Saturday, August 29, 2009

"The King Beetle On A Coconut Estate"

One of my favorite bands over the last 5 years has been mewithoutYou. Now only do they make amazing music and put on one of the best live shows I have ever seen in my life, but they are an amazing group of people and those who believe work diligently with the Spirit to manifest the Kingdom of God in the world. One of their songs from the their newest CD "It's call crazy, It's all false, It's all a dream, It's Alright," has been stuck in my mind and I have meditated on it a lot as of late. I wanted to share the words to the song in hopes of you who read finding as much grace, love, and wisdom in the song as I have. Blessings to all.

Track 10: "The King Beetle On A Coconut Estate"

As the Moon rose and the hour grew late, the day help on a Coconut estate raked up the dry leaves that fell dead from the Trees, which they burned in a pile by the lake.
The Beetle King summoned his men, and from the top of the Rhododendron stem: Calling all volunteers who can carry back here, the Great Mystery's been lit once again.
One Beetle emerged from the crowd in a fashionable abdomen shroud, said: I'm a Professor, you see, that's no mystery to me...
I'll be back soon, successful and proud.
But when the Beetle Professor returned he crawled on all six, as his wings had been burned, and described to the finest detail all he'd learned.
There was neither a light nor a heat in his words.
The deeply dissatisfied King climbed the same stem to announce the same thing, but in his second appeal sought to sweeten the deal with a silver Padparadscha ring.
The Lieutenant stepped out from the line as he lassoed his thorax with twine, thinking: I'm stronger and braver and I'll earn the King's favor.
One day all he has will be mine!
But for all the Lieutenant's conceit he, too, returned singed and admitting defeat: I had no choice, please believe, but retreat...
It was bright as the sun, but with ten times the heat!
And it cracked like the thunder and bloodshot my eyes, though smothered with sticks it advanced undeterred.
Carelessly cast an ash cloud to the sky, my Lord, like a flock of dark, vanishing birds.

The Beetle King slammed down his fist: Your flowery description's no better than his!
We sent for the Great Light and you bring us this?
We didn't ask what it seems like, we asked what it IS!
His Majesty's hour at last has drawn nigh!
The elegant Queen took her leave from his side, without understanding but without asking why, gathered their Kids to come bid their goodbyes.
And the father explained: You've been somewhat deceived...
We've all called me your dad, but your True Dad's not me.
I lay next to your mom and your forms were conceived, your Father is the Life within all that you see.
He fills up the ponds as He empties the clouds, holds without hands and He speaks without sounds, provides us with the Cow's waste and coconuts to eat, giving one that nice salt-taste and the other a sweet.
Sends the black carriage the day Death shows its face, thinning our numbers with Kindness and Grace.
And just as a Flower and its Fragrance are one so must each of you and your Father become.
Now distribute my scepter, my crown and my throne and all we've known as 'wealth' to the poor and alone...
Without further hesitation, without looking back home, the King flew headlong into the blazing unknown!
And as the Smoke King curled higher and higher, the troops, flying loops 'round the telephone wires, they said: Our Beloved's not dead, but His Highness instead has been utterly changed into Fire!!!

Why not be utterly changed into Fire?...

Monday, August 17, 2009

Moving: from "loneliness to solitude?"

Today I woke up at my parents house for the first time in a long time without a predetermined date of leaving. Over the last eight years I have lived in community with others - for the most part - but now I do not. Saturday I moved out of the house I had lived in for four years to move back home to Moreno Valley and into my parents house. The main reason for this move is because it will allow me to save money as I look for a job. While my parents are doing all they can to make this move easy on me, it has still been and will continue to be hard because other than my parents, I do not have any form of community where I now live. All of my close friends over the last eight years live at least a 45 minute drive away from me. On top of this Katie, my love, lives an hour and fifteen minutes away.

As I was packing up my stuff I came across a book a old friend of mine told me to read by one of my favorite authors, Henri J. M. Nouwen. The book is titled, "Reaching Out: The Three Movements of The Spiritual Life." As I started to put the book into the endless box of books something stopped me. I pulled the book from its space between cardboard walls and it's paper back bound friends and placed it on top of a pile of the to be read. Today, as I packed up my bag to go sit at a local coffee shop and read, I grabbed my four current books I am readying. Placing the books in my bag the spirit of God cried out to me within my heart for something new. I looked up to the small group of books I had placed in the "to be read box," which Saturday found their way onto the only small bookshelf I have in my current room. As my eyes panned across the book titles, they landed on "Reaching Out." Somehow I knew this was the one. I grabbed the book, replacing it for another, closed my bag and headed out.

Reaching into my bag, now at the coffee shop, I grabbed Nouwen's book and started to read..."It is far from easy to enter into the painful experience of loneliness. You like to stay away from it..." As I continued to read God began to open my heart to this present time and place I currently found myself in: a time of loneliness. In the first part of Nouwen's book he attempts to move the reader from a place of "loneliness to solitude." Reading through the book I realized that somehow I had become an American consumer cliche, filling my life with stuff such as reading, tv, movies, and even friends never allowing myself to be alone with my thoughts. Somehow in the mist of life I had crowed out my thoughts and forsook solitude for busyness and noise. Even though I swore to myself I hadn't, I had drowned out the silent voice of God with other things. Without me even knowing it, I think God has somehow forced me into this uncomfortable time and place in life. Why? Because I need to be in this time and place during this point of my least that is what it seems like for now.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Community: Beauty in Diversity

Katie and I had a conversation the other night centered around our quest for community. On the heels of my last blog post and many conversations as of late with good friends, Katie and I have both thirsted more for a purposeful community with others. Even though to be completely honest both us do not feel that we have that right now, especially because in the next week and half we will both be moving home into our parent's houses. So we have decided that we will start taking up some of the practices that we hope our future community will take up. The first practice we are taking up is reading a book together in hopes of stirring up conversation among us that will help to both challenge our current points of view as well as help us grow. The second practice we have taken up is prayer. We hope and believe that this practice will allow us to focus our hearts and minds on God's kingdom purpose in the world and where and what he is calling us both to. Thirdly, we are in the process of seeking a church community that we can serve and worship. While this process is complicated by me looking for a job in youth ministry, we know that God has a place for us.

The goal of all of this is that wherever God might lead us, we might be people who manifest God's Kingdom of grace and love in the world. At the core of all of this conversation is our belief that Christianity is never meant to be done alone, but is meant to be done in community. After all as Christians we are to be a image of our God, who exists in prefect community as the Tri-une God. A community of people offers not only a place where the Kingdom of God can be manifested among a group of people, but a community offers a safe place of individuals to grow in their faith. As Thomas Malcolm writes, "Every person needs on safe place where he or she is able to stop pretending, a place of ruthless honesty and unconditional love where no one is allowed to fly underneath the radar." In this way community can challenge and help those within it to struggle, learn, and grow. This is why I really appreciate the intentional community that my friend Garret is a part of. His community is made up of people who in love can disagree while at the same time love each other.

It has become more evident to me that this is one thing the church in the post-modern world is really struggling with. It seems that somehow people believe that diversity equals the fear of "liberalism" or "heresy," which it does not (understand I am not advocating for a diversity in major theological tenets such as the doctrine of the trinity or who salvation is found in). Recently I was affect by this when I was denied from a church position because I was more open to a diversity of options within church ministry leadership. After being denied I was scared I was alone in my convictions among evangelicals who are not academics. Yet, the other day I was reading "The Jesus of Suburbia" by Mike Erre, pastor of a large church in Orange County. Mike Erre talked about the beauty of theological diversity among his church ministry staff. He said that it allowed for a fuller understanding of who God is. I really appreciated this. After all looking at the Church in the New Testament we can see that not everyone saw eye-to-eye. There were disagreements among Peter and Paul, arguments over what to do about Christian-Non-Jews, as well as other things. At the same time, is not our God diverse and unified in purpose at the same time? Call me liberal, even though I am not, but I think that the beauty of the church is found in a community of people that have a diversity of options. After all how else are we to grow if we all agree on everything?

So with that said, may whatever your community look like may it be a place of trust, a place of diversity, and a place of the beauty of God's worldwide Church.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

After a week with good friends...

Time with good people always leaves me feeling alive and full of hope. Maybe it is the memories we have shared together or the love we share together, but more than that I think it is the power of a community of people sharing life together. Over this last week I have felt as if I have been a part of something more than my normal life offers, life with others. Over the last week I have been in long car rides with 6 other people, shady motels, a joyous wedding, jumping from cliffs, sharing meals, at a house concert, and sleeping a little less. While, yes I have to admit it feels good to have a little time to myself and alone time with Katie, I know life together with others is far better.

It is funny because Katie and I are in a place of what I can only describe as somewhere between getting by and hopelessness. Both of us are on the eve of moving back home into our parents houses because we are both without jobs and therefore without money to pay for a place to live. We want to get married more than anything else in the world, but really have no means to. My pride has kept me from running around and applying for any part-time job that pays minimum wage. In fact tomorrow's task of the day is filing for unemployment.

What has been the craziest thing about these two experiences happening simultaneously is that somehow I have been left hopefull. In a recent conversation with a great musician, Andrea Hamilton, I has reminded of a prophecy, that a women who cared for me more than I probably ever will know, prophesied over me a little over four years ago in Manti, Utah. Without going into to much detail and because I have never been one to hold much claim in these types of things-even though I hope with all of being that this one will be true-the message was one of hope after a time of what can only be called a trial. At the same time, Katie and I have been made very aware this last week of the fact that many who we were around this last week are in similar situations as we are, getting by.

These things have given me hope. As Andrea reminded me the other night many men and women in scripture were called by God but quickly after their calling fell into a time of deep trial (just think of Jesus baptized then lead into the wilderness for 40 days). I can help but think that the reason for this is because they were being shaped by God, becoming stronger in their calling as children of God.

As of now I have no idea what is next for Katie and I, but I have hope. Maybe, I will have to do some tent making, as my brother Garret calls it, for awhile until I find a community where God will call me to serve his church? Maybe, I will never be a full-time youth pastor as I have believed I would be? Who really know, because I don't.

There is though one thing I do know I have hope. I have no idea where Katie and I would be without the people in our life's, those of you who we have spent the last week with and those of you who were not there physically but are spread across the country. This week I was not only given a little more hope in the mist of a lot of worries, but I was again reminded why God calls his people to be in community, but more about that to come...