Complicit

Complicit

Anne Applebaum’s essay, “The Collaborators,” was a good read for me. The subtitle frames the topic: “What causes people to abandon their principles in support of a corrupt regime? And How do they find their way back?” It’s well worth your time to read, and can I even go so far as suggest, contemplate.

I’ve thought about complicity quite a bit over the past several years. My career employment in a religious system that categorized humans other than males as unworthy of leading or even participating was the precipitating environment leading to my confrontation with complicity. For many years my tribe of Baptists didn’t allow women to teach or hold any leadership positions over men. I cleared this hurdle by finding a new tribe in which to work. This new group at least taught that women could serve where ever they were called. While the teachings and practice never really lived up to these aspirations, it was refreshing.

However, my new tribe didn’t accept LGBTQ people as entirely acceptable to participate fully in the life of the community of faith. I grew to understand that this was opposed to everything I knew and valued in my experience with human beings, relationships, and my years of teaching the Christian scriptures. I avoided these inner conflicts, teaching and preaching around them to keep the peace and remain employed. Complicit.

In recent days, it seems that our society is beginning to reckon with race and racism that feels different to me. We all come to these moments at different times and with various precipitating events. I know that this particular moment for people of color is simultaneously welcome, hilarious, and rage-inducing. The punch line being, “WHERE THE ACTUAL F&$K HAVE YOU BEEN LIVING?!?” Where we have been living is very comfortably in our complicity. We can face it or not. But when faced with our collaboration in this unequal and unjust system, one must decide what their actual values are.

Our ACTUAL values are the ones by which we make our everyday decisions. They are the ones that happen automatically, by habit. When the automatic comes in conflict with our espoused or aspirational values, we can count that as uncomfortable or as an opportunity for growth and change. Mere discomfort produces rationalizations and then status-quo. However, our mission, if we choose to accept it, is to dive into the growth and change. It’s hard. But it’s not impossible. We will mess up. And we won’t know what to do. We will stammer and use the wrong words and stumble. But like learning a new language or negotiating a dark room, we’ll adjust. We’ll get more proficient. We’ll find a light switch. These values will become more automatic.

This new place in which I find myself living is simply beautiful. I feel more connected with other human beings every day. That experience expands my world continually, and that is always rewarding. Always. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m a LONG way from arriving. For years, I preached that the minute we think we’ve arrived somewhere is the minute we stop learning and growing. It’s at those moments that the seeds of complicity sprout. My goodness, this world I’m beginning to see, is so much more rich and fulfilling. I’m so thankful to be in this new, scary, uncomfortable place.

I woke up AFib on Wednesday

Hospital feet
My standard “foot pict” with sushi smuggled into the hospital by my dearest friends.

I woke up AFib on Wednesday. Atrial Fibrillation. The chambers of our hearts usually beat on a regular rate. However, it can go all Southern Baptist on you and lose its groove. I felt just a little dizzy and just a little nauseous. Nothing really debilitating or significant. I started to go to work and then decided to lay down and go in just a little late. But I got a couple alerts from my new Christmas present like those new Apple watches are apt to do. It was telling me my regular 55 BPM heart rate was bumping along at 120. I called a nurse friend who gave me some [good] advice, but instead, I decided to do what dudes do…I sat in my chair and drank some water and figured it would all work out in a minute or two. This grand plan was interrupted by my little sister from another mister who bugged the hell out of me to go to the Quick Clinic. I gave in.

So there was this point when the doctor at the Quick Clinic was telling me what my watch and my little sis had already told me. Doc had just said the EKG was AFib, and he was elaborating that I was heading to the ER and that I couldn’t drive myself. This bugged me because I was perfectly able to drive my own damn self to the ER. I had driven myself to the clinic, and I was a grown-ass man. I was also anticipating the I-told-you-to-go-to-the-ER text from my lil’ sis. I had been told all this earlier that morning and responded to it all with the skeptical and well-practiced eye-roll my dude nature gave me.

So my good and loving wife (a true saint and so much better than I deserve) left work to chauffeur me to the local ER. I was afraid the “healthcare” “industry” was going to life-flight me the mile and a half from the clinic to the hospital and take a massive bite out of my retirement savings (because that’s such a better system than one where costs are regulated and shared—evened out, so no one is thrown into financial ruin because of unexpected medical expenses…but I digress.) The humans of actual “healthcare” took great care of me. They smiled. They were comforting. They built up my confidence in a very unfamiliar place. They apologized for sticks and pokes that are simply part of their jobs because they knew it was uncomfortable for me. They even laughed at my occasional “dad humor.” From the very low paid aids to the very accomplished doctor, cardiologist, nurses, and other staff, all were wonderful. (Except for the chicken salad sandwich I was attempted to be fed at dinner time (see the picture above for what I actually ate) and the lousy hamburger patty served with some canned “gravy” poured on top presented to me at lunch as a “hamburger steak” …but again, I digress.)

I sit here on my back porch today with my feet up by the fire reading a little, writing a little, wasting some time on Facebook a little. As my heart bumps out its irregular little tune, I contemplate how perspective changes almost immediately sometimes. I’m fine. No drama intended with this post. But I also recognize the reality check my little life-hiccup gave me this week. More motivation to get healthier this year. More perspective on what matters. Love for those people who are friends who become family and for blood family who are always here for you. Here’s to 2020. Here’s to beating out a brand new rhythm this year. And my heart getting back to a healthy and utterly non-Southern Baptist rhythm.

Fixer-Upper

Fixer-Upper

Spirituality - BBTI’ve been involved in a renovation project over the past several months. Demolition stage was challenging and required some trust that the outcome would be worth the effort. Some of the demo was merely cosmetic. However, there were some loadbearing walls involved as well. These walls were substantial, and I’ve had some pushback from some who thought I went too far. But to this point of the project, I’ve not regretted any of those decisions. These were the changes that really opened up the space to be something I could never have imagined otherwise. Now that the demo stage is pretty much complete, and I’ve begun to add some framework to the foundations that were exposed. The intent is a very open space conducive to hospitality, conversation, and growing relationships. As the construction continues, I hope to be open to suggestions and input growing out of those conversations and relationships. I’m beginning to recognize that this project will be ongoing for the foreseeable future. I’m anticipating taking out and replacing some of the features added recently. Probably not rising to the level of a full demo, but being open to the likelihood of redecorating as the need arises. It’s very gratifying to know that the work that has been completed to this point has really produced the desired results! I’m loving this space! (Even as it’s still under construction and probably always will be.)

Distractions

Distractions

IMG_1683I began several times intending to write about God.  Finding traction was difficult. There was the distraction of Rosie the Labrador.  At 5:30, she came bursting from her night of quiet, eager to taste and smell and run and roll in her world.  And she so wants me, you, everyone to experience it.  She licks my leg, urging me out of my chair, bounding forward through the screen—through the screen—that could never be a barrier.  

“Silly dog! You broke the screen! Ran right through!”

 

But who is the silly one?  Rosie the Labrador challenges every supposed barrier.  Runs through some, paws at others but tests them all.  Not for any grand purpose other than to live the life of a Labrador with which she was blessed and has blessed us.

She bounds back up the stairs, tail beating a rhythm on my metal chair.  She paws my legs inviting them to move.  She sniffs my arm, tongue tasting my knee, eyes alert to all movement, nose to all smells-those I’ll never know.  

She wins.  We went on a walk.  I left the phone and ear-buds at home.  And I heard some things I would have otherwise missed.  

My Jesus Question

My Jesus Question

jesus-question-copy So…I’m considering this question.  I work at a church and there are a lot of things a church might be about.  But in my mind one of those things, maybe the most important thing…but maybe not (I’ll grant that possibility to someone that might have a better answer)…is to better follow Jesus.

I’m submitting this question to whomever might choose to read this little post.  I’m not necessarily looking for public comments (although they are welcome).  I’m not interested in laying a guilt trip on anyone.  I’m not wanting to convert anyone on this post.  I’m simply asking this question of myself and inviting others to consider it as well.  Grace and peace.

Assuming intimacy, dignity & beauty. 

Assuming intimacy, dignity & beauty. 

I ran across this article while digging deeper into a topic in a book I’m reading.  Krista Tippett, the author of the book, who had been living in Berlin for quite some time and whose job it was to keep her finger on the pulse of relationships on both sides of the wall, observed: “…it was possible to have freedom and plenty in the West and craft an empty life, it was possible to ‘have nothing’ in the East and create a life of intimacy and dignity and beauty.” While the politicians and bureaucrats had some influence, it was ultimately the people who assumed and acted upon their freedom that brought down the Iron Curtain. Giving politicians power is akin to turning a 3 year old loose with power tools. It is ultimately people assuming and claiming the lives of “intimacy, dignity and beauty” for which they had been created that brought down the wall. I fear we give the political process entirely too much credit. To believe the rhetoric and live our lives by it is foolish at best. It is toxic for us to allow the narrative by which we live our lives to be defined by 3 year olds fighting over the power tools.  It paints everything in a dualistic way that creates division and discord. We were created for so much more than that.

Peace On Earth

IMG_2595

It’s been a difficult Advent to try and speak about peace.  Every where one looks the evidence of its absence is overwhelming.  I would write a few sentences here summing up the news headlines of late but I’d rather not. We all know them far too well.

If I turn from the headlines toward my expanded neighborhood of friends and acquaintances on social media, it seems there is an election looming.  In fact, there seems to be one looming 365 days a year.  And a cursory look at the posts on my feed seem to imply that one particular brand of politics or the other has the solution[s] and/or “leader[s]” to remedy this chronic lack of peace we’ve all been experiencing for quite some time.  Call me cynical but, I’m not really buying what they’re selling.  Seems as though this has been the claim by all sides of every issue for as long as I’ve been alert enough to pay attention.

So, what to do?  Do I give in to the cynicism of the age?

I don’t have an answer.  But I do have my faith.  The faith I have is rooted in a God who loves.  Call me naive.  Call me idealistic.  But, the older I get, my cynicism toward the powers of this world only grows and my faith in this loving God is continually confirmed.  Even when someone throws the turmoil of this world at my “loving God” saying the chaos is proof that my faith is in vain, I realize that I would rather live my faith in this loving God than in the false hopes and unfulfilled promises of the powers that be in our world.  It’s simply a better way to live my life. I would rather live in that love of God than in the fear and frustration offered by the alternative.

One of my favorite quotes about peace is by Nicholas Wolsterstorff:

“The state of shalom is the state of flourishing in all dimensions of one’s existence: in one’s relation to God, in one’s relation to one’s fellow human beings, in one’s relation to nature, and none’s relation to oneself…An ever-beckoning temptation for the [American] evangelical is to assume that all God really cares about for human beings here on earth is that they be born again and thus destined for salvation…  [However], what God desires for human beings is that comprehensive mode of flourishing which the Bible calls shalom…God’s love of justice is grounded in God’s longing for the shalom of God’s creatures and in God’s sorrow over its absence.”

—Nicholas Wolsterstorff

If the system you subscribe to isn’t offering this type of peace…this shalom…then, well, it might not be worthy of your faith.  And it just might be contributing to the absence of peace we’re all enduring in our world.

I think my favorite Christmas song is Christmas Bells and my favorite rendition is by John Gorka.  Check it out here.  (Here is a live version of the song.)

Peace.

Facebook Fast (2)

facebook fastI’ve tried this once before.  A Facebook Fast for lent.  It wasn’t easy and I wrote a couple of blog posts about why. (You can read those here.)  I know some folk have begun to get down on Facebook (too many “cat videos”; “who wants to hear/see pictures of someone’s dinner”; “it’s all Humblebragging; etc.

I for one am not ashamed to admit that I LOVE Facebook.  Still.  Whether it’s cool or not, it’s fun, mostly informative, and has reconnected me with people I knew in high school, college, past churches, past jobs/careers, long distance family.  It’s been an extension of community in a very profound way for me since I first started my Facebook page back in 2007.

This practice of giving something up for lint has been mostly a fail for me for years.  (If you’re reading this, I hope you’ll say a little prayer for me for strength and discipline to not merely sign off but to pick up a new awareness of God’s presence in my life.  You’ll probably still see an occasional post show up on my time line (I have some things set to automatically post…like my occasional tweets and blog posts like this one.) I’ll have to log in occasionally to post something to my youth group FB pages.  However, I’m going to ignore the addictive little red number that shows up in the top of the window and on my Facebook app…(note to self: you probably should delete that app for the time being.)  This was very hard to do last time (I wrote about that here.)

Peace and blessings to you during this time of lent!  See you Easter Sunday!

Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & SaintI LOVED this book.  And that’s odd because I probably can’t recommend it to all my friends.  Many would be strongly offended by it.  They would quickly react to Nadia Bolz-Weber‘s application of sailor language to godly topics.  Many would take offense at her welcoming and affirming stance on LGBTQ issues.  And I’ve come to a place that it’s ok if they are offended.  I can’t control that.  Don’t read the book if you fear you’ll fall in that category.  I honestly don’t want to be the one that riles you up and disturbs your peace.  (I would like to point out that LGBTQ is about people long before it ever became an “issue”. Like every “issue” out there, when it’s your starting point, you often end up somewhere Jesus isn’t and you walk on a lot of people whom Jesus loves on your way to the smug destination you’ll find at the end of such a path.)

Because of my reading of Pastrix, I recognize the smugness of that last sentence.  It comes across as if I’m the one enlightened and all who disagree with me are intolerant and bigots.  Now, don’t get me wrong…I absolutely stand by the sentence I wrote above.  However, there is a heavily underlined paragraph on page 57 of my copy of  Pastrix that says:

Matthew once said to me, after one of my more finely worded rants about stupid people who have the wrong opinions, “Nadia, the thing that sucks is that every time we draw a line between us and others, Jesus is always on the other side of it.” — Nadia Bolz-Weber

To further quote Nadia, “Damn!”  Pastix shined a light on all the lines I’ve drawn between me and people with whom I disagree.  And in so doing, it shined a light on Jesus that I’ve needed turned on for a while now.  What I continually discovered in Pastrix was resurrection.  It was a continual stream of stories of death and resurrection.  Persons and lives dying deaths large and small only to encounter the risen Christ and be raised to new life again in profound and graceful and loving ways.  It’s a resurrection that one can and should experience daily.  (That’s what Jesus meant!)

Reading Pastrix was something of a cathartic experience for me.  It was hard to put my finger on what continually resonated with me as I turned page after page.  But as I reluctantly put the book down this morning I recognized a long lost itch (p. 204) that I had continually and unconsciously been scratching all these years but had slipped from my awareness.  I realized that I had rediscovered a distant call to ministry that animates my life.  It’s a call we all share and it manifests itself in all sorts of different jobs and vocations and roles.  But it’s absolutely a call.  It’s a call to discover who we were created to be.  And its a call to death and resurrection.  Thanks Nadia.

Image“There must be a time of day when the man who makes plans forgets his plans, and acts as if he had no plans at all. “There must be a time of day when the man who has to speak falls very silent. And his mind forms no more propositions, and he asks himself: Did they have a meaning? “There must be a time when the man of prayer goes to pray as if it were the first time in his life he had ever prayed; when the man of resolutions puts his resolutions aside as if they had all been broken, and he learns a different wisdom: distinguishing the sun from the moon, the stars from the darkness, the sea from dry land, and the night sky from the shoulder of a hill. —Thomas Merton from “No Man is An Island”

It has been sort of a distracted morning, but in a good sort of way. I was down stairs pretty early…4:30ish. I lit the fire, got my coffee and settled on the couch to read. Upon opening my bag I recognized the number of I-want-to-take-time-to-read-but-never-seem-to-get-around-to-it magazines accumulating there were more than a little telling. I was probably never going to get around to reading them.

I pulled out a week-old edition of the New York Times I had purchased at Starbucks to read while waiting on a car to be serviced. Instead of reading that at the dealer, I think I played “FLOW” on my iPad, a challenging little puzzle game but a game nonetheless, and truly a waste of perfectly good waiting room time. I pulled out two issues of the Economist, an issue of Motley Fool Stock Advisor, the December 2012 issue of The Atlantic and finally the Dec. 30th issue of the New York Times Magazine. That was the one that sort of derailed my intensions for the morning.

On the cover was a photograph of Adam Yauch (1/3 of the Beastie Boys) and the words, “The Lives They Lived.” It was a collection of obituaries of notable people who had died in 2012. I’ve never been one who reads obituaries, although [Mr.}Tony Kornheiser says “[the obits] are usually the best writing in the paper.” I think that’s probably true, as a rule. Rather than some words about a forgettable story rushed to the page to meet a deadline, an obit is an attempt to communicate a snap-shot of a life. The fame and/or notoriety of the famous persons in this particular issue of “the magazine” are merely context. The writers are trying to distill meaning from these lives that have ended. Sometimes there is a clear rendering of the protagonist. Other times, the obit seems to be as much a window into the psyche of the writer as it is about the person who died.

I thumbed through the pages of 2012’s obit collection stopping on: Teri Shields (mother of Brooke and quintessential “stage mom”); Maurice Sendak (author of the iconic children’s books “Where the Wild Things Are” and “The Night Kitchen”…Brilliant piece done with 9 illustrations with bubble quotes from an NPR interview with the writer); Nora Ephron (journalist, screenwriter, playwright, best known popularly for “When Harry Met Sally”…a collage recreating “Meg Ryan’s soliloquy [from the diner] using letters cut from Ephron’s obituary in the New York Times.” (…yes…yes…oh God…”); Don Cornelius (creator and host of Soul Train pictured in full 70’s regalia of massive afro and equally massive silver silk tie. Interesting quote: “Long before the Huxtables…Vanessa Williams [1st black Miss America]…the Obamas…middle class white teenagers [were getting] their first glimpse of popular black culture…and…a peek at the future; by the 90s, black music and dance was the culture”); Adam Yauch (interesting take of his growth as an artist…but I could never get over the Beastie’s frat boy smirks and frat boy party/rap anthem from the 80s to take them very seriously).

My morning started with the Merton passage at the beginning of this post. It set the stage for my dip into the obits of 2012. On this morning, the obits provided a moment to put aside the plans, propositions and resolutions and do a little of that distinguishing work…”distinguishing the sun from the moon, the stars from the darkness, the sea from dry land, and the night sky from the shoulder of a hill”…life from death. It was by no means morbid. It was a pause that facilitated some much needed reflection. And while I do not aspire to a mention in the New York Times Magazine, I recognized the legacy that is my faith, my family, and my life’s work will ultimately be my obit. Even more than that, I was able to distinguish between “routine” and “extremely blessed” and give thanks for the blessing.