Tag Archives: life

How to Lament

Healing is the holy work of God and one of the ways we position ourselves so that God can heal us is through our lament.  Lament, that anguished complaint, is coming to truth and when we tell someone the truth of our souls, our true core reality, we connect in a deep way.  This may include our accusation of how they haven’t come through for us, have hurt us or forgotten us.  It may be how deeply we’ve been hurt by life and include the feeling that, although they didn’t add to it, they also didn’t do anything about it, or never seemed to acknowledge it.

When Jesus spoke with the woman at the well, he gave her the opportunity to say the truth about herself and the truth about herself and God.  He walked her into that moment with three steps.  He offered her the truth of God’s quenching work for her soul.  She admitted that would be great to find.  She then expressed the truth about her relationship with the community.  Then he offered her the truth about life’s destruction on her soul.  She admitted that the toll was great.  Then he offered her the truth about herself. He validated her.  And then she admitted her greatest need, her exclusion from God.lament

And that’s how we lament.

  • We admit how we would love to find the helping, healing work of God, but we don’t.
  • We admit the toll that life has taken on our souls, our self-esteem, our plans for the future, our trust in others, in life, in God.
  • We admit our greatest need and our deepest disappointment with God.
  • But, we then remind our souls that we don’t know everything, we don’t see every connection or possibility and we don’t know the future. We admit that God does and that God loves us.

When we lament we walk ourselves into the depth of truth that God desires to live between us. When we are able to express our deepest need… God is able to work in us, God is able to teach our souls real truth, God is able to heal.  God wants to hear our lament so he can say his love most clearly.

The consequences of damage may not go away immediately or maybe at all.  We may still live within the consequences of the damage, but we don’t carry it any longer.

Blessings,
Geoff

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The Identified Patient

When there’s a breakdown in some families, you can sometimes find that everyone is clear that if ONE person changed, everything would be fine.  “If she just got her act together… if it wasn’t for her… if she just wasn’t here…”  What’s clearest, to anyone looking in from the outside, is that the problems, breakdowns or frustrations all stem from the presence and nature of one person.

Ever been “the identified patient?”  It’s a lousy position in which to be.  Any move you make, any breath you take, any cake you bake is evaluated from the position of the problem you are to the rest of the household.  Sort of the way a mountain creates its own weather, the identified patient creates atmospheric issues of life in a community.  It doesn’t really have to do much more than be there, just being present creates turbulence, crowdedness, disquiet.

Consider how the identified patient might feel in that setting.  They don’t have to try.  They just have to be there and they’re wrong.  If they say something, they’re wrong.  If they do something, they’re wrong.  But they don’t have to do or say anything… we just all know they’re wrong and will only, always, ever be wrong.  They’re in the way, roadblocks, hampering movement forward and so the best thing is just to ignore them or get rid of them, if possible.

But then someone comes along who wonders if anyone has ever climbed the mountain… and gives it a shot.  It’s treacherous, the air gets thin, sometimes it feels like they’re dying, but then, as they get to the top, suddenly a vista opens up, the world is clear.  They can see forever.  They’re glad they made the trip.

That’s what happens sometimes when the identified patient is not attended as a “patient” but as part of life, as a person.  It’s a hike, no question, and sometimes its more of a climb than a hike.  Mountains get driven up by a lot of ancient trauma from below.  But when someone takes the time and makes the effort, they can learn the mountain and can reach a spot where they see clearly and they also love the mountain.

There’s a story Jesus tells of the guy who is a problem.  Jesus tells those who follow him to go one-on-one to sort out the problem the guy has or is.  He goes on, if that doesn’t work then bring another with you and if not then, bring in some authority for help and if not then, get the community to come together to clear things up.  If that doesn’t work then “treat them like a tax collector or sinner.”  This has been used as a road-map on kicking someone out of the church… but that’s not how Jesus treated tax collectors and sinners.  He didn’t kick them out.  He chose to get to know them, to climb the mountain.

Just when you figure someone is nothing more than a pain in the butt, so we should just dismiss them… Jesus comes along and says, “Nah, …get your gear!  We got a hill to climb!”  Who does this guy think he is?

Blessings,
Geoff

There’s Always Only One Side to Every Story

Have you ever noticed that there’s only one side to every story?  I know the old adage says it differently… something about “two sides.”  But, it’s been my experience that there’s always only one.  I used to think it was mine.

I used to know when I was in an argument or when there was a misunderstanding between me and someone else that there was only one side to the story and I had it.  I was right.  They were wrong.  They just weren’t seeing clearly or their logic was off or they were just being dull or they were looking for a good excuse to be angry at me or they were jerks or choosing to be stupid or numbskulls.  I like that word… “numb-skulls.”  It’s such a tangible expression.  It’s like “no-brain.”

I remember watching an interview where an actor referred to a director as having “the brain of a pea.”  He didn’t say he had a brain “the size of a pea” (which is how I’ve always heard it).  He said he had the brain of a pea.  I liked that, too.  It is so graphic.  I spent a little while looking forward to the moment when I could copy that, use it to refer to someone who ticked me off.

That was when I used to think that there was only one side and that it was mine.

Now, I’m convinced that there’s always only one side to every story… and it’s always God’s.

When I was at the place in my life where I was open to collecting clever insulting names to use on people I came upon “Raca.”  It’s the old word for “empty-head,” a different way of saying “no-brain.”  The trouble, for me, was it was used by Jesus and it was in the middle of his saying that people who refer to others this sort of way were just as guilty of murder as the person who just fired the gun.  Paying attention to Jesus means you have to give up clever insults.  That can feel like a drag for a while because they’re so tasty.  They have such a chewy, saltiness that it makes you want to hang onto them for a while… and there’s Jesus telling you to spit it out.  Like some Mom who discovered you picked up something from the ground and in her disgust, she’s still telling you to spit it into her hand.  Jesus is acting like that.  She wants it out of you.

I had friends, next-door neighbors, when I was little, who decided to try out the taste of tar from the new coating that had just been put down on the road outside our houses.  Their mom not only made them spit it out, but she used a little Lestoil to get it off their teeth.  Talk about washing your mouth out with soap!  My Mom made a big deal of telling me NEVER to do that or she might need to use Lestoil on me.

That’s a word from God.  If you do something like that, if you put words like this in your mouth, we’re going to have to do some heavy-duty cleansing.

Jesus has this way of taking something that seems like a cool idea at the time and showing us how it impacts us really.  Which can feel like buzz-kill until you think about it with him… and then you’re getting to the one side of the story.

The one side belongs to God because God’s the only one who sees the whole story.  He knows what’s going on in everyone’s head and heart.  He knows what we have seen and what we haven’t seen, what we’ve mixed up or ignored.  He knows… and we don’t.  There’s always one side to every story and it belongs to God.  That’s why he calls us to reconciliation.  He’s telling us that we need to join him in getting back together with people, so we both admit to the story he’s revealing to us.

Blessings,

Geoff

No Alternative to Right

As a Pastor, I know that Jesus can seem confusing.  When we read the words, “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it,” we can scratch our heads.  I know that there are different ways to understand these words.

But one way of receiving these words is that God’s kingdom has been under attack and that violent people lay claim to it (and the Greek there is almost always a descriptive of maliciousness).  We can recognize truth in that idea.  Even if we broaden it out to say, “What is right and good has always been used violently and those who do that abuse the worth of it,” we can recognize that removing the religious element doesn’t change the inherent truth of the words.  People who have no place within the truth, will try to use it for their own gains.  They will claim that it is speaking about themselves and their cause.

The claim doesn’t make it true.

There is no right or good within the alt-right movement.  There is no life.  It doesn’t speak to the worth of America or the history of America.  It is only about themselves gaining power.  It takes a bit of truth – there is value in honoring heritage – and violently twists that to gain power.  That is the skillful work of liars, taking a bit of truth and creating a world of one’s own design by manipulating it to one’s desire.

The point of the power they seek is to overthrow the value of human beings, particular human beings… our black, Jewish, Asian, or differently-oriented human beings.  The point of the power is control and dominance and prestige.  It is to make others serve a vision of the future where their whim or edict will manage life, all lives.

If we do not step into this moment, if we waffle over whether we too believe in the honoring of heritage and not recognize the lie it is being used to support, we lose what is right and good.  We lose truth.  We cannot allow that.  We cannot expose our children to this subtlety because it will confuse them and they will become susceptible to the damage this lie brings to hearts and minds.  We must be forthright and plain.

The alt-right is not honoring heritage and not claiming a historical value.  It is maligning the value of other human beings for their own gain.  They are saying they have more value than any other.  They use blame and intolerance as tools to break down truth, to guide those who have been worn-out by tough times into serving them.  They take the lonely, the frustrated, the impoverished, the aimless and give them a direction built on a half-truth, a subtle dismissing of the value of anyone but themselves.

The tools against this lie seem impossibly weak in comparison to the violence it fosters.  The tools are friendship, conversation and love.  These don’t seem to move fast enough to counter the seeming wave of hatred.  But they are the tools to use and they must be used ferociously.  We must invite our neighbors over for dinner and talk with them.  We must build friendships with the other-oriented, the differently skin-colored, the races we do not know.  And we must seek the best for these other lives, in any way we can do that.

It may mean that we receive damage to our property by those who hate, it may be that we find ourselves maligned, we may be mistreated, we may even receive death threats for loving our neighbors.  That does happen to people who take truth seriously and who stand within the value of those who are different from themselves.  It does happen.  I recognize that and am willing to live in that because, really, Jesus isn’t confusing at all.

Blessings,
Geoff

Most Important

Sometimes I just need to remind myself of this…
In no particular order, at some point in time it was decided that the most important thing to God was…

  • sacrifice
  • rules
  • baptism
  • communion
  • going to church
  • Bible study
  • proving the Bible is true
  • being pure
  • love
  • ritual
  • order

None of these things… really truly not one of these things is the most important thing to God.  The most important thing to God is us.  Just us.

And the most difficult thing about that is that as soon as we learn it, God wants us to participate in telling, showing, living that into the lives of others.

The last distressing and revealing thing we discover is that the most important thing to God is not ME… it’s us.  And it is us being with him.  It’s when God is included in us being us.  That’s the most important thing to God.  All of us being us with him.

God’s love is perfected in us… 1 John 4:12

Blessings,
Geoff

Abnormal Love

Been thinking about Love this week.  I’ve been thinking about all the shouting and screaming going on about hatred, discrimination and retaliation and that’s made me consider Love.

In the midst of all the cannon fodder, the people who are used as target practice by those shouting the battle commands from both sides, we may recognize Love as a casualty, lying there in the field and bleeding seriously. Right now the battle has moved beyond acceptance and rights and into the determination of normal.  And it is not about seeking normal even, really.  It is about accepting one point of view as normal.  It is about making one opinion mean normal.

Deciding what’s normal is different from loving.  When I come to the command of Jesus, “Do not judge,” then I stop and think, Christians were never commanded to decide what is normal.  They were never told to stop people from doing what wasn’t beneficial or from what might master them.  They might warn them or try to talk with them, but they were commanded to love.

There is a united force explaining what normal looks like. It all makes me worry that loving the one who is different doesn’t matter.  I think I was commanded to love the one in front of me, no matter what they brought, who they were or how they acted. suffering2 If they didn’t want love, or walked away from it, or beat me to a pulp and hung me on a cross for it… that was supposed to be okay, if love was expressed.  What was done to me was not going to change the strength, course or truth of love.  In fact the harm done to me might express that love even more.

It seems appropriate this week to look at Love as a new casualty once again, this beaten and brutalized person who never met a homosexual, never spoke with a prostitute, never touched a leper… who only knew human beings.  This one who knew that deciding what was “normal” wasn’t the point.

Blessings,
Geoff

Seeing is Kneeling

“Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart…”  If we’re not talking about having a vision, then what a fascinating thought to think that God, the one who rules my heart would become my eyesight.  We sang this in church the other day and this is how the song was introduced, that we come praying for God to become our eyesight, that we would share that kind of intimacy.
What becomes true for people who follow Jesus is that seeing is kneeling.  What we see moves us to bow before God whether in seeing beauty and awed into wonder, or seeing destruction that makes us seek understanding of it or the power to oppose it.  We are moved to kneel by what we see because we do not deny what we see nor make excuses for it.seeing
I am a big movie fan.  I love good stories told well and I love exploring the world through stories.  I admit I’m a fan of science fiction and horror (not gore, but horror) for the same reason I enjoy roller coasters.  But there are movies that fit into genres I enjoy that I choose not to see.  This is because I know the indelible connection made by the imagery.  By indelible I mean that I know this imagery will never go away and that it will affect my soul.  It will cause a change within me.  So, even though I believe I’d have a good time I don’t go because I don’t want that change within me.
There is a story being told to our generation that calls us to be blind.  It suggests that brutality can be mixed into sexuality and achieve pleasure.  “50 Shades of Grey” suggests that if acts of pain are consensual or seemingly consensual that they are harmless.  Yet, the story of Christian Grey… (what a fabulous choice for a name… suggesting “Love… almost”) is one that includes a history of abuse and a deep need for control.  Abusive control reveals a lack of worth within the one who applies it and it creates a lack of worth within the one who receives it.  The idea that this is a joint decision doesn’t change the impact on the souls of those involved.
So, the story calls us to close our eyes, the eyes of our soul and to pretend that the imagery will not affect us this time.  It will not cause change.  It will not call us to delight in the thought of control over another, to getting what we want as we want it.  It will not cause us to consider deeply that the things we have heard from the voices of life that shelved our worth were true.  But the truth is that they will.  The imagery will change our souls.
So, seeing must be placed under the truth of God’s love for us, the one who taught us that we had worth we almost cannot believe.  There are women, men and children in the world for whom domination is not something that gets mixed with popcorn and soda.  They are severely taught that their worth lies in the hands and voice of the one who controls.seeing1
Seeing, recognizing the difference even in the dark, is something that comes from within us.  It is an aspect of our souls.  So, the things, the stories, the people who call us to close the eyes of our souls are asking us to bow to them and to allow them to change us.  Seeing remains kneeling.  With God, it also means eyes wide open.
Blessings,
Geoff