Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Thought for the day: Purpose

You know we all want our life to have purpose. We all want what we do to have meaning in this life. I think it is what attracts us to institutions of work where the purpose is in the job descriptions, clearly stated in the vision, engraved above the door, and right before our eyes for constant reminding and affirmation whenever we need. But just because it is the job's purpose, it does not immediately follow that it is your purpose, that you will find your purpose, or any purpose, in it. Who has the firmer grip, who is more satisfied; the one who has sought out and found their purpose or the one who accepts the purpose given? One exists outside of tasks and the other is bound to them.

That's my thought for the day.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Springs of Grace

You know I used to be afraid that this couldn't be God. God could not be this gracious. Grace too good to be true. Freedom too easy. I was afraid that I had created a god that I liked, a god that fit in with what I wanted and how I wanted to live....but then again this wasn't any of my doing. I was content to be miserable for the rest of my life because, afterall, that was The Way. I was stolen away to another way of living, a way in which I had to learn to accept not a way that I conjured up. Who has the brain capacity to do that? Who has that kind of power over their mind? Nevertheless, I was afraid that I possessed that level of cunning and deception so as to create this god I was seeing, this God I was seeing.

But this year God's been bringing all these people into the clearing. People who, near and far, are seeing the same face of God I've been seeing, asking the same questions, challenging the same ideas, and experiencing the same grace, coming the to the same peaks and seeing the same sights.

It would be one thing if this was the popular teaching, but it isn't. It would be one thing if we were all under the same roof, but we're not. It would be one thing if we were all reading the same words and hearing the same talks, but we aren't.

We are people who have found springs of living water bubbling up from the same underground Source- a network of rivers beneath the surface connecting, fueling, and carrying us all. These springs are bursting up through the ground all over and I'm finding these springs in unlikely and holy people. I'm finding these springs in old friends, new friends, and strangers alike. I'm finding that they too tapped in, they too hear the song being sung in the distance, they too move to the "unforced rhythms of grace", they too are seekers and are finding treasures they long thought myth.

And that's how I know that it's real. That's how I know it's not just me and I'm not crazy and off course. That's how I know I am not caught up in some self-forged idolatry.

If this Christian life feels heavy to you, if you've ever wondered, "Is this really it?", if you've become frustrated with the church and its demands, if you are sick of trying harder, if you are spent on works, if you are burnt out, worn out, and are not alone. You are not crazy for questioning it all. You are not damned for your frustrations. You are not a dissappointment for your weariness. You are not off course. You are not alone here. There are springs all around you, underground sources waiting to be tapped into that will refresh and awaken you just as you are with all your doubts, frustrations, burdens, weaknesses, questions, and opinions.

There are people like Sarah Bessey, Micah J. Murray, Mandy Steward, Brennan Manning, Frederick Buechner, Graham Cook, Baxter Kruger, and so many others who get you. There are artists and songwriters and musicians all about you who speak this language like Foy Vance, Brooke Fraser, Mumford & Sons, Johnnyswim, Joe Pug, Ricky Kendall, Listener, Lord Huron, Michael Kiwanuka, Run River North and countless others. You may not fit in your home church anymore. You may not click with your former comany. But you are not abandoned. There's a whole slew of vagabonds waiting for you here and will join you on this winding path we call the strait and narrow.


Friday, May 2, 2014

Painting the Roses Red

In Wonderland there are two key ruling figures: the king and queen of hearts (there are in fact other kings and queens in Wonderland, but that is not relevant to our story here).

The Queen is a ghastly figure. She is harsh, vengeful, law-enforcing, her-way-or-the-highway kinda gal. If you don't do things her way, if you cross her, it's "Off with your head!" She is feared. She is obeyed. She is oppressive.

The king is a wimp. He is completely and utterly compliant to the Queen's wishes (moreso in the movie than in the book but that too is besides the point). He is a pacifist, a dear fellow, a doormat, and, although he is kind, he is uninvolved.



In Alice in Wonderland there is a scene where Alice comes upon 3 gardeners painting white roses red and singing, "Painting the roses red and many a tear we shed because we know they'll cease to grow, in fact, they'll soon be dead and yet we go ahead." They admit to painting to roses red out of self-preservation and fear of the Queen. Makes sense considering who the Queen is.

But who is the queen to us?

I have a theory: Either we view God as the queen figure and we view the Church as the king figure OR we view the Church as the queen figure and God as the pacifist king. Regardless of who/what holds which title, we feel the need to cover up the truth for appearance and appeasment sake.

There are truths in our lives, things that are what they are because they simple are. This could be anything from a secret dream, a worldview, a habbit, a hobby, to an opinion, and so on. But the Queen (whoever your queen may be) has set a standard saying, "This is what color roses should be. This is what I like, what I want, what I demand." And so we paint these truths, we mask them, so as to have the appearance of what is demanded, liked, esteemed, or wanted by our queen figure. We know they're really white roses underneath, but we're hoping it's enough to grant us a pass. But are we aware of what it's doing to the roses as the gardener's were? "Painting the roses red and many a tear we shed because we know they'll cease to grow, in fact, they'll soon be dead and yet we go ahead."

I can't be too specific here because we paint so many things to meet what is expected and demanded of us. Here's an example from my life:

I grew up wanting to be an actress and for many years I heeded and fed that desire. Then one year I felt like I was supposed to be a missionary and suddenly I didn't know what to do with my white rose. So I did what was demanded, esteemed, and wanted by my queenly figures; I put it on a lower shelf and painted it to look like what was expected of a Christian Actress. I painted it over and over until I lost intrest in this ghastly shade of compliance, abandoning it altogether. But it was God Who gave me my rose back and it was not remade in the demanded color, but it was gifted in the beautiful shade of white that it always was underneath the paint.

I met a guy one time who was DJing at some function and he had an incredible story of having been one of the most saught after DJ's in the state until he got saved and felt that he had to give all that up. He sold all his equipment and painted what was left of his roses red. Last I saw him, he was working on recovering his equipment and getting back to where he was musically before he "gave it all up for Jesus"; as if Jesus was asking him to give up his gift and his passion- no, that was his queen figure talking.

God is not the Queen of Hearts, nor should your church behave as one. And God is not some whimpy king in the background echoing the demands of your church. He loves white roses and He'll tell you so Himself.