Thursday, October 31, 2013

Dear Lord

These are the days, this very day, when I'm fighting it out. The battle is all inside.

I want to scream and blame. But really I want to be at peace with you and me and those I love.

Today just seems so very hard. Impossible to get there. To let go. To be at peace.

To live this day, just this day seems overwhelming; beyond me. It is.

Only you can turn this around.

Turn this around.

Let my hands open to you. To invite you into these circumstances.

Let my heart forgive and know that this road is my road.

For now this is my road.

Not for always. But for today.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Living as a Barbarian

I first heard Erwin McManus at a Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit. I think it was probably more than ten years ago. The talk was a last minute fill-in for a scheduled speaker who had gotten sick. Erwin spoke with no notes; it wasn't a talk he had planned to deliver. And he was brilliant. His talk: The Barbarian Way. That talk became the book.

And here's the point, best illustrated by a quote a friend posted on Facebook: "...(If) I were not an atheist, I would believe in a God who would choose to save people on the basis of the totality of their lives and not the pattern of their words. I think he would prefer an honest and righteous atheist to a TV preacher whose every word is God, God, God, and whose every deed is foul, foul, foul." 

--Isaac Asimov

And yes, I have a lot of friends on Facebook who are not Christians; there are Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Libertarians and, I wouldn't be surprised is there wasn't, a Socialist. Bring it!

It would be amazing if the lives of Christians were more often lived so as to expose and trump the image of Christianity that those TV preachers display -- not talk but real lives that looked different. We are called to be barbarians but we have become so very civilized, and frankly it's not very attractive. We have become addicted to our words; less concerned with what our lives speak.

This is an excerpt for that book. I was so challenged and encouraged this summer by what Erwin had to say about the tribe of barbarians and, more importantly, about how that infects parenting. He parents unafraid and models that keen, unafraid embrace of the faith.

"This is the simplicity of the barbarian way. If you are a follower of Christ, then you are called to fight for the heart of your King. It is a life fueled by passion -- a passion for God and a passion for people. The psalmist tells us to delight ourselves in the Lord, and he will give us the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37:4). When Christianity becomes just another religion, it focuses on requirements. Just to keep people in line, we build our own Christian civilization and then demand that everyone who believes in Jesus become a good citizen. It's hard to imagine that Jesus would endure the agony of the Cross just to keep us in line. Jesus began a revolution to secure our freedom. The new covenant that he established puts its trust not in the law, but in the transforming power of God's Spirit living within us. The revolution of the human heart would fuel the life and vitality of this movement. We would delight in God, and He would give us the desires of our hearts. With our hearts burning for God, we would move forward with the freedom to pursue the passions burning within us." (pg. 6-7)

"Jesus was making clear (Matthew 11:16-19) that being a disciple was never intended to be the equivalent of being molded into a stereotype. Jesus and John were considered barbarians, even though they expressed themselves in different ways. But at the core they were the same....What was invisible to others was clear to them. Their lives could not be explained apart from God."(pg. 60)

"To have the Spirit of God dwelling within the heart of someone who chooses a domesticated faith is like having a tiger trapped within a cage. You are not intended to be a spiritual zoo where people can look at God in you from a safe distance. You are a jungle where the Spirit roams wild and free in your life. You are the recipient of the God who cannot be tamed and of a faith that must not be tamed.  You are no longer a prisoner of time and space, but a citizen of the kingdom of God -- a resident of the barbarian tribe. God is not a sedative that keeps you calm and under control by dulling your senses. He does quite the opposite. H awakens your spirit to be truly alive. This past year my daughter, Mariah, has been my travel companion on the barbarian way. She absolutely revels in the identity of being a barbarian. She gets it -- you are most fully alive when you are on an adventure with God." (pg. 66-67)

I really, REALLY, don't want to have a domesticated faith. And I don't want a life more defined by words then life lived well and with adventure.

A wooden plaque hangs above the staircase down to our basement. It says, Never ever give up on the beauty and mystery of the journey of faith. Amen.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Bread & Wine

I am finally back to the rhythm of reading. Simultaneously I'm out of sync in writing my musings on these books. So let me begin to reconcile that lapse.

One of my favorite memories from our time at Open Door was when we joined another couple in the church and decided to invite the entire church to dinner. Well, not at the same time, but monthly over the course of several years. We did just that.

Every month we invited four people to our houses (we alternated hosting every other month) so that we had eight around the table. The host did the drinks, appetizers and main dish. The other couple brought the sides and dessert. My partner in hospitality just happened to have the gift of hospitality. She made it so easy to entertain. (The guys were great too.)

It was crazy fun. We invited our guests, month after month, to tell us their stories - their family of origin, how they got to Denver and Open Door, how they met their spouse, and all about their children. It was amazing.

And that is precisely the point of Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table by Shauna Niequist (daughter of Bill Hybel).

"It's not, actually, strictly, about food for me. It's about what happens when we come together, slow down, open our homes, look into one another's faces, listen to one another's stories." Yep, exactly!

"It happens when we enter the joy and the sorrow of the people we love, and we join together at the table to feed one another and be fed, and while it's not strictly about food, it doesn't happen without it. Food is the starting point, the common ground, the thing to hold and handle, the currency we offer to one another."

"Food is the language of care, the thing we do when traditional language fails us, when we don't know what to say, when there are no words to say. And food is what we offer in celebration...."

And, of course, there are the recipes. Twenty-nine of them. Recipes like blueberry crisp, mango chicken curry, bacon wrapped dates, magical white bean soup, dark chocolate sea salted toffee and maple balsamic pork tenderloin.

Shauna got me all ready to start entertaining again. Being part of a dinner party every month was an amazing joy. And I miss it. Bread & Wine just reminded me of the incredible joy of family, friends and neighbors around the table.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Football as Holy Ground

This weekend I will be rooting for two teams. The Broncos, of course. But also the Kansas City Chiefs. They are a team that has struggled to get back on their proverbial feet. And wow have they. It will be but for one weekend. Only this weekend.

It's holy ground. Arrowhead Stadium. It's all about friendship and commitment and recovery. It's about celebrating a future and a hope.

Seven years ago, Todd did what I could never see him doing. He took his many degrees including his MDiv and took a pastoral position in downtown Denver. Not the pretty side, but the gritty side.

But that is where he met a man who would become one of the treasures of our time downtown. He is someone that I believe is a beautiful example of a redeemed life. He has had horrible things happen to him. He had been rejected repeatedly. He has lived on the streets in Denver, San Diego and Kansas City. He has also lived in our home.

Today he lives in his own.

It's a testament to the power of friendship. Regardless of the good and bad times over these seven years, Todd has refused to walk away. He refused to believe anything other that what this man could become.

He is far from perfect. Or even easy to love at times. But so am I and so are you.

This weekend he is easy to love. This weekend Todd and our friend are celebrating recovery and friendship; and a future redeemed. He is treating Todd to a trip to Kansas City so they can attend a Chiefs game - the team he is passionate for. They have been planning it for months. He paid for the airplane tickets, the hotel, the car, the meals. He is a man with means because he has learned to be wise with his money; he has been faithful to a job in a difficult environment with little encouragement; he is seeing himself in a new way.

Two friends. Celebrating life. And a bit of BBQ.

I'm hoping for a win tomorrow.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Beast

He's big, dark and overpowering. I knew him as a child and teenager and young adult. He was a constant presence. But then I vanquished him out of my house.

He has returned. He is again my companion.

Depression. He has returned. Not his smaller brother Bummed Out. No this is the older brother Depression. At times it has felt like he was sitting on top of my chest; hanging on my back; making me drag him everywhere. Oppressive.

I know he will tire of me; or me him. And somehow he will leave. I hope sooner than later.

I know he hates exercise. So I am exercising.
I know he hates real food. So I am eating wisely.
I know he hates compassion. So I am getting together with friends.
I know he hates truth. So I am reading the Bible and talking back to him.
I know he hates forgiveness. So I am trying to forgive those who have hurt me.
I know he hates grace. So I am working to extend that to others when their decisions have made a big impact on my well being.
I know he hates peace. So I am pressing myself to live in a manna rhythm that focuses on today and not tomorrow.
I know he hates hope. So I am choosing hope in spite of my feelings.
I know he hates contentment. So I am learning gratitude.
I know he hates generosity. So I am giving stuff away.
I know he wants me to stay silent. So I am writing and inviting others in.