I moved into a new house

I moved into a house recently and since having put all my stuff in order (mostly) I found this prayer:

God of all humanity,
make the roof our house
wide enough for all opinions;
oil the door of our house
so it opens easily to friend and stranger;
and set such a table in my house
that all may speak kindly and freely around it. Amen.

 

Love it. This is the goal.

Reached out…

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’

 Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’

I used to read this and imagine Jesus striding confidently toward a slowly sinking Peter and reaching out His hand to help the disciple/chump not drown. It’s funny how abrasive Peter is from time to time. Part of that comes from how much he reminds me of myself.

The thing about this that I noticed awhile back is that Jesus’ stride-based aquatic rescue is not in the text. At all.

It just says that “Jesus immediately reached out and caught him.” It would appear that the Lord didn’t have to move much to do this. A freind of mine once said that, “He’s the Lord. He could move like lightning if He wanted to.” I disagree with this one two levels:

One: Jesus is a man. He moved at man speeds. Being God and man didn’t imply that he could run as though he were a superhuman. The fact that He walked on water at all was quite spectacular enough I would think.

Two: The text says no such thing. It’s not there. It’s not implied. Jesus’ movement is limited in the story by what we read. What did He do? He reached out.

What this says to me is that Peter started sinking an arm’s length away from Jesus.

Really?

Peter walked all the way from the boat, on the water, and upon getting to an immediate-reach distance from Jesus saw the strong wind and started active drowning.

It isn’t clear either how they got back to the boat. How far from them was He? Hmmm…

Either way, the now-dampened Peter and Jesus get back to the boat and the wind ceases.

I wish I had more moments where I was the guy who walked out there to where I was called and didn’t start to drown 2 feet from Jesus. All the same, if we draw anything from the narrative it can surely be that Jesus intends to not have us drown. Whether we have little faith and boldness or whether we stay in the boat and just get battered by the waves. He meets us where we are and immediately reaches out.

No Hesitation. He means to save us. Even when we happen to be fishermen who might have better spent their childhood learning to swim in the sea that might threaten to drown us while we’re out on it…

 

John’s Questions

My friend John continues to ask good questions.

To be honest, I think he asked me one of the better questions I’ve ever been asked.

Over lunch today he asked me about my testimony. This is a word that in Christian culture means, “Tell me about your experience thus far with the Lord.” Or at least that’s how I take it when I’m asked.

I proceeded to tell the narrative that I’ve developed over the years of sharing my testimony.  Testimony is something that implies being a witness. Someone who is present when something significant takes place. I suppose that’s a helpful distinction. It takes the pressure off of me to know exactly what happened and when. I tell it how it happened to the best of my ability.

In telling my testimony I was struck by the fact that it wasn’t always clear what God was doing and realistically it’s not always clear now. There were moments of seeming destiny where what I chose changed the rest of the story. There were moments where “wait…what exactly happened there?” was the inner monologue to the story I told.

As I told the story I related to John that there were moments in which God showed up. To this he asked, “What does that mean?” I was struck by the fact that I’ve never been asked to clarify that statement. It was something that I felt, and understood, but had never really taken time to unpack.

For a moment I struggled to say what I meant in words that weren’t coded Christianese.

Then I said something along the lines of, “Well, I guess by that I mean that I found out more about who God is. Either in a sense where things I had heard/read were echoed by my experience or things I grew up with were things that I realized were not the way I had been told.”

I suppose this is what I mean when I said God shows up places. I think I also mean it in the sense of something inexplicably beautiful happening out of suffering, everyday miracles that only I get to see, and “aha” moments that come into life as though a door in my head has been unlocked.

So all that said…liberation, love, justice, mercy, self-discovery/self disclosure…these are the places where God shows up. I don’t know that I’ve always thought of it that way quite so clearly.  In retrospect, these are the places where I’ve known something bigger was happening. I submit these things are the work of the Lord.

I hope that makes sense to you all. It might not.

Get out of my mind Karl Marx: External Processing and Secular Humanism

So, over the years my friend Jeff has jokingly accused me of being a marxist. I have often responded with strong denials of this because while Karl Marx may be an adept observer of societal trends, he fails in one (at least one) key regard called secular humanism.

For my bearded friend Karl human beings are inherently perfectible. The idea of communism as a functioning societal structure happens as we slowly become more and more perfect. Thus we pass from feudalism to mercantilism to capitalism to socialism and then…Boom. Utopia. Karl argues that this is possible because he believed that we as humanity are able to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, take reality by the horns, and dictate our own progress to the raging bull of existence.

I strongly disagree (at least at a conscious level). Mr.Marx had a pleasant hypothesis that was proved wrong in the course of several hundred years. The same problems remained, and his proletariat (working people) revolution never happened. Humanity stayed in the same broken place and economic conditions developed as time passed.

What does this have to do with external processing you ask?

Well, I’ll try and tell you. For me as an external processor I often discover things as I talk. While telling you a story I might say something I’ve never stumbled across before mid-discussion with you. This is fascinating to me. I actually really enjoy the means by which I arrive at “aha” moments.

However, recently in conversations I’ve noticed that I tend to view my means of processing in a way strongly reminiscent of Mr.Marx. I guess when you discover things about yourself in a surprising way mainly while talking…you start to think that if you do enough of it that you can arrive. That I’ll be where I hope to be: unbroken, 100% thoughtful, etc…because I talked it out.

This just isn’t true.

Instead of arriving at high-five worthy moments all day long, I step more fully into what it means to be human. In other words when I am talking I mostly arrive at a greater awareness of my own brokenness. I’m realizing in a conscious way that I need others.  Other people (both to help me discover what’s in there and also to bear with me) and most especially God (to heal me and carry me through all the things that make me cringe inside myself).  Instead of external processing functioning in a means of perfecting me it really just works to uncover the brokenness I’ve never really noticed before. It makes me often times painfully aware of how much I need I have.

I am not as independent as I would subconsciously claim. If you asked me if I needed you and God I would say yes.

I think though, that deep inside of me I would pridefully wonder about that. I’m writing this blog post as much for you as for me this time.

In case you’re wondering, I need you. I need other people (Christians and otherwise). I need the Lord. I need patience, mercy, and kindness from other people and Jesus to meet me where I am and bear with me in my brokenness.

The thing about all this is that, as I begin to own my need for these things I also notice that I’ve been receiving these things my whole life and I receive them now from those people who have chosen me as a friend, a significant other, or a family member.

I’ve been receiving them from the Lord too.

Thanks everyone. I appreciate it.

PS: Karl Marx, get out of my mind. You’re not welcome there anymore. I hadn’t seen you hiding back there, but now that I do you’d better go lend your support to folks like those neo-atheist guys.

Journaling

So, if you’re wondering about the lack of posts lately I have an answer for you.

I started journaling. Realistically I should have been doing this for years. But, in the context of SPU Christian culture I caught this vibe off people who seemed to be able to disappear for days and return shrouded in mystery with an air of confidence and swagger accentuated by their answer to the question of where were you all weekend? Their answer seemed to be, “Oh, just out around town. I journaled…y’know.” Then they went on their way to drink coffee and talk about how good or bad it was.

Okay, a bit blown out of proportion perhaps, but this is how it felt to me.

For an extroverted external processor this was a world I thought I would never know.

It made me feel like an outsider.

I can hardly spend more than 2 hours alone without purpose before I start to go a little crazy.

I need alone time. I take it periodically, but I might need maybe 2 hours in a week. I think study abroad merged my concept of alone time with a sense of solitary confinement. It can be torturous to an external processor to be alone. You don’t get anywhere. Talking to myself offers highly limited effective processing. I can’t get out of anxious logic circles…and when you’re wrestling with issues like scriptural authority and the only conversation partners speak Spanish…well, you get the idea.

In any case, I didn’t start journaling until recently. I avoided it for years to not become one of those people who made journaling seem like the biggest badass thing they’d ever done and also because looking back on where I’d been seemed like stupid crap…except for the fact that I keep this blog. Looking back isn’t terribly painful, but it is sometimes embarrassing…I guess I wanted to avoid that.

Though, honestly, I can’t tell you everything. Blogging (aside from when I’m traveling) is an interesting adventure for me in which I strive to transform my direct experience into thoughtful vagueness so you can think about stuff I am and also so that I don’t put all the details of my life on the internet.

Turns out the journal is a good place for an external processor. You write stuff down, you think coherently, you don’t have to strive for perfect sentences or well-formed thoughts, and you don’t have the quiet voice in the back of your mind that wonders if everyone is really just very tired of hearing you process your life at them. I think the last bit is a separate issue…

In any case, I journal now. So when I blog it’s about things I mean to tell you.

If you start journaling try and avoid that aforementioned Christian hipster douchebaggery. Just tell people why you do it. Maybe they’ll understand better then.