words that guide my faith journey

over the past few years i have been processing a great deal of life - some great, some good and some not so good - but life never the less. in that processing, i have been thinking a great deal about my faith journey and what God is doing to refine my faith walk. when i think of my faith journey some very important words come to mind, and help me in the process - let me share with you a few of the words that have great meaning to me:

forgiveness: i start with forgiveness because i believe it to be the most important thing that i as a follower must offer to others. to me, this is the most important part of my faith. i see forgiveness as so central to my journey that without it i feel i can easily walk off the path. for me, this is my forgiving those who have done me wrong, and knowing i am forgiven for the wrongs i have done others - believe it or not, in my heart, forgiveness starts and flows from God - i can not forgive on my own, i need to be in a constant relationship with Christ to truly express forgiveness to others - i need to trust in Christ to guide my heart to truly wanting to forgive those who have hurt me - while it is hard, i believe it is not impossible. i need to keep in mind that if i do not forgive others, i will never be forgiven my sins.

grace: this is me acting in kindness, finding a kind way of expressing thoughts that may see different then the ones held by others. it has not always been my strongest reality, but it is one i am trying hard to develop. you see, i can tell the truth in all cases and with grace i can make that truth meaningful, without hurting the feelings of others.

caring: i need to be ready to go that extra mile for others, even when i do not want to - and i have to admit that i have failed on this one big time. you see, sometimes [many times] i am unwilling to go that extra mile - i am unwilling to give of myself to the point where it is uncomfortable. interestingly, i have found that i am willing to help those i see as "being in need" but i am less likely to help those i see as "not needing" - i will give a homeless man some money, but am i willing to give to a man who has all? to be "caring" to me means we need to redefine what we see as "needs" and know that without Christ we are all in need.

love: believe it or not, love is not "high" on my list of words, not because it is not important, but because i believe we can not truly love until we forgive, care, and show grace to those around us - some would say that before we can do all that we need to love - but for me in my journey, i find loving someone as easy - i find caring for them, showing grace to them and forgiving them hard. for me, in my journey, i have found love to be over rated and fleeting.

acceptance: this may seem like grace, but i think it is deeper and harder. you see, we can show "grace" to a gay or lesbian, but can we accept them for who they are? we are quick to discount the "lifestyle" as "against a christian life style" but we have to ask - so are many other things we ignore. one pastor friend said, "God said he hated homosexuals" so we can not allow them into the church - ok, but the palmist tells us that God hates all who do wrong [plms 5:5]. so if we use what God hates as a bar from the church, we would have some pretty empty churches - oh, wait we do.

optimism: i just can not have a negative attitude when it comes to my faith - i have to see the good things in life. too much of our faith is based on what we are against, but it should be measured by what we are for. if we are for very little, we then need to rethink our faith and determine what it is we believe in.

journey: faith for me is not a destination, it is a journey - a walk, a rose i travel to find my way and experience how God works in my daily walk. if we view our faith as a destination, we stop our journey when we think we have arrived. if we say, "accept Jesus as your lord and savior and you will have eternal life" and "eternal life" is our destination, then simply by accepting Jesus we have arrived at our destination and the faith journey is over - so, for me, i need to rethink what it means to "accept Jesus as my lord and savior" not as a destination, but as a starting point where i work out my salvation in fear and trembling.

life: too many followers i know just do not like life - and man, we need to truly enjoy life. i seek to embrace it and live among God's people - i seek to express my life in words, art, song and deeds - i seek to eat at the table of life and feast on all that God has made - we need to stop acting like we were pickled upon baptism, and start acting like we truly have a new life in Christ.

unity: i seek to find the common ideas between us, and not seek out the differences. we have spent years looking for what divides us as a faith group and we need to stop and find our united center again.

fluid: things flow, and God sends waves of change into our lives. if i am unwilling to see the waves, i can not be doing what God asks of me - so i need to be fluid in my ideas, expressions and direction - totally and completely open to the powers of God.


were do we find common ground?

before i start, i want to explain that i believe Jesus is my Lord and Savior - while i have never had an issue with that, i have to say i am very uncomfortable thinking i need to say that before i go on - and why is that? because i am going to write about "common grounds" between christianity and islam - and i know, if i did not "qualify my words" some would take them out of context - and that is the scary part. there are some who would refuse to dialog, and i pray for them all.

recently i came upon a site called "a common word" where some 250 islamic leaders [originaly 139 signed and more were added] signed an open letter to the christian church seeking dialog between us and them - and that is very cool. they sought to open the dialog with what we hold in common - our belief in one God and our love for others. this excited me because i saw it as a way of being able to stand and talk - to come to the table with two core, common realities and start a dialog of peace - peace between the two major religious groups of the world - because if we are not at peace with each other, the world will never be at peace. but i wonder if it is really possible? not on the islamic end, but on the christain end.

as i read through the site i was impressed with the words of many of our "christian leaders" - but not overly impressed; there was subtance but very little "let's have a cup of coffee and talk" stuff happening. we can do more - how? easy. as local church leaders we can open dialog and friendships with local islamic leaders; we can go and have a cup of coffee - we can start this at a grass roots level, where our voices are not heard on a national stage, but in the hearts of local people, where it counts. while i am encouraged over the voices of the "leaders" i am reminded that for us, Jesus is the head of the church [the true leader] and we are representatives of Jesus on earth - so we, the local church people [pastors and all], should be taking the actions to speak to the hearts and minds of islamic followers in our communities - not to convert, but to have an open, honest and meaningful dialog on what we hold in common -

let's be honest, it is too easy to find the differences, and to be honest i think it is cheap to find them - what costs more, what drives our hearts, should be the desire to find a common ground - a common word - where we can stand and stop the killing in the name of religion - if not, if we are unwilling to take that step we will soon find the world at war, based on the misconceptions we hold about each other and that would be very sad.


changing the world

do we as followers have a faith that can change the world? i often wonder, because if i hear many evangelicals right, our faith is not enough to change us - never mind the world we live in. if, our faith is unable to cause in us a new life, what makes us think we can make a new world? what makes us think we can bring something to the world that will change the direction? if, our faith just "saves us" but does not "change us" what value is it? what value is a faith that does not change our walk, direction or journey?

i was wondering this today as i sit in my favorite coffee shop sucking on my chai latte - what value is a faith that does not change us at a core? if all we can say is "i am saved" but not changed, are we truly saved? it seems to me that we have a great deal more to think about when it comes to the words of Jesus and paul - that when we decide to follow Jesus we are changed, we become a new person - we no longer desire the things we did before - we become "children of God" and in that we seek to live a life of love and forgiveness. we search for ways to unite and not divide; we strive to know others and love them - because we are told we must. if, we are not changed and if we are not seeking out a path of love and forgiveness we can not claim to be followers on a journey of faith where Jesus is the lead.

that may sound harsh, but i am tired of hearing "followers" claiming to love others and yet not wanting to truly love them - people who claim forgiveness, but who do not forgive. i desire to be connected with people who truly desire to live a changed life and seek out the kingdom of God on earth - by loving others and truly forgiving those who have done us wrong - consider it a "christian sanity" where when we strive to be "sane" we know we are to follow the teachings of Christ, even the hard ones.

check out these passages [click here]


what part of love don't we understand?

i am amazed at how many people desire to "qualify" love in different ways. we stretch it, we mold it, we sell it - but we always seem to discount it when it comes to loving those who are different then us. we find reasons not to love, and that to me is amazing.

why do we discount love? why do we make excuses for not loving? why are we seeking something we are unwilling to give to others? what part of love are we having a hard time understanding? what does a community of faith look like if it is willing to place the love of others over the love of self? can we strive to reach a point in our journey where love is the center of our thoughts and actions? if, as Jesus tells us, we are known to be his followers if people can see our love for each other - how known are we? do people look at us and turn away? do people see in us, and in our actions, the love of Christ? can it be said of us, "they love each other greatly?" where do we see love in our lives? at what point do we give into love and allow love to control our walk? why is it we love in the easy times and not in the hard times? why is it so important that others love us, but less important that we love others?

what part of love don't we understand?


a stranger in a strange land

one of the greatest, if not the greatest, sifi book i have ever read in my entire life is called "stranger in a strange land," it is the best-selling 1961 novel by robert heinlein. of all the books i read in college, this book had the most profound influence on my life and future actions. if you have never read the book, i suggest you buy it and read it - it is amazing. why is it amazing? because it will make you think beyond the limited possibilities we see and it will make you think about what it means to be a follower in this world, where change is possible and sacrifice is required. you see, i read the book right before i became a christian. it effected my life so deeply that i found my understanding of who i was as followers of The Way based on the actions of the main character; you have to read it to understand what i mean.

in the second letter attributed to peter, peter writes, "friends, this world is not your home, so don't make yourselves cozy in it. don't indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. then they'll be won over to God's side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives.[2:11-12]" what peter is telling us is that we are "strangers in a strange land" and we need to act accordingly. how do we do that? i am certain there are many ways, and i am certain some will disagree with the ways i am suggesting - but i would like to share with you my views on how we act like "strangers in a strange land."

first, i believe we need to stand for what is of God - not "justice" - and seek social change. you see, i believe we are to be a "just" people, but we are not to seek "justice." true justice can only come from God, our human idea of what is and is not justice is, at best, weak and blind. there is little we can do to escape the idea that justice is "not even." think of it this way, you know the person living next door is here illegally, “justice” requires you call the police and they be deported. but in God's love we are never given justice, we are given grace. “justice” requires we “turn them in” – grace requires we help them live a better life. because if we are demanding others live by "justice" [a state thing] we must be willing to answer to the same “blind” justice; and justice is never “justice” when it effects us directly. in Christ we are given grace, salvation and a walk of faith that allows us to see the face of God on our journey - so, for me i do not seek "social justice" i seek "social grace"

i believe we also need to embrace the unclean of our day. that means we need to visit people in the hospital and love on those who are hurting, wondering, seeking, thinking, and outside the love of our community. we need to visit those in prisons, literal prisons, and seek to help them to walk in the light - we need to give water to those who thirst, and we need to feed those who hunger - we need to honestly and openly work on helping people meet their physical needs long before we meet their spiritual needs - Jesus did, he was always concerned about the person on earth before he was concerned about the person going to heaven.

i believe we need to honestly and openly confess our sins and strive to walk a solid path of light, without fear of those in our community pushing us to the side and tagging us with some certain letter. you see, too many time we tell people to be open and confess their sins, and the second they do we toss them aside like damaged goods never to speak with them again. over my life time i have met more people who have been so hurt by those in the church that they refuse to even think about “coming back.” we need to be different, we need to be willing to forgive, even before being asked to forgive. if we hold peoples sins against them, then Jesus teaches God will hold our sins against us. we must forgive, forget, love and minister to the people of this world and know that God is God.

i believe we need to be willing to exchange our lives, for the lives of others. this one is the hardest things we could ever be called to do. In “the word” people are told to “defend themselves” and “kill those who wish others harm” – but Jesus goes deeper, and so should we. Jesus was willing to die for others, to give his life even when he had the power to set himself free. it is hard to think in terms of giving your life for another - who among us is willing to die for a stranger? is that not the same question paul asked? you see, we may be willing to be "inconvenienced" for a short time for a friend, but who is willing to give their lives for a complete stranger?

i believe we need to walk in a counter-cultural direction and stand firm on the issues facing us as a people of faith - it is not that we are demanding that others follow our way, it is that we just will not follow their way. you see, as people of faith we are called to live a very different life then those who are not called to faith. our faith requires that we actually do something, take action and stand firm on who we are and how we act as followers of The Way.


emerging and methodists

it might be best to start out with a disclaimer, i attended a umc seminary called drew and pastored a few umc churches in my day. now, that being said i still think a great deal of my theology is based more on the wesleyan traditions and less on other traditions. wesleyan theology connects for me - it allows me to develop a flow on information in my walk of faith that keeps me centered on Christ. I like that, and i think i know why -

the "wesleyan quadrilateral"

scripture - the Holy Bible (Old and New Testaments)
tradition - the two millennia history of the Christian Church
reason - rational thinking and sensible interpretation
experience - a Christian's personal and communal journey in Christ

for me, those allow me to develop a solid emerging walk that calls me to action, prayer and vocation. it allows me to see a christ-centered community of faith seeking to be a missional reality to the world we live in. it speaks to me of a ative and living faith where i can express a narrative theology, with an honest expression of a generous orthodoxy. it allows me to find an authontic community where people, all people - even the broken - can find a home and reach the face of God. in that community i can see to be in conversation and dialog with all people, regardless of where they are in their faith journey. i have found it to be a place where the community can express themselves in creative and dynamic ways.

are they perfect? no, but i can say that they are accepting of others - and that is cooler then being perfect.


crash, burn and heal

i have been dealing with some very deep personal issues as of late. the kind of issues that change your life and make you take a deep look at some of the mistakes you have made along the way - and i have made some pretty big mistakes - but i am thankful God is there, and that i am able to learn from the lesson.

you see, i am a sinner - no, i am not saying this so people can say "look, even a pastor can sin" - because that seems trivial to the moment - no, i mean i am a sinner - i lie, i cheat, i steal. i am a self-centered egomaniac who seldom thinks of anyone but himself - i over inflate my importance and under inflate my responsibility. i have hurt people, i have lied to people - i am a sinner - pure and simple - i am the scum that forms on the scum in a stagnate pond. i have crashed, and i have burned, i have reached the bottom of the pit and i am climbing out - i have reached the lowest point of my life and i am thankful to God for that - because in this i have found a very important love relationship - and that is the love of God, through Jesus Christ.

you see, over the past few years i have been operating on "my skills"- "my quick thinking" and "my words" and i have ignored the words of God in my life - and all that simply added up to a pile of garbage in my life that has festered, and smelt the room up - a tower built on my words, my skills and my thinking is noting, a tower built on garbage - so it came crashing down - with me and others in the rubble, and for that i am sorry - i did not mean for anyone to get hurt in the fall - and for that i am deeply sorry - i cry when i think of the hurt.

you see, i have learned some very important lessons over this time - first, i need to trust 100% on God and get my sinning self out of the way. i need to trust 100% that God has a plan and i fit in to that plan - i need to stop making my own way, and start making a way for God. i need to be less me, and more Jesus - heck, i just need to be less me.

next, i need to get past hiding the hurts and the pains - life suck and sometimes we get bit. i feel like i have been attacked by a pack of pit bulls, but i also have to say that many of my wounds are self inflected. you see, i can not blame others for the pains i have in my life, that falls flat on me. it is because of my human nature, and i have the scars to prove it - i need to let God take the pains and move them to healings - as i have been doing. i need to open and be honest with myself and others about my feeling, no matter the fall out - i need to be ready to learn and move past where i am and allow others to tell me what they see wrong about me. i need to stand on Christ, and let Jesus add to my voice.

and with all that, i need to trust the counsel of those i trust and love. no matter what i think i want, i need to allow others to have a voice in my life - people i love, and who i know love me - they have the best in store for me, so i should trust their words. i need to learn to trust and let those around me see my faults and help me past them.

i have not been a very nice guy over the past few years - and i am sure i hurt many people - and for that i am so deeply sorry - I stand before God with an open heart, confessing all my wrongs and all my selfishness - and i know he forgives me - so to others i say i am truly sorry for being the jerk i was - i pray, and i know, that this life experience has forced me to take some deep looks into my heart - and what i have found is a man looking to reconnect in a deep way with Jesus Christ -



i will admit i am still in process over this idea, but it is one that struck me the other day. ever since i became a christian i have heard people say "we need to be selfless in our actions to others." i was talking with a great friend and he mentioned the same thing, "we need to be selfless" - when he said it i did not hear "selfless" i heard "selflast" - and i think i like that view of life.

to me, being "selflast" means i place all others before me - i am willing to give all i have to help others in need - now, that may not be the smart thing to do, but i think it is the Jesus thing to do.

as i mentioned at the start, this is in process - help me flush this out. give me your ideas, your voices count and i trust what you will share - comment, and let me know


Five Second Theology Without Meaning - Living the Church Organic, Part 2

Ever had your guts ripped out? Ever had your spin ripped from your body with such force you fall to your knees in shock, wondering what just happened? Ever had your world explode around in with such force you are left deaf from the noise and numb to the results for days? Ever had fear over take you in such a way that you had no idea where to turn, how to move or even if you should? Ever been so over whelmed by the hurts of life that no matter what you do, think or say you know the feeling will just grow and the forces surrounding you will win? Have you ever been so moved by hurt, pain and loses that all you want to do is go into a corner, curl up in a ball and just stay forever and let the world move along without you? I have, several times in my life, had those feeling. Feeling where you know everything is messed up, and you have no control over any part of the events; it is like chaos taking control of your life and it is spinning out of control. Feeling so lost, so disconnected, so alone that you cannot hear the world around. Feelings so intense you shake with fear, are blinded by hurt, misdirected by confusion, crying in anger and in such pain that you live in uncontrollable flashes of white noise and a cascade of thoughts you have no control over. Feelings so deep, so primal, so raw that there is no way to describe them, no way to control them and no way to hold them in – so you cry. You cry over little things, you cry over memories, you cry over lost possibilities, you cry over where you put your car keys. So, what do you do? Where do you turn?

Well, if you are me – a Follower of Jesus and a Pastor – the natural place to turn to is the “church” you belong to for help, love, guidance and support; but if you are also like me you soon find that none of that is found in the church. In fact, when I look back at a time in my life where I needed people to support me the most, the church was the place that helped the least; in fact the church pushed me away. When my world fell apart, the church actually moved back and became a cold and distant voyeur of my life pain. I was no longer a person to help, I was now a person to keep away from, treat politely in public settings and talk about in the “privacy” of the Bible study; my pain became a virus and I the carrier that would infect the church as a whole. I would hear people say, “I will keep you in my prayers” and I would think, “Thank you, but right now I need a hug.” People would say to me, “God will not give you more then you can carry” as I was trying to figure out where I could park my car to get sleep because I could not afford a hotel room to sleep in that night. People who say to me “Keep us in the loop” but would never ask me to come over for dinner. People, who you would think should be there for you, simply gave short one-liners as if that would “fix” the pain – or even worse, they actually believed that those one-liners were the truth of the Gospel message.

Now I have to say that not everyone does that, but 98% of the “Christians” I have been in contact with do just that. The part the hurts the most in those times, for me, was that I was the Pastor of the church, and they still acted that way. Where I would have expected them to “rally behind the leader” I actually found that they would run and tell others I has koodies. This got me thinking, not that they were bad but where they simply doing what I taught them to do? Where they simply acting out what they saw me do and say to others? In my heart I have to not point fingers at others, but instead point fingers at myself and other pastors who feed a “five second theology” into the minds of God people. You see, “they” are not to be blamed – “we” are.

Some actions on our part:
I think the first thing we need to do as Followers of Christ is realize that cute little catchy slogan and pithy little sermon titles do not make for good theology. I would say the reason we do this is because we are lazy, I would have to add that we also do this because we fear “upsetting” a few people in the church; and we do not desire to “get dirty” with the “emotional vomit” of others. Think of it this way, if a person comes to you and says, “My husband just kicked me out of the house and I have no place to live and no money to live on” and all you can say is “I will pray for you” – you need to rethink your theology, because in the reality of her world, your words are useless.

Let’s look at in this way, if a member of your community of faith comes to you and says “My husband just kicked me out of the house and I have no place to go and no money to live on” what would the “church” do? Chances are they would point the person to the battered women’s shelter and offer her some food vouchers – and if the woman never comes back again, the church would say “they helped.” But did they? I think not.

You see, for me and “the church organic” we need to start to replace “words of theology” with an “action of theology” – we need to stop “saying” and start “doing.” We need to go that extra mile and get ready to give up our comfort for the comfort of another – we need to be ready embrace, hug, love and help. For example, w need to find her a place to live with loving people with in our community of faith; people willing to help her on her journey, no matter how long it takes. But for this to happen, I believe the Pastor needs to take the lead and openly confess that the church has failed in many ways. But with God’s help we can honestly and openly take the lead in this and change our way of thinking.