When did you last dance?
I mean lose yourself ridiculously in utter awe of God to point where there was no other appropriate response but to dance.
I fail at new years resolutions.
Numerous articles suggest we all do. Maybe it’s personality type, maybe I just get discouraged and give up easily, who knows.
As part of my job I’m involved in a lot of goal setting, our goals are meant to be SMART, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timed. Like a lot of business-religious-educational acronyms, some of the acronyms letters seem to only be included to spell a cool word, aren’t achievable & realistic(relative, relevant, result-focused) the same, why would we set a goal that wasn’t relative or relevant? But SMAT doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it.
Maybe I fail at my new years resolutions because I don’t treat acronyms with the hallowed reverence they deserve.
In the past when it came to resolutions I’d get a little carried away, apparently this says something about me as well (personality types & myers briggs) I’d end up with lot’s, achieve very little, forget about them by February, remember one or two half way through the year & officially give up on them. A lot of my goals were about things I thought I needed to do more of or do better. Fitness, weight, the classic christian read my bible & pray more… And it didn’t matter how SMART I was with them, they always became Stupid Heavy Irrelevant Tedious goals.
Instead I’ve stumbled (sorry I don’t recall where) on to something else that works for me, it flys in the face of Deconstructionist (break every thing down) SMART. It may work for you, it may not.
So instead of a goal I pick a word I want to live by for the year, think of it as a focus, motto, heartbeat, ethos, breath….
What word do I want to breathe this year.
This will be my 4th year of choosing a word in the past I’ve chosen Sabbath, Thrive, Create. Last year my brother-in-law chose ‘Present’, an excellent choice, being present, being in the moment. I don’t recall what word my Dad chose but I was encouraged that the concept had worked for him & he was doing it again this year.
Sometimes it’s tempting to chose lots of words, I find if I have a couple I can’t decide between, one eventually falls to the side. Sometimes – like last year – I wanted to choose a task as a word. The problem for me is that tasks, no matter how noble, become chores, work, an obligation, they drain my energy.
Where as a heartbeat word, a ‘breathe’ word, is life giving.
How does this work? One year I chose ‘Thrive’, unlike a narrow smart goal, ‘Thrive’ covers a broad range of life. My word was a question, Thrive: does this help me thrive?
It may just be semantics or devilish-mind-trickery but ‘Thrive’ was positive & life giving for me, instead of “you must be skinnier no more junk food you fatty” goals, it was as simple as does this help me thrive? Got some spare time on my hands – Thrive – what will be life giving for me to do in this space of time I find myself with.
The real bonus of a word for me is it’s easy to remember, it’s just one word, but it covers so much more than a 100 goals. Sabbath was about rest, being still, acknowledging God, it was also discipline & intentionality.
Last year I went with ‘Create’ I wanted to choose ‘Write’ but write is more task orientated & ‘Create’ is freedom. Creating space to be creative, Create was about acknowledging where I get my energy from, looking for a creative approach to work/problem solving, writing, poems, painting, making videos, cooking more, creating with healthier food….
Even if I do forget my word or make poor choices I can still come back to it, because Thrive/Create starts every day, it’s not the classic “read your bible in a year-plan-oh-no-im-6-months-behind-give-up-futility”.
This year my Wife & I have chosen ‘Wellbeing’, we wanted a word that could embrace the various areas of our lives holistically. So that’s my word for the year, have fun discovering yours…
Discovery now that’s an excellent word.
I believe in world peace.
I believe that all men are created equal.
I believe in the Force, America, freedom, the Tooth Fairy, a bearded man in the sky, Jesus Christ.
Beliefs are cool but in the words of Tyrion Lannister,
“words are wind.”
They say faith without works is dead, and I’ve often felt that to believe something you need to be living it. Otherwise you just like the idea.
But what happens if that “living it” takes over. What if that action becomes the only sign of faith, does it just become empty ritual… and how can you tell?
How can you tell when you’re so caught up in the doing that you’ve stopped being.
When you’re more Martha than Mary.
How can you tell when the things you do sneakily become the relationship you have, instead of overflowing from it. And does the fact that I even have to ask a sign things aren’t right?
What seems like an eternity ago I embarked on some travels, part discovery, part losing things along the way, part chasing dreams & passions. A journey which saw me hanging out with the houseless in Hawaii, and sharing tears in Palestine.
A journey which saw me stop writing. A little bit awkward if you keep a blog.
And in amongst the travel weariness, shameless self promoting selfies, new experience buzz, innocence lost insight, humanity rediscovered, crisis uncovered, laughter, tears, solitude and connection, was an invitation to enter the void.
I would summerise my faith journey this year as an invitation to enter the void. The laying down of things near and dear to me, let the chips fall where they may.
I started writing this post early 2014. I’ll finish it in 2015. Apart from a couple of YouTube videos, quotes & previously unpublished poems, I only wrote one post last year. And while very little of what I write sees the light of day I pretty much wrote nothing of anything.
I didn’t read much either, I made no videos, I didn’t volunteer, I didn’t go to church.
In fact I lost all desire to do any of these things, which was a little bit strange.
Concerning even, if I thought to hard enough about it.
Yet I felt strangely at peace with this invitation to emptiness, as if it were ok to be on this journey. Some how comfortable with the uncomfortable, or at least at peace with the process… whatever that might be.
Like rehabbing an injury, things aren’t right but one day will be.
Last year I attended a friends exhibition and was really moved buy the powerful stories and imagery, so much so that I bailed early, it made me think about my own travels, the people I’d encountered and their messed up situations. Maybe 2014 was the year I chose to shut down a bit instead of being overwhelmed by the worlds problems and my inability change things.
As 2015 begins I find a rekindled energy for some of my passions, a desire to read, to write, to create. I’m looking forward to finding and committing to a faith community, but that may depend on where I end up living. Somethings I don’t think I’ll ever resume, their time has past and I’m happy to let them go.
Love & Breathe. Here’s to doing coming from being.
behind a tranquil monastery is a boundary of forestry hiding a barbed-wire monstrosity
a church safe cursed by a razor-wire crown of thorns
we must protect our truth, sanctified and clean
like we set the standard for what clean is
hide your light under a bushel
unless it’s sanitized and superficial
Supermarket-church snap-frozen-reheated greetings, cookie-cutter-christians rehearsed prayers and scripted meetings
Yahweh’s speechless we’ve hijacked his voice and branded it like sneakers,spread the brand globally sweatshop-manufactured-ministry, unethical in our political standing on others to maintain our status quo
checkered shirts, buzz words, clap for yourself ignore the helpless, it’s you who commands and god who follows, enslaved by his own words pages of grace turned into spiritual laws and promises
a world void of colour and complexity, 40-days of formulaic-faith-paint-by-numbers-christianity
we’ve robbed the God of creation his creativity, denied his mystery, trapped him in a black and white box of simplicity
is it any wonder he doesn’t flow through me…
when kingdom looks so different from this brand of culturanity
The airstrikes happen everywhere, anytime, day and night. At night is the most difficult time. The bombing intensifies and I can feel it getting closer and closer. I’m exhausted but I try and force myself not to fall asleep… the explosions are even scarier when they wake you up. I prefer to be awake when they strike.
I prefer to be awake when they strike.
Wow… that line blows my mind.
Think about that for a second.
How fucked up would my world have to be for me to utter a sentence like that…
the bombs are going to happen, I prefer them in the daylight.
It blows my mind that strikes are so inevitable as to have a preference.
It blows my mind that this is someones reality.
It blows my mind that for some, throwing rocks is the last little bit of resistance they can offer.
It blows my mind that we can label a whole people group as terrorists… the grandparents, the sons and daughters… the parents that hope for their kids just like parents all around the world do.
A people group whose hopes & dreams aren’t that different from yours or mine.
It blows my mind how indifferent or dismissive we can be…
Because acknowledging their reality would force us to confront our own.
The quote from the beginning is from Arwa Mhanna’s article for Oxfam, the full article can be read here.
Donations to Oxfam’s Gaza effort can be made here.
Fallout. Some intended, some not. Some you see coming, some you don’t. Some you think you’re ready for… only to discover you’re not as invincible or as invisible as you think.
I haven’t published anything of substance since March 22nds opening the Gay Marriage Can of Worms.
That’s 6 months ago!
This is my
4th 5th – I’ve lost count – attempt to write a follow-up post.
I scrapped the “thesis” post, the “argue-louder-I’m-angry-you-called-me-those-names” post, and the “mailbag” post…
So I guess that leaves you with the “fallout” post.
What’s happened since then
Lots of people read it, it ended up in places I could never have imagined. I shut comments down, I received more emails in a couple of days than the blogs entire lifetime – some nice, many not. I had coffees & catch-ups. Gay marriage was made legal… my Facebook news feed read
Congratulations mps on passing your new bill now you have legalised gay marriage and prostitution what next pedofilla and rape?
and the world didn’t end.
I ambitiously set about responding to all those emails, had some great discussions before crawling into a hole & escaping to blog elsewhere for a bit. I went to Uganda.
Which brings me to the most surprising thing that happened.
I did a City-to-Surf run to raise funds for a mission trip to Uganda… someone asked for their money back.
Yep, that actually happened (& wasn’t the only weird bit of overreaction).
If these were the views I was espousing they didn’t feel morally they could support my trip. Never mind that homosexuality is illegal in Uganda… what’s interesting is I saw more guys holding hands (and held hands with several men) in Uganda than you’d see in NZ… you see it’s not a gay thing its a cultural thing.
Which leads to the conclusions we jump to, two guys holding hands in Uganda are friends, two guys holding hands in a western country are gay. Conclusions we jump to.
Several emails I received were about how provocative this pic at the end of the post was.
Two guys holding hands.
Except it isn’t.
I just googled “holding hands”.
It’s interesting what we see when we’re a little riled up. I got a little riled up, it’s why I initially delayed a response. It’s interesting the space we go to when we feel under siege, part of me wanted to hit back, part of me wanted to do the “mailbag” post & answer every question…
Instead I’ll leave you with a few ‘fallout’ observations & then the reason why I wont answer all those questions, comments, accusations…
The original post was just some thoughts on recurring discussions I was hearing. A lot was cut out, I could have written a book, but even I don’t read long posts. It was to provoke some thought, to (I hope) be permission giving for some, to even begin a discussion or heaven forbid… have thoughts.
The Bible – this could be another book 🙂
why the lack? There are many books dealing with biblical interpretation, bible times culture & homosexuality. Some arguments are stronger than others.
Ultimately we pick what we want.
Then justify our method.
If I’d included some text that’s all I would have been doing, and that’s the reason why I said, the “surrounding issues are close to many peoples hearts”, the surrounding issue being the Bible & how we read it, that’s what it really comes down to, that is the core issue. Not just in the gay debate, but everything… women leadership, abortion, evolution. Different crisis, same issue.
You’re asking me to read my Bible differently than my tradition has prescribed, and so I can’t go there. If I do, my faith is kicked out the door
– Tim Keller
Whatever side of the argument we’re on we make the bible jump through hoops and conform to the views we hold. Ultimately we make the Bible bow to words like “authority”, “inerrancy”, “narrative” & “myth”.
A human face
I finally put my name & photo on the author page. We interact with things differently when there is a face attached to it. It’s the same with the ‘gay’ issue’.
When we lack a ‘face’ we lack compassion, we say “love the sinner, not the sin”, and while we can love liars (after all, we’ve all lied), thieves (I’m guilty), druggies (we’re suckers for a good “Saul/Paul” story), pastors who’ve had affairs (so much temptation out there), our love for homosexuals extends as far as wanting nothing to do with you.
For many of us there is no real face to it, we can’t identify with the struggle, it’s media stereotypes and fear of that which is “other” to us.
If I preach love & can visit murderers in prison but can’t give a gay guy a hug, then my love rings hollow.
The face for me is, my gay neighbours & their adorable wee boy. The gay family I stayed with overseas. Friends I’ve studied with in High School & Bible College. Those I’ve cried alongside with in the church, because wrestling with your sexuality & faith in a place that is hostile is just brutal. I can see why many choose to quit on church, I get why most choose to remain silent, I consider it a privilege to have journeyed a little with those who didn’t.
Love & God on opposite sides?
This comment drew a lot of attention.
If when it’s all said & done, and I stand before God & I’ve gotten this wrong, I know I will have erred on the side of Love, and that is something I can live with
I guess what I’m saying is that, in this moment I’ve made what I feel to be the right decision for me & my faith journey. But I recognise that 12 yrs ago I thought the world had to have been created in 7 days & it was dangerous to think otherwise, so things change. Ultimately I recognise my own shortcomings, I’m not perfect, and I’m not God.
why no ‘mailbag’ post
I don’t have all the answers, I’m still trying to figure stuff out.
I don’t think the topic of “how we interact with those who we see as other to us” is a question that should be answered, a box to be ticked, a solution filed away…
rather it is something we should always wrestle with, so I’ll leave it open…
wrestle, read, have conversations, think, pray…
because there will always be minorities.
As a Christian, as a follower of Jesus, as a human being, could I… would I vote for Gay Marriage…
Can of Worms – Once we open it, more than what we expect will come out.
In the past whenever the subject has come to the forefront I’ve kept quite on it, didn’t think it was my place to say anything, that I could add anything to the conversation…
or maybe realising if I did it would change things… not being willing to live with the repercussions.
I understand this subject & surrounding issues are close to many peoples hearts, so before your knee jerks I’d encourage you to read the Disclaimer, leave a comment, send an email firstname.lastname@example.org
… or say a prayer.
Why now? I guess of late I’ve been asked a lot, I’ve found myself in several conversations, I’ve found myself.
I guess of late I’m happy to wear the fallout.
By no means comprehensive, here are some thoughts on Gay Marriage, pros, cons, thoughts on cons, thoughts on thoughts… thoughts on the worms that crawl out of the Can.
My Cons list
I wouldn’t vote/support Gay Marriage because… If I did it would/may change various peoples relationships with me, may change the level of involvement I’m able to have with various groups/organisations that I really enjoy working with…
may lead to my being labeled & boxed in, any contributions on any other subject ignored because of thoughts on this one…
may cause myself or people I care about to endure unnecessary harassment… may cause the trolls to come out from under the bridge.
Really, when I think about it that’s the only con I have… selfishness. None of the other cons stack up for me… and selfishness, I don’t want that to be a part of me.
Thoughts on Cons
Gay Marriage will make a mockery of marriage – lets say it does, wouldn’t that just lead to a case of the pot calling the kettle, “black”. We have a few 1000-yrs head start on making a mockery of marriage, a divorce rate indistinguishable from those who don’t attend church, scandal after scandal that seem as dependable as the changing seasons.
I’m protecting the institution of marriage! – no you’re not, most likely you don’t like change (if the sanctity of marriage is a legitimate concern read the section below “marriage & marriage”).
Seriously, read some sermons around the time of the civil rights movement, “if God had wanted the abomination of inter-racial marriage he wouldn’t have created the separate races”.
The Bible clearly states homosexuality is wrong – to be honest it’s not that clear to me… and that’s besides the point, let’s say you believe homosexuality to be wrong, choosing to oppose Gay Marriage won’t mean there are less homosexuals, just more who are angry with you. You can’t “law” people into the kingdom, you just create barriers & resentment.
In whatever context someone is in it should have salt & light, and love & hope breathed into it.
Thoughts on thoughts
It’s culture shaping Church & the Church should be shaping culture – look at slavery, look at civil rights, at women’s rights, women’s suffrage, child labor… there have been Christian leaders at the forefront of those movements and we claim them with pride. But we do so without realising that they were the minority voice within the church, that the majority of Christians were indifferent, apathetic or straight oppositional to those changes, that the church as a whole has never been an early adopter. That the reason it is so shaped by culture is that the majority is indistinguishable from culture. That the only time we seem to engage with culture is when we feel our position of comfort slip away – left longing for 1950’s white-middle class-America.
Humanity – On couple of occasions my life has been touched by suicide & back in the day this would have led to being buried upside down, discarded or in an unmarked grave. I have a friend whose mother is buried in a grave separate from the churches because she had a child out of marriage. We have a dark shameful history of treating people as less than human, as lives not worth remembering, or celebrating.
We do the same with marriage.
You’re allowed to & you’re not. You’re love is to be celebrated & yours shunned.
Less than human.
Marriage & Marriage
Have you ever watched two people have a conversation about what they believe is the same thing, but each is talking about something different? Simultaneous comedy & tragedy.
Marriage is the same.
There is the cultural understanding of marriage – two people committing to each other, to love for life.
There is a biblical understanding of marriage – of God being involved, of symbolism/embodiment/reflection of trinitarian relationship, of Jesus/church, of promise/hope/Resurrection, echoes of Eden, of covenant…
these two ideas of marriage aren’t the same, you don’t unwittingly stumble into covenant…
A marriage between two friends male/female who don’t believe in God bears no implication of marriage in the biblical sense…
the same for a marriage between two males who don’t believe in God.
It doesn’t help matters that most Christians couldn’t tell you the difference, and it’s interesting we don’t protest our straight-atheist friends getting married, we celebrate with them.
The Church gave marriage over to culture a long time ago, there is no renaming or trying to reclaim it, but of understanding. Understanding that to a faith community marriage has deeper implications than our cultural understanding. Realising that cultural marriage isn’t an attack on that of faith or vice versa. That both are beautiful, have significance to their communities & are to be celebrated.
Judgement – If when it’s all said & done, and I stand before God & I’ve gotten this wrong, I know I will have erred on the side of Love, and that is something I can live with.
Ultimately I can’t think of anything more beautiful than two people committing to each other, to love, to journey through life with…
that is cause for celebration, be they straight, gay, religious, coloured, rich or poor…
whether it’s a ceremony of commitment to each other or of covenant with God…
Love is to be celebrated.
i fell for you hard, dove straight off the balcony, chalk outline on the ground of where my heart used to be…
i need to write, don’t know where i’m going with this, normally i have an idea or i’ve put some thought into it, don’t know if i’ll even edit or publish it…
i’m just going to write.
they say it’s better to have loved and lost than never loved at all, my mind sees the truth in that… my heart would tell you to go **** yourself – yeah, it’s a little raw right now.
falling for someone leaves you feeling like you’ve woken from a daze, feeling alive for the first time instead of drifting through lifes haze. if love is living i haven’t been living lately, even though I’d claim love motivates me.
when i opened up my heart & gave someone unrestricted access it made me realise how cautious & guarded i am, keeping people at arm’s length or allowing them to only see certain parts of me…what i choose, what i think you can handle, maintaining the status quo because it works for me…
and when you’re with someone where you feel completely free to be who you are it makes you realise how trapped you are with others, unconsciously buried under the weight of expectation, culture, diplomacy, heritage, family, friends, the burden of leadership or influence…who you think i should be.
amongst the many things i’ve taken from lifes recent ups & downs, one is that despite the risk of pain i need to let more people in, that unless you’re free any sense of freedom is just illusion…
that love isn’t arms length but an embrace… that i cant really love without letting people in.
so seeing as my heart is semi-splattered on the pavement we might as well leave it there… welcome to my heart laid bare.
there’s two things i’m passionate about…
christians being christian,
and the least (the poor, marginalized, oppressed, brokenhearted).
following Jesus should be simple, Love God, Love people…
i aspire to love furiously, be recklessly generous, to challenge the bullshit (let’s call it what it is)…
disillusioned, disheartened, sometimes it gets the best of me, i fail time & time again, sometimes i fuck up monumentally. that confident calm collected me you see, it’s smoke & mirrors, nothing to do with me. sure i know who i am, i know who i am in God… but i’m still flawed, still battle-scarred… still battling.
I struggle to find my place, i can’t buy into to the materialistic American dream or the kiwi one of chasing & trading experience. i view life as being bigger than me, that what i have is to bless others, so the God thing fits… except i don’t really fit in a church, in which if i’m honest its dreams and aspirations don’t differ much from everyone else’s… except eternity…
and while we’re on that lets deal with it. Heaven & Hell, that’s a choice?!…
about as much freedom of choice as me pointing a gun at your head, “love me or i’ll pull the trigger”. is it really love if its coerced or it’s because of what i can do for you. when church songs are sung “we love you(God) for who you are”, the words make liars out of most of us because it’s about what we can get or avoid…
but that’s the repackaged gospel we’ve been sold, robbed of the depth of our faith the pulpit often used as a rallying cry against current events, but if we’re honest its less about smacking & gay marriage and more about maintaining the status quo… state & religion. the cry of protest you hear is more a death rattle, the last gasps as church & state are separated, winding back the clock to pre-Constantine… which isn’t a bad thing, it’s just taken 2000yrs to get there, this kingdom thing was never meant to be established through politics & power plays…
but how we live.
as much as we claim the rights to Love, if i hear another fear driven altar call – “if you walk out of here & get hit by a bus where will you go?” – i think i’ll throw myself under it.
maybe we should spend less time arguing biblical inerrancy & more on solving poverty, less time defending an entire literal reading & more on taking this literally, “love thy neighbor”.
Love God, Love people.
i’m not perfect, never claimed to be, I don’t live up to the ideals i aspire to, nor am i the solution… christianity doesn’t have all the answers cause i’ve still got questions, it wont solve your problems because i have a bunch of them. christianity isn’t the rock stage-bright lights-popstar preacher, tugging at your heartstrings with one hand while the others in your pocket. and christianity isn’t that heterosexual male decrying the abomination of same-sex marriage to shore up his own fears & insecurities… because it’s no longer “pc” to rally against blacks & women.
God isn’t a genie in a bottle, there are no 3 wishes… even if we pray like its so. Jesus isn’t Tony Robbins – come to self-help-christ & live a life of wealth & success, and christianity ain’t a crutch for me… well at least 97% of the time.
This faith thing isn’t blind or dumb, if anything in its simplicity it complicates things… or at least i complicate things as it challenges me.
following Jesus isn’t easy, it’s not just a sunday thing no matter how much i want it to be, constantly wanting to fit it into my compartmentalised life yet it demands all of me.
And this “Love” thing isn’t what we’ve sold it out to be, dumbed & numbed down to “nice”. nice-jesus asks of us to be nice, friendly hellos & plastic smiles, teaching moral obligations instead of following, enslaving instead of setting free. Jesus’ love was revolutionary, look deeper into the culture & settings of all too familiar stories & see how scandalous his interactions with others were. look at our culture, settings & how we do “love” – we’re scandalous for the wrong reasons.
i guess it’s just as well nothings beyond redemption, the church, the world…
we could all do with a little more it.
so here’s to pain & growth, living & learning, the mountain highs & valley lows, the journey, to living free, letting people in, to following & stumbling on the way, to challenging the status quo, to dreaming, to hope…
and to trying to be a little bit less of a hypocrite each day.
Love God. Love people.