth" . . . to this day.


And now for some biblical introspection…

Monkimage-1.php_Some Biblical and
Theological Reflections

Christ being “formed in


little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until
Christ is formed in you!” Galatians 4:19

Contextually, this section of
Galatians is dealing with the issue of identity and transformation
(sanctification).  The grace of God is a
gift…given to us from a sacrificial God who died and rose to free us from the Law
and to bring us into adoption as His children. 
Adoption is a key word in this section of Galatians.  Adoption is a paradigm shift – from exclusion
to inclusion – from alienation to relational intimacy.  “Adoption” is also a significant issue in a
Jesus-follower’s identity.  A disciple is
“re-branded” or, to utilize contemporary imagery, “has their operating system
replaced.”  There is an essential
transformation -  from separation from
God to that relationship that is embodied in the words, “Abba Father”  – from servant to “son/daughter.”  Paul emphasizes again, lest we forget, are
tempted to deny or take personal credit that all this occurs THROUGH Christ so
that we can be Christ can be formed in us. 
The context shows us a frustrated Paul who cannot understand why people
would desire to return to such an alienated identity.  After the loving reception he had from these
people…people who embraced him and his “gospel”, they are now (to utilize a
phrase from Romans) exchanging the truth of God for a lie.  This brought Paul to a sense of personal
desperation (phraseology that utilizes the pain of childbirth in verse 19) and
disappointment but also inspired him to bring admonishment and correction to
the Galatian faith community.  As he
states in the verse immediately before verse 19, just because he is not present
does not exclude him and his authority/influence from having an impact on these
people that he (and Christ) loves. 
Christ, not the Law or condemnation or a “performance based religion”,
needs to be FORMED in disciples


“Christ formed in us”


1.   Disciple in/of the Kingdom of God

  • Come to Jesus – fall into Jesus’ grace and mercy
  • “Deny self, carry your cross, follow Me”
  • Personal submission of all we are, have and do to
    the Lordship of Jesus
  • Willing to be reviled and rejected
  • Potentiality of “standing out” – known by others as
    disciples (“salt/light” – Matthew 5:13ff)
  • “Bearing
    fruit” – “Good works are simply fruit
    falling off a tree. If you sink your roots deep in Christ, who is your life,
    you not be able to stop the fruit from coming forth.”
    Leonard Sweet and
    Frank Viola The Jesus Manifesto


2.  Son of God being formed in us –
Sanctification “process” (not event)

  • Personal
    spiritual formation always goes back to Jesus (His Holy Spirit given as gift –
    John 14-16)
  • We
    “learn” Jesus as disciples
  • We
    share in the Son’s incarnation – we actually repeat the journey of Jesus in a
    contemporary “incarnation”
  • Through
    the Holy Spirit, Jesus indwells in us
  • Philippians
    1:21 – “for me to LIVE is Christ”
  • 1
    John 4:17 – “As HE is – so are WE in the world”
  • Life
    that Jesus LIVED in the past is LIVED in us (Body Life) in the present
  • We
    allow Jesus to live His divine life through us
  • We
    have the mind of Christ – 1 Corinthians 2 – we don’t hope for that, or pray for
    it or ask for it – it is part of our new identity

3.  Christianity is NOT an allegiance to a
complex doctrinal system or an ethical standard.  It is NOT a cause but a life – again, the
LIFE of Christ formed in us.


  • Jesus
    doesn’t need a theological system to analyze, explain or contain Him
  • We live
    a passionate love of Jesus by living a life that is rooted in living the “way,
    truth and life” (remember, Jesus didn’t say He KNEW the way, truth and life”…He
    proclaimed that HE embodied the way, truth and life”, in other words, we know
    the way, truth and life as we know Jesus).
  • Jesus
    is never separated from His Kingdom – that being, the manifestation of God’s
    reign and ruling presence – the Kingdom of God is not just a future hope but a
    present reality through Jesus Christ.
  • Being
    a follower of Jesus doesn’t mean that we simply “imitate” Jesus as much as it
    means Jesus is imparted and implanted in our lives
  • Christian
    living is not “WWJD” (what would Jesus do) but rather, “what is Jesus doing in
    me/us?  Through me/us?
  • Jesus
    doesn’t say, “follow my teachings, my meditations, my lifestyle” – but follow
  • Jesus
    is not just one way, a better way, a pleasant way on a good day – HE is the way
  • Jesus
    is not just one truth, a higher truth, a more personal truth – HE is the truth
  • Jesus
    is not just another life, a nicer life, a more abundant life – HE is life

4.  Here’s some stuff to consider when it comes
to “causes”:


  • When
    we say, “Jesus is Lord”, we do not mean Jesus is our core value or our cause
  • Cultural
    analysis:  since we cannot teach “values,
    morals, right/wrong” (character development) in schools these days, we have
    replaced the development of character with the development of causes – children
    are taught to embrace causes to give personal meaning and purpose in life (“be
    a part of the Green Movement, Gay Movement”, etc.)
  • Cause
    development has become an acceptable substitute for character development
  • Jesus
    is not a cause – He is the real, living, loving God who can be known, loved,
    experienced, enthroned and embodied.  To
    reduce Jesus to a “cause” is to do exactly what the Ephesians are accused of
    doing when John challenged them in Revelation 2 (all works, no love). 

5.  “Christ-likeness” is NOT the Gospel – Christ
being FORMED in/LIVING in/through us is the Gospel


  • Jesus
    did not say He was “like” God, He said He was/is God
  • Jesus
    did not tell us to be “like” Him – we could never live like Jesus
  • To
    pray, “make me more like Jesus” may cheapen the power of the Gospel.  Being “like” Christ puts living more on OUR
    terms than His.  In that instance, we
    would not need Jesus but simply His ideas and teachings.
  • Good
    News – Jesus does not want us to be like Him – He wants us to share His
    life!  He wants us to live in and through
  • We
    are called not to mediate the truth but to manifest Jesus
  • It
    is “safer” to be like Jesus – it is immensely more dangerous to be/live Jesus

Being “formed” in Jesus – is essentially a Trinitarian life lived in/through us
as individual disciples and as a community of faith

Richard Rohr and “Falling Upward”…

ContemplativeI'm going to post two of my most recent email blast devotionals…why?  Because I'm thinking them through again and I thought it would be good to share with my "broader audience" some of the truths I've been wrestling with in my personal life.  I find Rohr's writings extremely helpful…the reason? Rohr comes from the contemplative tradition, one that is steeped in silence, contemplation and listening.  Most of the people I read burn up the moments of life like I do…massive movement and stress.  Because of that fact I have a tendency to listen a bit more intently to those who have heard the voice of "still" and share insights gathered more in silence than in proactivity.  When I was in grad school, I purposely took a course from a Franciscan monk on the Gospel of John.  It was one of the most life-changing experiences in my journey with Jesus.  This man "knew" the gospel in a manner I couldn't understand because he wrote and studied it within the crucible of contemplation.  I find Rohr's writing provocative for the same reason.  

So, here are a couple of reflections from two of the chapters in Rohr's book, Falling Upward…a book I highly recommend:

 “We would rather be ruined than changed.  We would rather die in our dread than climb
the cross of the present and let our illusions die.”
  W.H. Auden

“Sooner or later, if
you are on any classic ‘spiritual schedule,” some event, person, death, idea,
or relationship will enter your life that you simply cannot deal with using
your present skill set, your acquired knowledge, or your strong willpower…you
will be, you must be, led to the edge of your own private resources.  At that point, you will stumble over a
necessary stumbling stone, as Isaiah calls it…you will and you must lose at
something…there must be at least ONE situation in our lives that we cannot fix,
control, explain, change or even understand.”
  Richard Rohr, Falling Upward

“Any attempt to engineer
or plan your own enlightenment is doomed to failure because it is ego driven.”
  Richard Rohr, Falling Upward

“Until we are led to
the limits of our present game plan, and find it to be insufficient, we will
not search out or find the real SOURCE.”
Richard Rohr, Falling Upward

I’ve read the above words numerous times.  In fact, I have spent the last two months
pouring over four of Rohr’s books, so I’ve had to face them on a number of
occasions.   Each has challenged me in
its own way…each has surfaced important truths but, most importantly, important
“growth edges” in my life.  I am never
surprised, nor do I cease to be amazed, at the shortcomings of my wisdom and
knowledge of life.  You would think after
58 years, innumerable relationships, an intimate marriage and in-depth
connections with my children and grandkids that I would “know” better.  But alas, I don’t.  I have experienced what Auden states above, I
would rather be ruined than changed.” 
Don’t take me wrong, I want to live a transformed and transforming life
but I am constantly amazed at how I lack the courage or wherewithal to embrace
that which I would need to embrace in order to dive deeper into healing waters.

When Rohr says that there will come a time in all of our
lives when we get to the “end of our rope” all I can say is “amen.”  I’ve stumbled, crashed, tripped and fallen.
I’ve tried to fix, glue, nail and correct all my mistakes and shortcomings
without doing the ONE THING that would bring consistent hope and help…submit
myself to the grace of God.  It seems to
me that I have always been more interested in my “game plan” than God’s.  I SAY and DESIRE to live by God’s plan and to
“rest” (perpetual life experience of Sabbath, see the book of Hebrews) but
inevitably I pick up the old game plan and dust it off OR simply go to another
game plan of my own making.  Yes, I know
that there are many things that I cannot “fix, control, explain, change, or
even explain” but that doesn’t keep me from trying.  People who have journeyed the 12 steps of
recovery would know like the back of their hands that until we have REACHED out
and GRASPED with all our might the end of our own resources, we will never be
able to have the room in our hands (and hearts) to reach out to God. 

What’s the situation in your life right now where you are at
edge of your “private resources?”  You
know, I’ve got some places of undeniable “stuckness” in my life at these
moments.  I know I’m good at one thing –
trying to play savior.  I’m often more
into SELF-redemption than Jesus redemption. 
I’m often more apt to spend much more time building my OWN kingdom than
LIVING God’s Kingdom.  Self-obsession is
not just a disease of those who would admit that they feel or choose to be far
from God.  Self-obsession is that one
reality that continues to place its fingerprints all over our lives…I know;
it’s a reality for me.  The words, “I can
do this” are much more apt to be heard coming from MY mouth than the words, “I
can’t and only God can.”  We’ve all been
pretty well trained in our culture to be self-sufficient.  Even those who say that we have paired our
lives with the Kingdom of God have spent more of our time depending on
ourselves than on the Lord.  The result?  Instead of getting to the end of our own
“skill set” and falling into Almighty Arms, we go back to the drawing board and
come up with OUR next and best life scheme. 

The Bottom line? 
Until we really get to the end of our resources we cannot really KNOW
the love of God.  We can hear about
it…but there is always “SELF-LOVE” that is our safety net and not God’s
love.  So on a cognitive level, yeah,
God’s love and grace sounds good…but it never is something that is truly life
changing until all you have in your life is God.  Someone once told me, “you never know Jesus
is all you need until Jesus is all you got.” 
Give that some thought…why?  
Because NEXT week I’m going to share with you what INEVITABLY must
happen in order for us to loose our grip on our own life agenda.  Yes, we always come to the end of our
ropes…but then, instead of looking for God, we look for another rope.  But that’s another story for another time.  

who wants to save his life, must lose it. 
Anyone who loses her life will find it. 
What gain is there if you win the whole world and lose your very
self?  What can you offer in exchange for
your one life?  Matthew 16

“…in many
ways it has been the church that has taught me – in ways that I did not plan –
the message of necessary suffering.”
  Richard Rohr, Falling Upward

the truth sets you free, it tends to make you miserable.”
Rohr, Falling Upward

NO BODY LIKES TO SUFFER!  Nobody likes personal pain.  Like you, I’ve had to learn how to deal with
reality…and frankly, you know as well as I do that at times reality sucks.  Last week’s devotional put us before a hard
truth that sooner or later we were going to have to face a situation,
circumstance, relationship, or issue that was going to force us to wrestle with
our lack of personal resources.  Sooner
or later, some issue will take down our self delusion that we are god.  Something is going to hit us that puts us on
a level playing field with everyone in the world…for everyone has pain.  Everyone has problems.  Everyone suffers. 

I’ve often commented to people that you will never
get “even” in the “comparison game” of pain. 
Get any two people together and from their specific vantage point in
life they have NEVER suffered as much as anyone else in the world with that
which they are enduring.  You see,
everyone’s pain is just that – every ONE’s pain.  What may seem like a walk in the park to one
person could be, and often will be, devastating to others.  You know how I came to that conclusion?  My God taught be as I watched my
granddaughter Abby negotiate her battle with leukemia.  I thought often while Abby fought cancer for
over five years how I would have changed positions with her time and
again.  If I could only something like
that – “take her pain upon myself.”  And
then it struck me…that’s already been done. 
Truthfully, Abby has the personal character to endure what she did.  For some reason unknown to me she was able to
heroically and patiently endure what would have wiped out many of us.  You know what does get to Abby though?  She has a very “sensitive” scalp (every since
her cancer treatments).  She HATES having
her hair brushed because of the pain. 
Now, you might be thinking, “what a wimp.”  But you haven’t endured what she has and her
pain is real to her…in some respects MORE real than the leukemia battle.  You see, you can’t compare pain…everyone has
it, everyone suffers and everyone endures. 

Think of it this way – necessary suffering goes on
every day, seemingly without question. 
Richard Rohr gives an example of that reality when he writes,

“I just
read that only ONE saguaro cactus seed out of a quart of a million ever makes
it even to early maturity, and ever fewer after that.  Most of nature seems to totally accept major
loss, gross inefficiency, mass extinctions, and short life spans as the price
of life at all”
  Falling Upward

The issue with suffering is not why or even when or
how to escape it?  It is embedded in our
world from the realms of creation into the sphere of human experience.  OUR issue has more to do with HOW we live in
the midst of this suffering.  In other
words, with the freedom that comes to us as a gift, saying “no” to suffering,
avoiding any talk of death, stumbling, admitting mistakes or falling only sets
us up for the further pain of avoidance. 
You see, denial isn’t just a river in Egypt.  Denial, avoidance, and addictions in all
shapes and sizes are often our preferred way of dealing with reality.  By saying “NO” to reality we have a hard time
saying “YES” to God and to His healing.

Suffering is often the ONLY WAY that your attention
can be pried away from the obsession of self. 
As Rohr writes,

false self is your role, title, and personal image that is largely a creation
of your own mind and attachments.  It
will and MUST die in exact correlation to how much you want to be made real.”

What that means to me is that suffering is what God
uses (not causes but uses) to be able to bring us into transformation.  Just as many images in the scripture proclaim
this truth (Potter and Clay – romans 9:21 and Isaiah 64:8 as well as the Vine
and Vinedresser in John 15 to name just two) we must admit that we would rather
edit them out of the bible than embrace them.  
And any spiritual “system” (religious thinking) that does not adhere to
this necessary truth isn’t telling the truth. 
A good spiritual teacher deals with reality from a framework of the
eternal character, nature and grace of God…but make no mistake about it, they
must deal IN reality.  And remember,
necessary suffering will always feel like dying and dying is the ONLY WAY to
new life.  You can do a scriptural search
for affirmation on that one…it just so happens to summarize the grand story of

I love this from NT Wright,

“Just when
God seems most dead, He may be coming back to life. It certainly was so for the
disciples. It may be for you. I love a sentence from the German theologian,
Jurgen Moltmann. He said this, "God weeps with us so that we may one day
laugh with him." The disciples wept on Good Friday. They laughed on Easter
Sunday. I believe, and my faith rests on that same pattern, that what He did on
a cosmic scale at Calvary He is doing in a very small and personal scale in my
life.  God weeps with us so that we may
some day laugh with Him. The disciples wept on Good Friday. They laughed on
Easter Sunday. So will we. It's good to remember that we live out our days on
earth, on the in-between day, on Saturday, in the midst of the unfairness,
believing in Easter Sunday that is to come.”

Below are some “Lessons from Wilderness
Journeys.”  I wrote these a few years
back as I was traversing a personal wilderness. 
What I learned is outlined in these lessons. 

Lessons we can learn from the wilderness journeys
(Mark 1, and the book of Numbers)

#1-We need to remind ourselves that we believe in
God…no toothless, passive, powerless entity

#2-We need to see reality…the "wilderness or
exile time" in our life was most likely brought about as a result of our
own actions.  Don't blame God…that will
not be helpful though it is our tendency.

#3-We need to see that God sometimes will use other
people to minister to us in times of trial. 
We want to "cocoon". 
Others can help pull us out even if they do not know they are being used
of God.  Be on the lookout for these

#4-We need to remember that the wilderness or exile
may have a purpose in God's plan for our lives that we do not see, understand
or even appreciate.  Seek God for
understanding.  Instead of yearning for a
way out, walk the wilderness for the “appointed time.”  Desire to learn the lessons of the
wilderness/exile for they are there for your growth in Christ.

#5-We need to let God out of the box and not expect
Him to act in as He has in our past.  Though
God may act in a similar manner, He is also ready to do something new in you. 

#6-We need to trust in the grace and goodness of
the Lord.  If you focus on anything while
in the wilderness or in” exile", focus on the truth that God will not
abandon you.  Do not give in to self-pity
for God's promise is that He will provide.

#7-We need to remember that God is more interested
in new life than He is in a spiritual "paint job".  That may be the one lesson that is worthy of
learning while in "exile".  God
uses exiles to change and transform us.

#8-We need to remember that God does not forget you
while you are in "exile". 
Christ has chosen you as His own. 
If you do not forget Him, the Lord will help you remember that you are
precious to Him.

 #9-We need to listen to the Lord when He says that
we have a responsibility to share our deliverance and salvation with
others.  We are to be servants and lights
to the world.