War no More!


I spent a couple of hours recently in France’s War Museum, Les Invalides. Two world wars, Napoleon’s wars, and seemingly every war between France and Germany since time began is immortalized in some way! Those two countries perfected the absurdity of war!IMG_2797

Room after room I was able to caress various cannons, machine guns, bayonets, and even missiles of every size. Of course many french painted what they thought to be the glory of defending the Republic. But it all became overwhelming for me. “What have we done to our world? Are we not our brother’s keeper?”

Of course the slaughter houses for the Jews affected me the most. What were the Germans thinking? Where was the church? I could not resist pondering the counterintuitive message of Christ and it’s implications, mainly, the love for all and for our enemy. How could the helpless ever be treated like the scum of the earth, or worse than!

War is dehumanizing. War is a destroyer. War breeds more war. War changes everything and never for the better. There are no wars to end all wars. Violence produces violence that produces more violence. C.S. Lewis once described our world of war as ‘winter without Christmas.’ The bleakness of war freezes our hearts in fear and loathing for our fellow man. They are our brothers!

It’s time to have a new vision for humanity and an alternative narrative for our future as peoples of the earth. Yes, it’s high time to live out the radical kind of life and social order described in the Beatitudes. Peacemakers arise! Lovers of justice dance upon the tragedies of the inhumaine and show us a new move. Persecuted ones don’t give up, keep alive in hope and help us make all things new.

Jesus was not offering another religion for the purpose of controlling or manipulating people. He was giving us a transformative way of seeing and being in this world, He called it a blessed way or the way of true happiness. He actually lived it out before us. He incarnated love. He went about forgiving people. That didn’t go over well for the temple managers who made a killing selling livestock for sacrifices. Oh well. He even prayed for those who smashed the hammer into the nails that pierced his flesh. We could never imagine such love without it being modeled before us, could we?

His teaching on loving those different from us, on blessing those who misuse us, on leaving judgment to the Father makes little sense to most. The inclusive message he taught was revolutionary and so sacred. The words about the last and the least being the first and worthy of honour, simply amazing! Can the poor be blessed? Jesus says the possibility is there. Can mourning lead us to laughter? Jesus says it’s a step to the sons of freedom laughing for joy.

It takes time to catch the heart of the one who spoke these unmatchable words of life. That’s why we need to repent, meaning rethink the way we see others and do life on earth. It is the only way for our planet to survive really. It is.

Marriage is Hard


I was at the gym yesterday and a couple of the guys, one older and one younger than me, were chatting about marriage. The younger guy was complaining about not getting to the gym more often because of being married now. The older fellow, divorced, said he didn’t have that problem anymore. The younger guy said he realized love is like caffein, at first it is strong and then the effects dissipates. The older guy just said life is so much easier for him to have a girlfriend. You know, friends with benefits. As I am listening I felt like it was time to give my take on this subject. I said in french, “Guys, my story is completely different, mind if if I share it?” They said, “Bien sûr.”

So I began surprising myself with how much passion was coming from my lips. I spoke these words a little louder than I hoped, “I was married at twenty years and still am, and with the same woman. Has it been hard at times? You bet! In fact, excruciatingly difficult at times.” I think I repeated the word ‘difficile’ a couple of times! “But now we are in our 35th year and I can tell you we are glad we withstood the storms. I am not wanting to make either of you feel anything negative or guilty about your story, but I just needed to tell you that there are alternative stories to the all too common one of marital breakup. It is possible to work out the most difficult of relationships when both sides are willing.”

It got a little quiet. And I’m not sure if my story accomplished anything positive. I just wish there were more stories like mine. Maybe more of us would persevere through those times that are ‘difficile’.IMG_2419

I Lost Something…


He had no idea, its just what everyone did, and he decided to do it better. The people around him encouraged him too. The applause was gratifying. Day by day, week by week his following grew. It seemed that he could do no wrong. When I talked to him, though, it felt like I was talking to a caricature on a film set, like he was playing a role and he had to follow script. The success script. The I-have-it-all-covered script. But something seemed a little off. This man was like a fortress, built piece by piece, and it was formidable. But when I went to go through the door to take a look inside there was precious little to be impressed by. Just a lonely little boy running around with his toy soldiers and no one to play with.

I asked him who were his heroes. He looked at me as if that was a strange question. He had none. Well, maybe the president of America, but he wasn’t going to admit that. “You know,” he said, “My home here is one of the most desirable properties in all of Los Angeles and yesterday it was full of journalists asking me about my wine cellar, my taste in cigars, my cherry wood floor and my cars. Not one asked about me!”

“Did that bother you?”

“God, man, I dunno. Not until now.”

“Well, I am sure you worked hard to get it all, it’s nice, but what if you had to….let’s say ‘let go of it all,’ would you be a different person afterwards?”

“Man!” He shot back, “You ask the hardest questions!”

“Well here is another one, who would you be without the castle and its gardens and it’s cars and it’s hefty value price?”

“Now you are going for blood, man!” He laughed. “I guess I’d be one miserable ass.”

“Ah, I love the honesty! Can I be honest too?” I looked for the nod before I continued,  “It seems to me that instead of you owning all this great stuff, the great stuff owns you. You’ve become a caretaker of the stuff, they help pay you compliments, tell you how great it is to have them in your life and then, that’s all. In the meantime you forgot you and who you are!”

“Bullshit!” He yelled, loud enough to bring forth the butler from the kitchen. “You called me sir?”

“No, no, well, maybe, bring us a couple glasses of Chardonnay, chilled.”

“Yes sir, right away!”

Turning back to me he looked a little less certain, “You know, I think you touched on something that I need to look at a little more closer. I think I have become what I thought I was told to become by everyone else and I did it and now I don’t even know anyone intimately. I don’t even know myself, really. Oh, I know I am good at performing, at making heads turn and it solicits praise. I get journalists asking to write a story about my success all the time. But I lost something in the process.” He paused and blurted a quiet, “Me. ”

The conversation was going deep faster than I had anticipated. I didn’t know what to say next. I heard myself just say, “It all starts by letting go. Let go of your security, let go of your fear of being less than, let go of your need to be better than, and you might find your true self and find out that he’s actually a great guy worth loving.”

“I don’t know”, he replied, “Letting go sounds a lot like dying. Is there going to be life after this slow death?”

I shook my head in a yes movement. “You’ll find yourself, I think, to be more alive than you ever have. Maybe you’ll even find God somewhere in there too.”

He slumped into a massive brown leather chair, “Now, this is getting my attention!”

 

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Healing


Honestly, I am confounded by those who approach the way of God’s blessing with narrow formulaic thinking. We love simple formulas and in the process reduce God to a magic dispenser who responds to the right confession of our needs and wants ‘in His name’. But a very simple study on the different methods of Christ’s healing will show you that he didn’t like doing the same thing over and over. He didn’t want to be franchised.

So, let’s get to it, a quick survey from my sunday school days tells me of a mysterious-full-of-surprises Jesus. He really is a ‘winking’ Savior! To one, blind, he says, “Go wash in such and such pool.” It washes the blindness away. To a group of lepers he meets on the road, he tells, “Go to the temple and chat with the priest there.” Out of the ten healed only one returns to say thanks! He actually spits on one blind guys eyes! Glad we don’t use that messy method today. Imagine you doing that while sick with a cold! Another woman doesn’t even really pray, she just simply squeezes behind Jesus as He is teaching and yanks the bottom of His robe and is healed. Then there is the deaf man that was brought to Jesus. They begged him to touch him. Jesus pulls him away and sticks his finger in the ear and grabs his tongue and screams ‘Be opened!’ Of course it worked, this is Jesus, right! Finally, there is the case where Jesus actually uses spittle in the dirt to make some mucky substance and puts the goo in the blind man’s eyes. Once more there is a miracle.IMG_2322

We could go on and on talking about the variety of God’s blessing hand. What are we to learn from this? Yes, he heals by a word, sometimes by laying of hands, and even from strange methods to show us to never limit God to one sure-fire way to move in our lives. Faith is important, but it may not be the only factor, after all Jesus did raise some dead people who didn’t ask for a thing! So when it comes to receiving a blessing I think we don’t need to use formulas or special words. Surprisingly, the only prayer we actually have recorded was from someone asking for a miracle for his son was, “I believe, help me in my unbelief!” Not quite the faith-confessing-undoubting response you would expect. His son was healed!

My usual method for my needs looks a little like this: I thank God for life, all of it. When I am sick I asked for a quick recovery. If it is bad I ask friends to join me in praying. If I am not healed, I don’t complain or beg. I don’t try to conjure up more faith. God heard me the first time. My biggest need is to let go of my thoughts on how something should be done. God’s ways are not necessarily my ways. That’s an understatement! And physical healing isn’t the only issue I face. I have financial needs, relational challenges, needs of others that come across my path… and in all these things I ask for peace. Faith sometimes isn’t a way to avoid, escape or walk away from the problems of life, but the power to walk through with graciousness, confidence and love.

Hope this balanced perspective is helpful.

Come Outside


Are you there
behind the window?
Staring out
A soul in limbo
The pane is dark
Your mood is too
Ah, Come outside outside
And touch the view
Plants and trees
Lush greenery
Beckons your heart
To play, be free free free

Ah, there you are in the garden
Sweet birds sing, the fragrance surprises
Let’s stay out here
Till new hope arises

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Trust My Lead?


Unless you trust you can never lead. How tough it is to trust unless you are willing to be vulnerable.  We can all breathe easy when we see your humanity, you’re quite like us.

Generosity is the highest gift of all. Yet if you scrunch your face and give lectures on how lucky ‘we are’ as you give, how lowly we feel. Receiving without your cheerfulness is like flossing teeth, duty slides painfully over the gums, some bleeding, but we got er done!

It’s hard to be a true community when you have more to complain about than good things to say. Ideally we’d all be perfect. Realistically we drown in expectations. Gratitude becomes but platitude.

It’s hard to innovate in the midst of hungry wolves. Don’t snarl, please, or rip my reputation in pieces if I fail.  I am taking a risk by pouring new wine in old wineskins, new ideas usually rip the status quo skins.  Musty status quo wine just doesn’t upset us nearly enough, sadly.

It’s feels wrong to put on this ‘man-o-God’ stage mask just because you want me to ‘wow’ the crowd. I know it fills seats, puts money in the plate, but I want my true voice to be heard. I am being vulnerable again. Can you still trust my lead?

You can only fly when you feel trusted! “I believe in you” becomes ‘The sky is the limit’. It’s easy todance be at peace when we give our best, especially when no one is watching and evaluating. The bonds of love are strengthened when you show a little vulnerability too. It’s simple to walk in harmony when we leave our judgments at the door and see through eyes of grace. It’s easy to be real with you when you’ve been real with me.

And I want your true voice to be heard. It is easy to hear you speak truth when I know you speak it without forcing me to see it or to change.

These are the rhythms of a good or bad dancing partner.