Empty Out the Theater

i have been reading a lot about “relationship” lately. leanoard sweet’s “out of the question….”, donald miller’s “searching for god knows what” both hit on this problem of relationships that really hit home for me. both of these writers call into question how well our american society has been dealing with the issue of relationships. basically, we suck….me included.

when i start to inspect within myself, the way i approach relationships in general, it really puts me up against something i don’t like…..my shortcomings, my failures, my tendency to be a bad listener, my tendency to be to lazy to reach out and connect with others, and on and on. i think i am learning that in order to experience relationships in a real and honest way, we need to accept that it will be, at times, painful. not just because of the harm someone else may cause you, but mostly the pain of recognizing that you aren’t able to keep up the charade. in a REAL relationship, the show is over, the curtains drawn, the crowd has stop applauding and has gone home. we are left standing in a empty theater, naked, fat, balding. this is something we not only need to expect, but something we should SEEK. we should seek this with our wives, husbands, friends we have flaked on for months, creepy uncles, neighbors who give us the evil eye because of our barking dogs, and most of all, our creator, our god. see what i mean, it sucks, but only at first, i hope.

i say “i hope”, because i still don’t know if i have really reached that point where i am alone, on stage, in the theater after the crowd has left, where i make myself available for anyone to come in and see me as exactly as i am. maybe i never will, but i at least feel CLOSER to this point with my mere realization that my make-up and costumes only allow me to experience a fragile shell of what a real relationship might be. ditching the image, the reputation, the notoriety, the status….maybe the only way to really fly first class is to go back to coach. that realization hurts, especially when flying from lax to narita.

anyway, i guess i am disappointed in myself. i feel that i have failed those around me, and most of all, failed god. it’s staggering to think how little i actually call out to god. the prayers are few and far between. it’s like i can’t walk with god, i just realize now and then that he’s way ahead of me on the trail and i yell out and run towards for about 20 yards, then i slow down again, back to my own pace. a safe distance. there is so much for me to talk to god about, but i fail to say it. my friend dean once said that just because god CAN bless us, it doesn’t mean he’ll do so. he wants to hear from us our desires, our pain, our dreams. he wants to know that we are faithful, and then he will honor our faithfulness. when he said that, something hit deep inside me. i have so many friends that i feel will never understand what it’s like to open up to god, our creator, and journey with him in the ugly/beautiful world. it’s like i don’t believe god can move towards them to bridge that gap. i can throw up some wordy prayer towards god, but until i actually believe that he can do what seems impossible to me, he won’t accept my prayer. i call to god for change and blessing without the faith that he can provide them……..i might as well spit in his face. it’s nothing but an insult.

i have a long way to go. lax to narita looks like a stroll around the block from this starting point. but i AM faithful that God can help me get there.

Emerging from where? And where are we going?–

so i’ve had some time with a high speed internet connection in my hotel room in montreal. it’s been nice since i haven’t hooked up for a few days. anyway, i found myself doing a bit of blog surfing, checking out other people’s random blogs linked from the blogs i usually check out. (will has quite the blog collection on his site) i hear a lot of people discussing an “emerging church” or an “emergent conversation”. i think this is just due to the fact that i am totally not with this terminology , but i really have no clue what those kinds of phrases mean. what are we emerging from? what spiritual hotel are we supposed to be checking out of? if we are indeed checking out, then where are we going? i found this whole group of folks who are blogging from the Princeton school of theology. i understood about 1.5% of some of what that bunch had to say and it really left me feeling fairly at arms length with regards to their “conversation”. i consider myself a fairly capable thinker but there were def. no light bulbs going off in my head in any way whatsoever.

the word emerging signals a destination. it’s like me saying i want to move to new zealand because bush was re elected. that is obviously short sighted and weak thinking because if i really consider myself a progressive force and a voice for change, me leaving would only help keep things the same. if anything, the modern american church needs the voices of the “emerging” INSIDE the castle walls now more than ever. or maybe the idea is to emerge “within”.

it is highly possible that i am just don’t have a full understanding of what the “emergent church” looks like. so those of you emerging……please fill me in.


i am currently in toronto. we just got here this morning and i have to say, it’s great to be back in canada, especially toronto. this is a great city.

the last week has been awesome for me. i had two days off in columbus, ohio so i was able to bring out holly and ava. we just chilled out and had some great family time at a much needed point in my travels.

also, i spent some time in chicago with my friend rob bell and his wife, kristen. if you don’t know rob bell or have never listened to his teachings, you are missing out in a very big way. this guy is someone who needs to be heard. i have a link to his teachings online on the right side column. he pastors a church in michigan called mars hill. do your soul a favor and check him out. rob hooked me up with some books he thought i would enjoy. nothing is better than getting a new book, and when you get 5 new books from someone who’s knowledge of the Christian faith whom you respect probably more than anyone else’s, it was a huge treat for me. he gave me the following reads:

The Enigma of Anger – Garret Keiser
The Sabbath – Abraham Joshua Heschel
A Generous Orthodoxy – Brian McLaren
Heaven Is Place On Earth – Michael E. Wittmer
Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community – Wendell Berry

the awesome thing is that i have never heard of 4 or these authors, so that is a huge plus….so thanks rob!!

i also recently picked up:

The Meaning of Jesus – Borg and Wright
Out of the Question…Into the Mystery – Leonard Sweet

lots of reading awaits!!

Bono says–

i’ve been listening and still trying to get a feel for this album. some great lyrical moments are really popping out to me. here are a few……

from “Crumbs On Your Table”:

“You speak of signs and wonders
I need something other
I would believe if I was able
But I’m waiting on the crumbs from your able”

from “Yahweh”:

“Take these hands
Teach them how to carry
Take these hands, don’t make a fist, no
Take this mouth
So quick to criticise
Take this mouth, give it a kiss”

the highlights of the album for me so far are “yahweh”, “city of blinding lights”, “miracle drugs”. more to come…….

A Beautiful Day–

the new U2 album found it’s way to me today, the actual album with artwork and all. for those of you who may not know, i am a pretty huge U2 fan so this is pretty exciting for me, to say the least. i am currently listening to it for the first time at the moment and will post my thoughts later. good to have them back, either way.

Bob Jones to W. Bush–

“In your re-election, God has graciously granted America — though she doesn’t deserve it — a reprieve from the agenda of paganism. You have been given a mandate. We the people expect your voice to be like the clear and certain sound of a trumpet. Because you seek the Lord daily, we who know the Lord will follow that kind of voice eagerly.

Don’t equivocate. Put your agenda on the front burner and let it boil. You owe the liberals nothing. They despise you because they despise your Christ. Honor the Lord, and He will honor you.

Dr. Bob Jones III, president of Bob Jones University, in a letter to President Bush”

do liberals really despise Christ? or do they read things like this letter, hold it up to the life of Christ and see no resemblance?

Ground Zero–

i am now back in new york city and had a chance to visit the ground zero. i had mentioned on an earlier post that i visited the site about a month after september 11 and it was one of the most dark experiences i have ever been through. i had been back to nyc quite a bit since then but never went back, until yesterday.

i walked down broadway and approached the site and the first thing i noticed was just the emptiness of where the towers once stood. there is this gaping hole and it feels so wrong and so empty. as i got closer i was actually able to see into the “pit”. the city of new york has built a structure where visitors can walk up and look down into the floor of ground zero. i don’t think it really sank in for me. what had happened there, the stories of each life taken and who they have left behind. going there and viewing the scene….it’s like getting slapped in the face. you don’t know whether to get angry, cry, or just walk away.

i walked back to my hotel thinking that the site is as empty as a space could possibly be. a place that was so full of movement, life, and wonderment is now just completely emptied.

maybe what bums me out more is that this event that nyc, and our country has gone through has seemed to divide us in the long run. 9/11 brought about amazing unity within this country. for a time there were no democrats, republicans, moral majority, sinners……we were just a group hurting, looking to help our neighbors.

here we are in 2004, coming out of the national election and, regardless of the results, it has shown this country that we are becoming more divided and split. how quickly the american dream and day to day issues we deal with have overshadowed this sense of unity and community. the things that have traditionally seperated us, after 9/11 didn’t matter. they evaporated into the haze of plane crashes and burning buildings. what does it take for us to keep this sense of community in tact, even after the memories fade? let’s figure this out.

The Purity System, Then and Now–

over that past few weeks, i have been making my way through marcus borg’s book “meeting jesus again for the first time”. i do have to say that it has been a very interesting read and borg hits on a lot of ideas that i think are great for us to toss around our heads. although i don’t buy everything that borg has to offer up in this book, i would recommend it highly to anyone curious about who jesus is. borg does come off as someone who really knew how it was, and we must remind ourselves that although we can learn a great deal from his research and writings, he wasn’t there. with that said, there was something i read in this book i couldn’t help myself but bring some attention to.

the third chapter in the book called “jesus, compassion, and politics” has a section that hits on what i feel is a very valuable insight in this time of political and social division in our country and the world. in this section, borg takes the reader through the purity system of the jewish social world in jesus’ time and how this system mapped out and divided the people and their entire culture. it was amazing reading this as i had to remind myself that i was reading a marcus borg book and not the new york times.

here borg gives us a description of what this purity system meant for the society. basically, if you were a rich jewish male with no obvious physical defects, you were most likely very “pure” or “holy”. if you were a poor gentile woman with physical defects of any kind, then you were basically s.o.l., or NOT pure/holy. wow, good thing we don’t have this kind of system anymore, right?

in this same section borg lays out how jesus “attacked” this purity system: compassion. this is what borg writes:

“in the message and activity of jesus, we see an alternative social vision: a community not shaped by the ethos and politics of purity, but by the ethos and politics of compassion. the challenge is signaled at the outset by the imitatio dei of which jesus speaks. it is striking that “be compassionate as god is compassionate” so closely echoes “be holy as god is holy”, even as it makes a radical substitution. the close parallels suggests that jesus deliberately replaced the core value of purity with compassion. compassion, not holiness, is the dominant quality of god, and therefore to be the ethos of the community that mirrors god.”

he goes in to much more detail and paints a picture that is all too familiar to our world today. can anyone say red state/blue state? thanks to borg for reminding us that jesus was and is the true uniter, not a divider with such strong and clear words. may we follow jesus to the front lines in the name of compassion.

books, check ’em out……especially this one.

Coast to Coast–

from seattle to boston. i am now it bean town after flying today from seattle. i’ve had a great week traveling up the west coast. san francisco, eugene, portland, seattle. some of my favorite cities in the country. i met up with my good friend dean in seattle. i ate the best sandwich in my life at a place called salumi in downtown seattle. visited the best bookstore in the united states, powell’s books in portland. found john robinson’s “honest to god” there used for three bucks (been looking for that book for over a year). i fell in love with portland and had dreams of someday living there or a place much like it. i began to like what it is i do again. i witnessed a street protest that was broken up by police in riot gear in downtown portland. it’s been a good day…..i didn’t even have to use my a-k.

Four More Wars!!!!!!–

i had higher hopes, but it looks like the religious right and “middle america” put an end to my dream of a bush-less america. i can’t fault the president, i can only be baffled by the citizens of this country to have no sense of accountability when it comes to re electing a president who waged an unnecessary preemptive war that has failed miserably in almost every aspect. i guess we can continue to share with more of the world the united states solution of unnecessary war and violence. some real estate in new zealand looks pretty good right about now.