All posts by Maureen

Limited empathy

Sometimes I feel the disturbance in the force
And I am undone
Or more appropriately in-Donne
John Donne said “each man’s death diminished me
for I am part of mankind…
do not ask for whom the bell tolls,”
it tolls for me.
At any moment in time
Thousands of universes are shattered
Thousands of hearts are broken
Thousands of arms left empty
Thousands of lives left full of holes.
And the shrapnel of a thousand shattered universes
Shatter mine.
I feel the disquiet of emptiness
Science says the space between the atoms is actually full
But I cannot feel it’s fullness
Only the stark appearance of empty space.
Faith or no faith
No explanation satisfies
And well-meaning axioms appear like empty space.
Less comfort
More questions
Echo through the cold brokenness.
And I feel the shattering of a thousand universes
And hope one of them isn’t mine.

“The Divine Dance” book study Chapter 1

Blessed Trinity by Lance McNeel

I loved Rohr’s view of the Trinity as Dancers who are the Dance.

And this passage:

every vital impulse
every force toward the future
every creative momentum
every loving surge
every dash toward beauty,
every running toward truth,
every ecstasy before simple goodness
every leap of élan vital, 
every ambition for humanity and the earth,
for wholeness and holiness,
is the eternally flowing life of the Trinitarian God

– Richard Rohr

This was my favorite passage in chapter 1. There is also an eternally flowing of the image of God in us. We respond to the outstretched hand of the Dancers inviting us to dance to their rhythm.

This passage reminded me the novel, A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle. In the story a fictional creature called a farandolae lives inside human mitochondria. Each one is supposed to “deepen,” or permanently attach themselves to a community all swaying together. This communal movement performs a biological function essential to the life of the human they live inside. One of them wants to dance alone and not attach. The human who is sick because of this choice has a destiny that could vastly affect the entire planet.

Rather than deepening into the Dance I sometimes hold myself apart. Sometimes I dance like I know someone is watching, and judging. I check my performance and the validity of my experience. I focus on things that distract me. Sometimes I seek fulfillment elsewhere, in things where I feel less exposed and committed.

So very often withdrawing to dance alone has to do with
the impulse to despair,
the force of past regret and personal baggage,
selfish conceit, consumerism, or busyness,
surges of resentment and meanness,
a detour into ugliness,
settling for convenient lies and false narratives,
fear and self-doubt,
cynicism and trust issues,
apathy and oblivious disregard
for personal or community wholeness

It’s not that I intentionally choose these things, but they sometimes become default settings in my exhausted routines and striving for fulfillment. I am a product of a series of conflicted theological views that mostly cast God as disappointed and unhappy with me. I always felt a little conflicted about that because my thoughts accepted this theology but when I did experience God emotionally all I ever felt was love.

I have fleeting moments in which I actually feel transcendent awareness of the Love in which I live and move and have my being. Mostly that is simply a better theological idea that has freed me from feeling oppressed and obligated all the time. Still, I don’t feel like I’m dancing with the Divine most of the time.

Maybe the Dance is so beautiful and simple, the community so profoundly familiar that sometimes it may not feel like I’m dancing and it may not feel like I’m dancing with Anyone, but I actually am. Maybe this is why humans seek to create ceremony and set up measures to mark the experience. It seems to me like these very things often keep us from fully experiencing the full abandon of the dance, the unconscious intimacy of being fully integrated into the community that Jesus describes in John 17 as “they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us.”

I think this deepening into the divine Dance is not about conformity or losing identity or satisfying some spiritual lacking, but about love. We become the Love that is God, not as a conscious determined effort to contribute or be good citizens, but as part of the Love-Dance-God force that makes each of us whole and brings wholeness to our communities, relationships, ideas, creativity, emotions, and imagination.

Richard Rohr talked about Russian artist Andre Rublev’s icon called The Trinity painted in the early 14th century. He pointed out there was a missing part of it that some art historians think could have been a mirror placed there so the viewers saw themselves at the table with Father, Son, and Spirit. God wants us to photobomb the Trinity.

The Countess calculates her birthday

59. I’m 59 today. My life is 79% over. 69% if  my parents’ genetic longevity is any indication and I make 85 rather than the average life expectancy of 74.  I remember somewhere around my 45th birthday I figured I was more than half dead. These stats are even more sobering. I’m definitely gonna shoot for a quality extra 10%.

I wasted a lot of the 21550 days I’ve had so far. I don’t count times I spent sitting around doing nothing as wasted. I enjoy doing nothing. It’s underrated. But there are days or parts of days I wish I had spent differently, time that I wish I could get back and do over:

Time I spent waiting for a better time to do stuff I wanted to do
Time I spent trying to “do it right” in someone else’s eyes
Time I spent listening to people overexplain
Time I spent commuting
Time I spent cleaning stuff I didn’t need
Time I spent afraid
Time I spent angry
Time I spent trying to figure out how to make technology and machines work (see directly above)
Time I spent getting fat (I don’t really regret eating great food, just so much of it)
Time I spent putting up with bullies

I can’t do anything about these moth-eaten days behind me. And I know I have more wasted time ahead because overexplainers gonna overexplain and technology is going to keep being frustrating and mysterious. All I can do is figure out what I really don’t want to miss and get off my ass.

This awareness that time is relentlessly pressing me forward and downward is motivating me to try and set up this last 20%-30% of my life to be the best yet. 60 before 60 seems way too ambitious so I’m shooting for 6.

1. Do stuff with people. I have a really low tolerance for complicated logistics and would rather just stay home than try to work out a time and reach consensus on a place with a group of people no matter how much I love them and want to be with them. I’ve passed on a lot of fun stuff because of this. I really need to put on my big girl britches and leave the house.
2. Get outside. I really like being outside when it’s under 90 degrees. I like hiking and riding my bike and other outside stuff. I hate yard work but I have a yard and prolly need to do something about it. If it’s nice I might like going out there. I do have a spectacular tree in the back.
3. Better health and fitness. The next 20-30 years aren’t gonna be much fun if I’m achy and sick. Gotta get the weight off and take care of a few body maintenance things I keep putting off because I profoundly hate going to doctors and dentists. And back to yoga every day.
4. Learn Spanish. Super useful skill. My brain needs a workout. Plus, I get to go to Costa Rica to serve in March. I’m tired of telling myself I can’t do stuff because it’s just not my talent. I’ve been reasonably successful with a bunch of stuff in life that’s out of my wheelhouse. Time to take on one more.
5. Pursue my talents. I do want to keep developing the stuff that comes naturally. Lately I just color in those zen coloring books and love that, but I want to get back to creating and try out those pastels that are still in the box due to self-doubt. Writing might require a Stephen King word count approach. I love it when I do it but I don’t want to do it before I do it.
6. Local tourism. Every time I go somewhere new the world gets bigger and my mind and heart opens more. I love trips to far away places but there are a lot of places locally that I’ve never been or haven’t been in awhile. I want to try to do more local stuff on weekends. That getting out of the house thing again. Hardly local, but a couple of Texas places I’d like to see: Big Bend and Palo Duro Canyon.

So I’m out the door. Happy 59 to me.

I’m tired: a little rant about news media (With apologies to Mel and Madeline)

Here I stand, the goddess of Information
So tired of “news”
I want to vomit.
Neither fourth estate nor the fifth serve the truth.
Just a quick post, unproofed;
and then comments.
Undocumented sources always annoy me.
Poor research destroys me.
My one request:
Stop editing to support your narrative,
Make objective your motive.
Give commentary a rest.

I’m tired
The arguments are trite
The logic is a fright
From the left and the right.
Tired, tired of unvetted sources,
Of political agendas endorsed.
Let’s face it,
They’re tiresome.

I’ve seen 1000’s of articles slide
Language intended to guide
The reader to see just one side.
They”re always writing and posting,
Posting and writing,
With sensationalist
Headlines.

I’m tired,
Tired of opinion as fact,
Tired of listening to hacks.
I’m so tired
dammit I’m exhausted!

Tired, tired of fallacious reasoning,
Tired of political seasoning,
I’m so tired.

[Chorus of unbiased logicians:]
She’s tired (She’s tired)
Of all caps and red (She’s tired)
Of dumb ideas poorly said (She’s tired)
Put that paper to bed (Can’t you see she’s sick)
Tired (She’s exhausted)
Tired of fake news sites (administered by morons)
Sick of pompous mainstream press(commercial pawns)
She’s tired (Don’t you know she’s disgusted)

I’ve read 1000’s terrible posts
Again and again
The truth is a ghost
They write stories that play to our fears
This outrage offends my ears
Oversimplification brings tears
Aye!

Tired of everyone playing the game
Ain’t it a freakin’ shame
Most media is so…
Let’s face it, everything above the neck is kapput!

The summer I spent watching movies by myself or How the Dixie Theater saved my life

 

Today I went to the Alamo and bought tickets for a show tonight. As I walked back to my car the heat of the concrete felt like it was burning the soles off my Keds.  Memories are strange things. The summer of 1971 in Ruston, Louisiana came rushing at me in a puff of stifling pavement heat.

I lived with my grandmother then in a big old house with no central air and no car. I couldn’t spend my whole summer reading and watching TV in her bedroom/sewing room where the window unit blew out semi-cool air.  Many afternoons I’d walk down to the Dixie Theater to see what was showing. Sometimes I’d hang out in the record store/bookstore on the corner across from Railroad Park until it started. Sometimes I’d just buy the ticket  and sit in the cool, beautiful theater and wait. The Dixie was one of those beautiful old theaters with a crystal chandelier and elaborate artwork on the ceiling.

I never minded going to the movies alone. If I was alone nobody was going to tell me what I ought to like. I grew up in the South in one of those families that can turn out writers and/or eccentrics. The Dixie and the public library helped me become some version of the former and saved me from becoming too much of the latter.

My experience with movies before I started going by myself reflected my parents’ taste and their perception of what my taste should be. We went to Disney movies and musicals and sweeping historical flicks.  We’d go to comedies that weren’t too sexy. Once we walked out of a movie called What’s New Pussycat because they had gone in thinking it was another Pink Panther movie.  This sort of thing seems kind of innocently adorable now, but embarrassed the fire out of me at the time. Anyway, going by myself let me try out all kinds of films and discover what I liked.

That was the summer Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory came out, the Gene Wilder version. I think that was the first film that made me think about the people who make films rather than just the story itself. I’d read the book and the visuals and casting changed how I felt about the story. I liked the movie more than the book.

I was huge western fan at the time. Support your Local Gunfighter starring James Garner and Big Jake starring John Wayne didn’t disappoint. I might have gone to Big Jake more than once.  And cried every time. That was the film that caused me to demand an animal body count before I’d commit to go. Apparently I’m not the only one. If only there had been doesthedogdie.com back then.

That summer I found out how much I like sci-fi. The Omega ManEscape from Planet of the Apes and The Andromeda Strain all came out that summer. So did  Willard. The cheesy horror  flick started a life-long guilty pleasure. I love creepy creature and apocalyptic disaster movies even when they are bad. Sometimes bad just adds to the pleasure.

That summer I saw four films about teens that don’t end with happily-ever-after:  Billy Jack, Red Sky at Morning, Summer of ’42, and Bless the Beasts and the Children.  Summer of ’42 was rated R but nobody checked me for id. I’d read all the books except Billy Jack before I saw the movies, so I knew what to expect anyway.

I thought most of the people I knew were  living happily in their two-parent, air-conditioned, retail-purchased bubbles.  I lived outside the “norm” and movies like these made me feel less lonely.  I’d had enough things go down in my life to appreciate the idea that even if my face cleared up and even if I somebody loved me romantically, life might not work out. I remember wondering if “bubble” people entertained that possibility. Red Sky at Morning and Summer of ’42 confirmed that some of them did.

If the camp in Bless the Beasts and the Children had been for girls I would have fit in there. I wasn’t ever going to be one of the “bubble” kids, but there might be other misfits keeping a low profile at Glenview Jr. High School who might want to hang out with me. This idea significantly expanded possibilities for a social life and gave me some hope for the next school year.

I cried at Billy Jack . Not the quiet Big Jake tears but ugly loud sobs that made somebody behind me lean forward to tell me, “shut up, it’s not even that sad.” I was really embarrassed and left quickly right after the movie before the lights came up. I cried because I’d never thought about having a defender and I wanted one. And a commune where I could think and say what I wanted without being bullied and ridiculed. Sometimes a story becomes personally influential because of where you are when you see it.

I never got a defender who knew martial arts but I got pretty good at defending myself with verbal martial arts. Going to the movies will do that for you.  I’ve used movie take downs and one-liners more than I care to admit.  I wish I could say they were all original.

That summer the Dixie was my refuge. A cool place full of stories was exactly what I needed. The Dixie Theater closed in 1980, the year after I left Ruston. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places and is now the Dixie Center for the Arts.

 

 

 

 

 

T

 

Reflections on losing two friends to cancer in less than a month

On Monday I went to a celebration of life out at the Oasis. Josh died on May 18.  Today I’m missing a funeral in Houston for my Wanda who died June 4.  Wanda and Josh each held a special place in my heart. My world is diminished because neither of them is going to be around, but the thought of eternity and seeing them again makes me feel hopeful and strong.

I believe that Wanda and Josh still are and that they continue to exist as their uniquely recognizable selves. Out at the Oasis on Monday someone said that Josh was always emerging from experiences, even challenging ones, as a better version of himself, but always authentically himself.  When this life ends, when all the fears and distractions and false perceptions are stripped away for good, we are always God’s creatively intended versions of ourselves. I look forward to spending time again with Wanda and Josh as our fully authentic selves.

Wanda was my friend for 37 years and Ted knew her over forty years. Wanda was grounded in simplicity. She was interesting and she was interested. She noticed and processed things with great perception and intelligence but she was also approachable and communicated great affection and respect toward the people in her life. I would always feel smarter after talking with her.  I will miss Wanda.

We’ve been friends with Josh and Connie and their daughter, Charlotte for nine or ten years, but it seems longer. Josh was so chill and in the moment.  Monday night people kept saying the same things about Josh: easy to talk with,  great listener, accepting, incredibly empathetic, perceptive and funny. People said these same things because Josh was the same authentic guy no matter no matter the company or the context.  I will miss Josh.

Cancer sucks. Why can’t modern medicine figure out how to kill this bitch? Wanda was 58, my age, and Josh was a year older. In general, life expectancy in the U.S. for women is 86 and for men is 84. Wanda and Josh were robbed. We, their family and friends, were robbed. I’m mad. I know it does no good but I am.

Maybe this is selfish. Inevitably, when peers die, our own mortality looms large. Even with the promise of eternity, which does take away so much of the heaviness,  don’t want my life to be over. I don’t want theirs to be over either.

With many ailments, certainly with cancer, people do reach a point when they just want it to be over and recognize it’s time. It seems to have been that way for both Wanda and Josh. Near the end they both spoke of futures not in this world. I am glad they are both cancer free now. I’m so glad we got to say goodbye to each of them before they left here and got to let them know how much we love them.  I’m glad they are now always experiencing God in unimaginable, delightful, transcendent ways that are barely perceived in this life. That’s a comfort. It really is.

Now that I think about it, Josh and Wanda actually had a lot in common.  They didn’t know each other in this life but maybe they do now. I can imagine them jamming on guitar and viola.

P.S. I don’t know why there is a little hole in the picture I took at the Oasis. If it was bigger I’d say it’s the hole their passing left.

What I learned in 36 years of marriage

I learned that deciding to keep deciding has a lot to do with staying together. Oddly, though I don’t like other kinds of risk, I do like adventure sports. So I decided think of marriage as an adventure sport. It’s supposed to be unpredictable and it’s supposed to be fun. There’s a lot you can’t control and little bit you can.  I’m glad that I didn’t let fear keep me from deciding to jump into the unpredictable unknown with a guy I’d known for less than two years.

Thanks to Ted, I have learned to call myself a cautious optimist. Very cautious, but still, for a professional glass-is-not-only-half-full-but-the-water-is-probably-contaminated pessimist, getting anywhere close to optimism in 36 years is progress.

Thanks to Ted, I can engage in personal conversation.  I would rather wait for people to volunteer information about themselves. I feel like I’m being nosy even when I ask people the basic get-to-know you types of questions. Ted has a gift for walking up to total strangers and walking away with a dossier about them. He can ask friends really personal stuff and it comes off as caring instead of nosy. I’ve become a much better conversationalist because of Ted.

I learned that some things are worth the pain of negotiation. Ted is a really patient negotiator. He’s taught me a lot about getting to agreement. The back and forth required in negotiation has always seemed more exhausting to me than just settling for something I think I can tolerate just so I don’t have to keep talking. I am still learning to manage the stress and patience required to get to agreement when two people want different things. I don’t even have to be one of the people involved for this process to stress me out.

I’ve also learned that avoidance creates just as much stress as conflict. So our wedding is an example of when negotiation would have been a better choice than avoidance. Ted really wanted to get married at our church even though it was a hideous building. There were a lot of people who meant a lot to him and he wanted to invite them. All. I’m more informal, plus I’m a bit of an introvert. I also find it stressful to have to make “events” and “occasions” out of gatherings. I just wanted to invite a few people and eat barbecue or send out for pizza. At the time I wanted to think I was being gracious because having the whole thing seemed to matter more to him than not having it meant to me. But it did mean as much to me as it did to Ted. I just didn’t want to tell him and create conflict. On a tight budget, I planned the whole thing myself except for all the unsolicited advice. I got really stressed out. Then the AC broke on our wedding day and I don’t do well when I’m hot and sweaty. I got shingles a month later. I’ve learned to speak up about stuff that matters to me. I’ve learned not to get so stressed out about stuff I can’t control. I am still working on re-framing the wedding day narrative into something more positive. All the anniversaries have been fun. A few have even been “events” but I didn’t have to plan them.

I’ve learned that experiences last longer than stuff. Experiences form connections with people and cause perspective shifts that owning a thing – unless it’s a pet or really great works of art – can’t. I didn’t register for any gifts when we got married because it seemed weird to me to tell people what present to buy me. I don’t think we had to buy towels for 10 years. For years Ted and the boys made it a tradition to buy me some random “as seen on TV” item because I didn’t specify what I wanted. Now I get cool things like art lessons and game night. Because now I know what I want and how to ask.

We learned the art of doing nothing together early on and still enjoy it. For our honeymoon we rented a cabin on a beautiful mountainside in Estes Park, CO. I still associate the fresh scent of evergreen with new love and new beginnings. It was fun to start life together living right off campus with more flexible student schedules and a city full of cheap, fun stuff to do (ATX was way cheaper then). Staying in is doing something in our book.

We learned that houses occupied by more than two people need two bathrooms. By the mid eighties we had grown-up jobs and bought our first house. It was two bedrooms, one bath and under 1000 square feet. It sat on a cul-de-sac with a stick in the yard called a tree down a street with a line of sticks in a line of yards in southeast Round Rock. Probably not the most thought-out purchase we ever made. As soon as Eric and Nick both started using the potty we moved.

This is an important life lesson. Life is too short not to have a cat and a dog. When we got back from our honeymoon we got a cat, Nadia. She lived 20 years. Now we have Daisy. She’s almost 16. Two cats in 36 years is a decent record for picking cats I’d say.

Right after we bought our first house we got a sweet Collie dog named Rusty. After we lost Rusty way too soon. When we were finally settled in the house on Crosstimber Ted came home with Elvis, our delightful little span-huahua mix. Something Ted learned about me. I prefer it, but you don’t actually have to ask first if you bring home a dog. We had Elvis 13 years through four more moves. He loved us all but was really Ted’s dog. A couple of years and a move later, we’ve got Greta. She’s a two-year-old long haired dachshund mix. She makes us smile. We can’t make her do anything.

I learned that even when you take a risk and lose, regretting the loss is better than wondering what would have happened if we’d tried. In the early 80’s Ted had an idea in the shower. We took a risk with a start-up business and took that idea from concept to market. It didn’t work out. We lost a lot but we learned a lot. I like to call this our experiential MBA. I also learned that I never want to be an entrepreneur and that Ted is a serial entrepreneur but promises it will be nights and weekends. I promise cautious optimism.

I’ve learned, and Ted agrees with me on this, a more curated set of possessions makes life simpler and happier. After 11 moves we’ve learned how to pick a sufficient house in a convenient location, furnish it comfortably with what we need, periodically cull our stuff and let go of everything extraneous. Learning this was a process because relatives kept dying and I kept thinking I couldn’t say “no” to dead relative relics without hurting someone’s feelings. What a relief when I finally learned to say “no thank you.”

I’ve also learned that I need big trees around me. It took buying in three different house-farm suburban neighborhoods for me to figure out why I was so uncomfortable there. Besides hating to drive. I am happier in a neighborhood with mature trees even if it means the house is older. No more sticks in the yard.

I’ve learned to stop worrying about what other people think. When I was in my early 40’s I had a couple of friends who were in their 50’s. Both of them told me the same thing in almost the same words: “One good thing about turning 50 is that you just don’t give a damn what other people think anymore.” I listened. Honestly, my 30’s and part of my 40’s were marred by worrying too much about what other people thought, and worrying about being judged, and worrying about losing credibility. I think learning not to give a damn earlier would have been made me a better wife and mother.

I’m not sure where I learned this, probably from Jesus. I don’t remember not knowing it, but grace and forgiveness are free and unearned. People who hurt me don’t owe me any kind of penance. Relationships matter more than being offended or seeking retaliation. That alone has made my relationships with other people, especially Ted, so much better.

In 36 years of marriage I’ve learned that a very short list of things actually matter. But they are all big things. God matters. Love matters. Relationships matter. Experiences matter. Perspective matters. If I could change anything about the past 36 years it would be that I wish I had learned this stuff earlier.

The book of Job, chaos, and the nature of wonder

chaos1Nobody likes to think of themselves as being in a box. But the reality in which each of us lives is determined by our perceptions. The things we believe, our experiences, what we know, our cultural background, our values, our memories all determine how we process everything we encounter and make decisions about them. These perceptions create the borders within which we operate. Our box with our definitions written on the inside walls of the box.

job
God, this mysterious suffering will not stand. An explanation would really hold the pain together.

The Book of Job is about a guy named  Job who experiences a run of horrendous disasters that don’t fit in his box: Job’s kids die in a tornado, his crops all die, Job gets boils all over his body.  Job can’t understand why this series of unfortunate events would happen to him since he’s such an upright individual.

Job’s friends show up to help him analyze the situation and figure out why he’s had such a crap-load of trouble. Their conclusions: He must have sinned to bring down this level of wrath. Job’s wife’s box is even darker. Her response is  “God has betrayed and abandoned us: curse God and die.” Job maintains his innocence and decides God owes him and explanation.

After thirty or so chapters of whining and conjecture and Job insisting that he is innocent, in chapters 38-40 God shows up and goes through a series of questions regarding nature, patterns and origins. Where you there, Job, when I laid the foundations of the earth? Who determined its dimensions? , God asks.

God basically tells Job to embrace the mystery, and then restores Job – because God is into restoration. God never gives Job an explanation about his problems.

Let’s talk a minute about the Book of Job. It’s one of the oldest books in the Bible. Recent scholarship thinks that it may be translated from a different original language. The beginning of Job offers an explanation but a lot of people, including me are bothered by it.

The explanation is that Satan tells God that if Job lost everything he wouldn’t serve God anymore. God gives Satan permission to do everything except kill Job. Job and Satan make a bet on whether or not Job will crack.

Think about that. They are basically the two old men in the movie Trading Places.  So I have a theory. What if the beginning is some sort of meta commentary about the audience. What if the real theme of the story is that life is mystery and wonder, there aren’t answers and even if there are God doesn’t owe us answers. That was, after all, the thing God addresses. So maybe the beginning is an acknowledgement to the audience that the writer knows that they too want explanations, so right up front the audience is supplied with the silliest explanation possible: it’s a bet.

 

chaos-3Paul pushed on the sides of the box when he explained the Unknown God to the Greeks in Athens -this is in Acts 17.  I want to talk to you about the One you already worship without full knowledge. The Lord of heaven and earth does not live in shrines you can make and is not served by human hands as if He needs anything. He gives all life, and breath, and every thing. From one he made from one every ethnicity and appointed time and boundaries to them so that they would seek God, perhaps, grope for Him and find that he is not far from each one of us. For in Him we live and move and exist.

In 1 Corinthian 2 Paul speaks of the wisdom of God, a wisdom that was hidden in mystery, that God determined before the ages for our glory, which no one of the rulers of this age did know, for if they had known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; But, according as it hath been written, `What eye did not see, and ear did not hear, nor has the mind of man imagined, what God did prepare for who love Him. (referring to Jesus) But the Spirit who searches every thing, even the deep things of God, has revealed the mystery to us.

Paul quotes Isaiah here Who has known the mind of God so to advise him? a Job-like question.

Then says We have the mind of Christ.

On his blog post, Steve McVey wrote I was so wrong for so long about so much while so strongly believing I was so right that I don’t have any rocks left in my pocket for anybody. I’m so done with that. The human tendency to want to explain, to assign blame or responsibility, to try and make sense of things can often cause us to point fingers at others or at ourselves. When we do this we not only can hurt others but we can also prevent ourselves from exploring the mind of Christ if we are already certain what we will discover there.

I get wanting explanations. I get wanting predictability. I think flexibility is a key feature for getting out of the box and exploring the mind of Christ that we are in. This is an idea that knocks the sides off every single box. This is an invitation into mystery and wonder.

I heard McVey speak at a conference in Orlando a few years ago. He said that God changed his mind – renewed his mind rather. He explained that these days he states his position as where he is right now and is not ruling out the possibility that God will change it again. I like that. It’s flexibile.

Paul tells the Romans that Ever since the creation of the world God’s invisible attributes, His eternal power, and divine nature have been seen, understood through what has been made by Him. Rom. 1:20

This idea is not nearly as defined as boxes where our own limited perceptions create our reality. Nature is about patterns and rhythms of life. Perhaps these patterns and rhythms reflect, at least in part, how we are all living and moving and having our being in Him whether we are aware of it or acknowledge it or not. These are the perceptions of the eternity in our hearts spoken of in  the Book of Ecclesiastes, the mysteries and wonders in the mind of Christ.

Job, Do you know the ordinances of the heavens? Can you establish their rule on the earth?

Think about the pattern of God’s own existence and nature. Trinity.

Three is the smallest number required to make a pattern.

There is rule of three in writing.  For whatever reason we tend to be able remember and repeat things that are presented in threes. Preachers give three point sermons. Public speakers and essayists usually make three points. It shows up in fairy tales like The Three Bears.
In jokes- ” a minister, a priest, and a rabbi walk into a bar” because it’s not as funny if it’s just a priest and rabbi.
In the Good Samaritan parable there’s Jesus tells the one about the priest, the Levite and the Samaritan.. Later Jesus tells a trio of parables: The lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son; in the parable of the Sower the seeds fall in three bad spots: road, rocks, thorns.

Patterns is the way of the Trinity. The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Col. 1:20

Patterns occur in creation whether you look through microscopes or a telescopes.

fractal2A fractal is a never ending pattern that repeats itself on different scales.
Fractals occur in nature and in math. Fractals are infinitely complex. In math fractals are formed by calculating a simple equation thousands of times. What would something that appears to be so predictable have to do with chaos?

A chaotic system can actually appear very orderly. The dictionary definition of chaos is “turmoil, turbulence, and undesired randomness,” but that’s not the kind of chaos we’re talking about here. In science chaos is something “extremely sensitive to initial conditions” and addresses the question of whether or not it is possible to make good long-term predictions about how a system will act.

Chaos is about surprises. Expect the unexpected because chaos is nonlinear and unpredictable.

So we might be able to predict the shape a fractal will take, but we can’t predict it’s state. So fractals reflect both pattern and chaos.

According to Edward Lorenz who coined the phrase “the butterfly effect” in Chaos Theory we know that” the present determines the future but the approximate present does not approximately determine the future.”

Even the most rigid routine lived inside the sturdiest box will not keep us from the unpredictable. Just ask Job.

Even when the Messiah shows up, He doesn’t look or behave as expected. Just ask the 1st century Jews. His message is about the law but not the way they predicted – or at least the way they interpreted the predictions. And yet few saw Him as He was and nobody saw Him fully as He is (in His constant state of being from before the foundation of the world.)

Jesus would have knocked the sides off the Pharisees’ boxes had they not so frantically reinforced the sides. Maybe that’s what happened to the 10 commandments – it’s propping up the door to some Pharisee’s box. The Pharisees are like scientists desperately trying to prove determinism when chaos theory is being demonstrated right before their eyes.

Jesus’ choices seemed non-linear to the legalists and unpredictable even to those following Him. Perhaps grace is a little like chaos to the deterministic systems religion has established. In both cases our responses are often driven by sensitivity to initial conditions – our limited perceptions may influence how we respond – strange attractors may change our state, but we are all still held together, shaped, informed by His image. We accept the uncertainty and mystery.

The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, “Here it is” or “There it is” because the kingdom of God is within you. Luke 17:20-21

Now we are children of God. It is not yet revealed what we shall be, and we know that we will be like Him because we shall see Him as He is. 1 Jn 3:2-3

What is the likelihood that how we see Him now and how He really is holds a few surprises? What is the likelihood we are not right now the way we will end up – and who among us knows what that will look like?

Not knowing is part of the wonder and awe.

It is not that we don’t see Him at all or that we are not like Him at all.

It’s just that unpredictability and complexity lie within the pattern of His likeness and the kingdom that connects us to each other and to Him.

fibonacci-treeThe Fibonacci sequence, is another concept in math that is used in computer programming and characterized by the fact that, every number after the first two is the sum of the two preceding ones, so, because the sequence of numbers grows exponentially fast, the Fibonacci sequence is used in programming algorithms.

Trees branches grow according to the Fibonacci sequence. The generations of bees as they reproduce generation by generations follow the Fibonacci sequence as well. The numbers also figure into another pattern called The Golden Ratio. When we take any two successive Fibonacci Numbers, their ratio is very close to the Golden Ratio of 1.61803… (like Pi, The Golden Ratio, also known as Phi, is an infinite number).

golden-ratio-natureThe Golden Ratio is a specific proportion that shows up in nature and is used in design and architecture. It happens when you take a line and divide it so that the longer part divided by the smaller part is also equal to the whole length divided by the longer part.
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For example you can take your height and measure the distance from the top of your head to the end of your fingertips in a straight, vertical line. The ratio of the two measurements should be close to 1.6.

In addition to the rule of thirds, artists use the golden ratio as another pattern in design. Both produce interesting and pleasing compositions.
When you put these proportions into rectangles with smaller squares inside them and keep dividing them by the same pattern – like a fractal – these appear in a spiral that shows up all over nature. The Fibonacci numbers are part of the equation.

In galaxies, DNA, sunflowers, weather patterns, pineapples, seahorse tails, nautilus shells this universal constant of design assures the beauty and unity of creation as it grows. The ratio of width to length of a single double helix in a strand of DNA is 1.619, pretty darn close.

The nautilus for example grows, and as it grows, its shell grows proportionately so that no matter how large the nautilus becomes, the shell will always be the same shape. It will always have the same mathematical proportions. It will always adhere to the golden ratio. And yet it doesn’t live in a static box but in a container that grows with it.

youre-biggerI love the Chronicles of Narnia. In Prince Caspian C.S. Lewis proposes the idea that as we grow our capacity to interact with God and our perceptions of Him grow with us. This idea is more like living in a nautilus shell than it is like living in a box because the container that holds our current reality is growing with us.

Perhaps today God would ask a modern-day Job: Did you set the patterns in nature? Did you do the math?  Did you create plants and creatures a ratio that maximizes their function in a form the whole world would find beautiful? 

Scientist discover these things they don’t invent them. Science is observation of patterns and structures in nature and experimenting to see it these patterns are regular enough to predict. Just as in Genesis God gave Adam the job of naming things, maybe science is the how we explore and name and comprehend the creation.

Math, however, is a human invention, in that it is the language that we use to describe the structures, principles and patterns we discover through science.

All mathematical models approximate reality. All of the models eventually need revision to accommodate new discoveries. We can look at science and math – and everything else – from inside the box or from inside the shell.

This is why quantum mechanics, physics, and the math that goes with them are so hard to nail down – there is debate as to whether the so called “real world” and “quantum world” are the same world. This is just one of the mysteries emerging from the mind of God that science is exploring.

Were you there Job, when the morning stars all sang together and the sons of God all shouted for joy? Job 38:7

starsThe more we insist on boxes, the more definitions we write on the sides, the more we confine our thoughts to what we already know and already think we can prove, the less wonder we experience. The Golden Ratio, Fibonacci, and other patterns can’t be used to prove God any more than chaos can be used to disprove Him. – these things can awaken mystery and wonder.

Instead of the boxes that limit the reality we deal with we might, instead, find ourselves in the infinite space that is the mind of Christ. It is in this space of wonder and mystery to which God has reconciled us. We can now can form perceptions about life, ourselves, and each other that are ever expanding and adapting to the growth we experience.

Andre Rabb wrote: Jesus does not come to exhaust the revelation of who and what God is but he is the introduction into an ever unfolding revelation, and ever unfolding experience that is larger than ourselves. If Jesus is indeed the self-revelation of God, then He is also the end of our concepts about God. He is the icon that eliminates our idols, our abstract theories with which we try to define the infinite and confine the limitless.

Belief is full of wonder. Belief includes what we know and what we do not know.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for and evidence of things not seen. Heb. 11:1 Faith is not proof or certainty. It’s belief. It’s trust. It’s confidence and assurance that God’s pattern is one of love and goodness but His pattern, His nature, does not make Him predictable or controllable.

We grow in those spaces between our certainties. We have the mind of Christ when our minds are flexible enough to receive Him. We discover wonders when we leave our boxes behind to reside in faith containers like nautilus shells that grow with us so God can continually be bigger than we perceive Him now.

Why Communion should have fireworks

So they asked me to do communion at church and I started thinking about my 50 years of the communion with Roman Catholics, Methodists, Jesus People, Baptists, Assemblies of God, Non-denoms. Most of them were pretty somber.

Did Jesus say “Do this in remembrance of me” so that every week we can revisit our past sins, feel guilty of His body and blood, and engage in some form of mental or emotional self-flagellation? No wonder a lot of churches just do communion once a month.

Jesus said that His body was given for us and that His blood was the new covenant. If Christ had not risen this would be Memorial Day for a fallen warrior who lost a war. But He did rise. Communion is Victory Day, a celebration of Christ’s defeat of death, sin, and the Evil One. Communion is Veteran’s Day honoring Jesus and Independence Day, a celebration of the freedoms He won for us.

“It is finished” was no cry of defeat. Its was a victory cry proclaiming His Kingdom and announcing liberty to the captive, sight to the blind, and freedom to the oppressed. Today we celebrate our Independence Day! So feast together.

Jesus announced a new covenant of grace and reconciliation. His shed blood changed our status from adherents to the laws of Jehovah to true born children of the Father. We celebrate our true birthdays as children not only adopted into His family, but reborn and indwelt by the Spirit. We celebrate Father’s Day with our loving Father and all our birthdays. So raise your cups to and drink to Christ’s covenant that makes us family.

Thank you Jesus, I think Communion should have fireworks.

New lenses – That poem I read at church last Sunday

Out beyond this ordinary day,
deep inside this ordinary day,
nothing looks the same.
I am looking at the world through unfamiliar eyes.
Nearly blinded by the intensity of what I see,
I deep crashing into
dangerous hope,
audacious dreams,
fearless love.

I’ve risked it all before.
I’ve lost it all before.
I’ve become the safe one,
the one who wants proof.
I’ve become the speaker
of the pessimistic truth.

But now my hands don’t seem like mine,
my words don’t sound like me.
I deep running toward a vision when I’m no visionary.

It’s as if Christ donated His own eyes to me.
Though I still can’t see very far ahead,
what I do see, when I dare look, is
in color,
with sharp clarity,
with truth perspective,
and in those moments nothing looks like I’m comfortable seeing it.

Christ is the seers
of sin undone,
of broken hearts mended,
of dead dreams resurrected,
of emptiness filled
of all things made new.
And He fills my eyes with His
dangerous hope,
audacious dreams,
and fearless love.

I am looking at the world through unfamiliar eyes,
and yet,
He has made them mine.