Empty Calories II…

(This is a continuation of a post from several days ago…)

And yet…

It isn’t the end of the story, as John tells it. The story continues as Jesus leaves the crowd and his companions to venture into the mountains by himself to pray. The disciples go down to the shore, enter their boats, and push off into the sea. A surprising response to both the miracle, and to Jesus’ absence, but life once again must go on, even after miracles… Darkness catches the disciples in the middle of the sea, without Jesus, and a storm rushes in. As the disciples despair of life, they find Jesus…

…in the middle of the sea

…in the middle of the storm

…walking on the water

…the disciples fear him a ghost

…and Jesus calls Peter onto the water

…catches him when he falls

…then gets in the boat and it comes quickly to shore.

……………………………………………………………………………………………

I have a renewed friendship with a woman I knew in college. At the time, we were basically friendly acquaintances, whose paths crossed in the music department while in choirs, operas, and the like. Eventually, she married a guy that shared an apartment with me at the time. I really liked the guy, and he was especially caring for me when my father was killed in a truck accident. Our lives took sharp turns away from each other after college, and she enjoyed a deep love with my buddy as well as shared ministry with him. They had two daughters later in life, and while the girls were young, he was found to have cancer. After a heroic battle with the disease, he died, and his wife… my re-found friend… was left to raise the girls alone. My buddy did a wonderful job of organizing their financial affairs during the final stages of his disease, so his three girls have been supported and cared for by him even from the grave. He was and is a wonderful, courageous father and husband… one for his daughters to remember as a model as they eventually enter relationships of their own.

Lori, Dave’s wife and my friend, has born the grief in heroic fashion, too, I must say. Even though Dave’s provision has cared for their needs, and her church family was deeply supportive, she still has had to walk through the dark storm of grief, loss, and the wet blanket of loneliness which seems to suffocate hope at times. I imagine her to be like the disciples in the boat, on a violently tossing sea, fighting despair and trying to catch a glimpse of Jesus through the darkness, rain, and waves.

This year is the fourth since Dave’s death. Each New Year, Lori tries to find a one-word theme to pull her through each day as a faith-mantra that invites her gaze to continue to slice through the storm to find the Beloved Christ walking upon the open sea. This year, our friendship was renewed due to a Facebook status I wrote at the end of 2012 which was trying to point towards the living presence of Christ in 2013 even before we arrived there. I wrote the status, as a message not only to others, but also to myself. I suggested that we either do or do not trust that God loves us, and is capable of bringing resurrection out of death. Lori and I exchanged comments about the post, and I suggested a beloved book I have read: Ruthless Trust, by Brennan Manning. Through this interaction, Lori decided to use the word, Trust, as her theme for 2013. We are now reading the book together and conversing about our lives and God’s presence in them.

I will include below some excerpts from Ruthless Trust about following the confident, water-striding Christ:

Trust is our gift back to God, and he finds it so enchanting that Jesus died for the love of it” (Pg. 2)

 

“Unwavering trust is a rare and precious thing because it often demands a degree of courage that borders on the heroic. When the shadow of Jesus’ cross falls across our lives in the form of failure, rejection, abandonment, betrayal, unemployment, loneliness, depression, the loss of a loved one, when we are deaf to everything but the shriek of our own pain; when the world around us suddenly seems a hostile, menacing place—at those times we may cry out in anguish, ‘How could a loving God permit this to happen?’ At those moments the seeds of distrust are sown. It requires heroic courage to trust in the love of God no matter what happens to us.” (Pg. 4)

 

“Craving clarity, we attempt to eliminate the risk of trusting God. Fear of the unknown path stretching ahead of us destroys childlike trust in the Father’s active goodness and unrestricted love.

We often presume that trust will dispel the confusion, illuminate the darkness, vanquish the uncertainty, and redeem the times. But the crowd of witnesses in Hebrews 11 testifies that this is not the case. Our trust does not bring final clarity on this earth. It does not still the chaos or dull the pain or provide a crutch. When all else is unclear, the heart of trust says, as Jesus did on the cross, ‘Into your hands I commit my spirit.’ (Luke 23:46)

If we could free ourselves from the temptation to make faith a mindless assent to a dusty pawnshop of doctrinal beliefs, we would discover with alarm that the essence of biblical faith lies in trusting God. And as Marcus Borg has noted, ‘The first is a matter of the head, the second a matter of the heart. The first can leave us unchanged, the second intrinsically brings change.’

The faith that animates the Christian community is less a matter of believing in the existence of God than a practical trust in his loving care under whatever pressure. The stakes here are enormous, for I have not said in my heart ‘God exists,’ until I have said, ‘I trust you.’ The first assertion is rational, abstract, a matter perhaps of natural theology, the mind laboring at its logic. The second is ‘communion, bread on the tongue from an unseen hand.’ Against insurmountable obstacles and without a clue as to the outcome, the trusting heart says, ‘Abba, I surrender my will and my life to you without any reservation and with boundless confidence, for you are my loving Father.” (Pg. 6-7)

 

The way of trust is a movement into obscurity, into the undefined, into ambiguity, not into some predetermined, clearly delineated plan for the future. The next step discloses itself only out of a discernment of God acting in the desert of the present moment. The reality of naked trust is the life of a pilgrim who leaves what is nailed down, obvious, and secure, and walks into the unknown without any rational explanation to justify the decision or guarantee the future. Why? Because God has signaled the movement and offered it his presence and his promise.” (Pg. 12-13)

 

“Wallowing in shame, remorse, self-hatred, and guilt over real or imagined failings in our past lives betrays a distrust in the love of God. It shows that we have not accepted the acceptance of Jesus Christ and thus have rejected the total sufficiency of his redeeming work. Preoccupation with our past sins, present weaknesses, and character defects gets our emotions churning in self-destructive ways, closes us within the mighty citadel of self, and preempts the presence of a compassionate God.” (Pg.15)

 

Hopefully you get just a taste of the feast within this small book. Trusting God is stepping out of the boat of perceived safety all-the-while feeling like an idiot! Risking trust will most likely open us to the criticism of those still huddled in fear in the thin structures of the boat of legalistic comfort, and humanly constructed and maintained moral safety which is inherent in human empires… especially religious ones. The crowd in the boat will most likely shout words of shame in our direction, and our inner voices are tempted to pick up the chant and even expand them. Yet the grace and mercy of the walking Christ invites us to cast the words into the depths of the untamable waves of God’s forgiveness. There is no going back… Rather… full speed ahead!

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A Dream Shared…

I was thinking about dreams the other day. Most of my dreams seem to be about:

how things SHOULD be…

what it would be like if…

one day I see myself…

how would the world be better…

life would make more sense if…

Well…. to be honest…. there is also the one where I have a cup of coffee with a certain brunette… but…. nevermind.

Anyway….

Sometimes these kinds of thoughts begin with a picture of what life COULD be like. Some kind of deep longing brings a picture of a better tomorrow. I suppose if I were to classify dreams, I would choose at least two categories:

Personal Dreams and Dreams in Community…

Personal dreams are the ones in which your personal passions find their deepest expression through activities or events which touch something deep within. These dreams certainly may be shared, but I suspect they are linked with those closest to us. The hope for these dreams tie our talents and interests to a certain type of life… a creative force deep within which desires to be unleashed in order to grow and bear fruit. They are different in that they come from who we are and with the promise of self-fulfillment and the expression of which brings a joy and contentment with who we are created to be. We lose track of time in the expression of these dreams. They are unique to “me” and their expression brings deep joy which comes from the very doing because it comes from our “being”. Artists know these dreams, as do athletes, or anyone who puts their whole being into the doing of something.

Dreams in Community are ones which capture a certain vision which is generative and draws people together. These dreams call forth a better world in which others share. They draw on the experiences of ourselves and others to form healthy, growing communities.

In “The Call”, Os Guiness quotes T.E. Lawrence from his book, “Seven Pillars of Wisdom”:

“All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake to find it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.” pg 175

I think most dreams begin in tension between what is and what could be. It is easy to be a bit embarrassed about our dreams; even to ridicule them: “Surely someone has thought about this before. It probably isn’t possible…” Society certainly can add to our own ridiculing inner voice. How many inventors are scared off by the crowd of wiseguys, who roll their eyes, shake their heads, and speak disparagingly while sitting on their courage… Or, even worse, the people who smile condescendingly, nod politely, while waiting for the dreamer to leave so they can begin to laugh…

Sharing a dream can be kind of scary.

Sometimes, a dream shared can turn into a dream lost. The movie “Social Network” purports to tell the story of a dream that was stolen. Depending on which person’s spin doctor you believe, the dream of Facebook was shared between four friends and either:

1. The idea was changed and developed into something better

or

2. The idea was stolen outright by a false, egomaniacal friend.

Now the dream is going to court to determine who really dreamed it and how much it will cost.

Certainly it could be said that at least one person connected with the invention of Facebook became a “dreamer in the day,” as Guinness puts it. It also can be observed that the sharing of the dream meant that the dream itself exploded into a much larger reality than any of the dreamers expected. Dreams which are shared can grow. They find other dreamers which add their own unique expressions to them. Facebook was and is an ongoing Dream in Community. When this kind of dreaming happens, the original dreamer must release their hold on the dream. Holding tightly to a Dream in Community strangles it. Actually, in order for the Dream in Community to become reality, it must be given away in faith to the One who gave the dream in the first place.

Sometimes, the greatest dreams…:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=smEqnnklfYs

…can be dangerous to the dreamer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Zb9EjHXyJc&feature=related

Dreams carry risk. Dreams also carry with them a cost to the dreamer. The more important the dream and pervasive its impact; the greater the risk and the higher the price. Some dreams are perpetually unfolding, as a Morning Glory to the sun at dawn. However, the process of the unfolding introduces the sweet aroma of its beauty, and many share in the wondrous quality of it. Some dreams introduce each of us to others in deeper ways….

… or at least that is the hope of the dreamer…

…and the dream giver…

Step Over the Edge…

On my ride to and from work each day, I pass a skate park. I enjoy watching those daredevils as they eventually master a trick after many crashes and burns. The other day as I rode past, I noticed a kid, not taller than 3 feet, who was decked out in the protective gear I’m sure his mom argued with him to put on. He was perched at the precipice of a cliff of concrete which plunged straight down and gradually curved to smoothly meet the ground. As I was riding my bike past, I watched as he struggled to sit on his skateboard. He had to get it just right. When I saw him, I immediately began to laugh. He was so cute. My laughter wasn’t in derision, however. I laughed in admiration of his pluck and in the joy of watching one so young exercise courage. My admiration also goes out to his parents. It is one thing for a mom or dad to face their own fears and risk pain and or failure. We accept that as the price of being alive, but allowing our children to attempt the same feat is something else entirely.  However, in our attempts to protect our children, as well as save some money from emergency room visits, we can teach  lessons we don’t intend:

Getting hurt is to be avoided at all costs…

Discomfort is bad, comfort is good…

Sit this one out…

Stay back from the edge…

But is life really about safety and comfort? Recently, one of my facebook friends posted the following: 

“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?” -Vincent van Gogh

——————–SCRAAAAAAAAATCH———————

The other day I decided to write at McDonald’s. I borrowed Hannah’s laptop, got some blood-thickening breakfast, and logged on to Golden Arches Wifi… After checking my mail, facebook, and twitter, I logged on to WordPress to start the adventure that writing a blog post can sometimes be.

When I write a post, I don’t always know what I will write about. I usually have either an idea, a picture in my mind, or event which has moved me in some way, so I start there and begin to follow the Muse. On this particular morning, I started remembering the little kid at the skate park. The memory of him getting ready to plunge over the edge, made me think of the battle we sometimes fight between safety and risk.

As sometimes happens when I write, the Muse I was following began to connect with other books I have read, other ideas I am considering, and other areas of my life. I was surprised with the path chosen by my friendly Muse. I was also happy with the post. I clicked “Publish”…….

…the lights ran after themselves in a circle on my screen, which means the computer is processing the information I wrote and is transferring it into the WordPress computer so it could become part of my public blog.

…the lights kept circling…

…and circling…

…and circling…

…nothing…

I tried several other things, but nothing. Eventually, the page reloaded, and the McDonalds sign-on screen came up. My heart “stepped over the edge” into my stomach… I lost two-thirds of the post. Only what is posted above was saved.

No reason for me to try and rewrite it. I’ve found that when the Muse whispers in my ear and I write it down, she doesn’t repeat herself, so I better make it count! Plus, I was pissed! What happened to my connection?

After thinking about it for a bit, I figured out that MickeyD’s timed me out…

But I was still working!

…more thinking… Since I hadn’t been changing websites or loading new pages, Ronald McSilicone thought I simply left the light on and left the room, so he shut the light off and closed the door!

BUT I WAS STILL WORKING! I wanted to communicate meaningful ideas… well, meaningful to me anyway… Besides, just because there is no noticeable change doesn’t mean work isn’t being done!

So, I left McDonald’s, frustrated I couldn’t communicate because someone cut my connection.

I pondered that thought for the next few days…

 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Sarah laughed….

God raised an eyebrow…

And went to Abraham…

Abraham went to Sarah…

Sarah went to Hagar…

Hagar went to Abraham…

Ishmael…

Sarah sent Hagar and Ishmael…

Hagar and Ishmael went to the desert…

God went to Hagar and Ishmael…

Hagar went to Sarah…

God went to Abraham…

Abraham went to Sarah…

Isaac…

Ishmael and Isaac…

Oy vey…

(Genesis 15-18… although liberties were taken…)

Staying connected to God when we don’t see Him at work in our lives, is really important. Just because we don’t SEE any movement doesn’t mean their is none. Although we don’t hear from God, or feel Him near doesn’t mean He isn’t speaking nor that He is distant from us. The silence of God may actually be that He is speaking in a language we haven’t learned yet.  We must continue to listen, and watch for God to show Himself in the world. Reading the bible isn’t the only way we can see and hear from God, but it helps us know the timbre of his voice and the quality of his active work, so we will recognise Him in other venues. In this manner, we stay connected, and trust that even though nothing seems to be happening, something is happening.

So…

How strong is my connection?