9.10.2014

songs of lost innocence

Saw this in an article about a new U2 album that was given away free (to a half million iTunes users) at an Apple event. Apparently Apple paid for that album:

“We were paid,” Bono [said]. “I don’t believe in free music. Music is a sacrament.”
I don't get it. People should pay for sacraments? Or getting paid makes it more holy, in his opinion?

9.05.2014

2014: the beginning of an odyssey

video
(The video can also be downloaded here.)

9.02.2014

social justice?

When I notice a person repeatedly acting selfishly, or unkindly, or unjustly, my tendency is to think that eventually enough people will recognize that behavior and isolate that person. That the community will turn their backs on such a person once they discover what he’s really like.

And that’s true. If you’re living in an animated children’s movie.

In real life, though, that’s not usually what happens, is it? There are lots of selfish, unkind, unjust people who are not rejected by the rest of the community but who are at the center of it, with control of the resources and political power, with many, many people supporting them and vying to be near them. In children’s movies, there are just one or two bad apples, who are found out and punished in the end. But in real human society, there aren’t just one or two bad apples, are there?

Look at the story of Jesus. It wasn’t the selfish, unkind, unjust ones who the community turned their backs on. The one who was rejected and cast out was Jesus.

So I shouldn’t be looking to human society for justice. But that’s not to say there is no justice to be seen. We usually don’t have to wait too long to see consequences for selfishness or injustice, because it’s bound to run up against the selfishness and injustice of other people, and those clashes will result in painful losses for all parties involved. I’d like to think God has some hand in bringing such people together.

And I do believe God is always near to them, pursuing them. Showing them again and again, in love, what they desperately do not want to see.

Themselves.

8.30.2014

8.27.2014

does Jesus need a movement?

I just came across this article I wrote over five years ago, and I still really like it. I called it: "Does Jesus need a 'movement'? Lessons from the old new monasticism." And I have to say, I'm not disappointed to note that the "new monasticism movement" seems to have faded over the past five years...


"So you're gonna be a bum?!"

That was my father's initial reaction when I told him I was leaving on a long walking trip, hundreds of miles, without backpack or tent or sleeping bag—or money. I tried to explain that Jesus was my inspiration. Jesus' life and the way he sent out his disciples:
Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals... Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you; heal the sick in it and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.' But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, 'Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off against you; nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.' (Lk 10.3-4,8-11)
Three years earlier I had joined the Dominican Order, following that same inspiration, looking for a way to follow those words of Jesus. Dominic, and also Francis of Assisi, had also been inspired by those words when they started the Dominican and Franciscan Orders, introducing a new form of monasticism in the Middle Ages. That's what drew me to them. But during my years of novitiate and seminary I struggled, resisting the wealthy and established organization that the Order had become. Eventually one of the brothers sat me down and told me I was "not fitting in." It was then that I gave away the rest of my belongings and took to the road, to try to experience the life of the kingdom of God that Jesus had described.

Before I joined the Dominicans I read the story of Dominic and Francis and was impressed by their desire to follow Jesus example more closely. The monks and clerics of their time were wealthy and politically connected. Many people were rejecting the Christian message because of the obvious corruption and oppressiveness of the church leadership. Francis, however, found inspiration in Jesus' call to "sell all, give to the poor, and follow me." He gave up his inherited wealth and embraced poverty with a passion, believing that the church would find healing along the path of selfless giving and humble poverty rather than the path of wealth. Dominic had a similar vision. He noticed that the common people had lost respect for the powerful, pampered clerics, while "heretic" preachers wandered among them demonstrating their zealous commitment with lives of charity and extreme austerity. Dominic saw Jesus' life of poverty, and the way he sent out his disciples with nothing but their faith, as the best way to preach the gospel.

I agreed with this when I joined Dominic's Order, and after leaving the Order, and spending months at a time on the road over the next eight years, I was even more convinced. Jesus' life was not just a good way to preach the gospel, it was the gospel. His good news was that God was offering salvation from sin and freedom from fear as a gift. We were only asked to believe, to put our faith in God completely, to depend on his love to protect and sustain and guide us. And this is clearly seen in Jesus' life of poverty. Like the birds and lilies he trusted God for everything, and God provided. He sent out his disciples without money and without power, as "lambs among wolves," to demonstrate what it looked like to depend on God completely. And at the end of his life, when Jesus asked them if they had lacked anything, they answered, "Nothing." This was also my experience. And I saw that presenting this good news to people from a position of weakness and poverty does not diminish the message, but rather directs all attention and honor to God rather than the poor, weak messenger. It encourages faith in God's power rather than faith in our own.


continued...

8.17.2014

pickling

Heather's been missing French pickles, which are a bit different from the dill variety we're used to here. So she grew the little cornichon cucumbers they use, and I found a recipe that's easy and pretty good. It uses tarragon and thyme (which Heather grows as well) instead of dill. And this recipe is "cold crock," no cooking or canning necessary, so the pickles are crisper. Here's what I do:

Wash and rub the cornicons to remove the prickles. Then put them in a strainer, sprinkle heavily with pickling salt (or any salt without iodine added), and leave them overnight. A good amount of juice will drain from the cucumbers.

The next day, rub off the excess salt (rinsing is not needed since a little remaining salt is desired). Then wash jars with tight-fitting lids and pack with the cornichons along with:

One or two peeled garlic cloves
Several whole peppercorns
A few sprigs fresh thyme and tarragon
A bay leaf
A little lemon juice (or slice of fresh lemon)

Then fill the jar with white vinegar. The pickles will swell as they absorb the vinegar, so make sure they are covered with a little space to spare. Place the lids on tightly and leave them at least a couple weeks for the cucumbers to absorb the flavors. That's it. Spicy and delicious.

8.13.2014

8.10.2014

blessed are the timid?

Among most Christians, anger and aggression are more frowned upon than timidity (which is often mistakenly equated with meekness). But there is such a thing as righteous anger. There’s not a righteous cowardice.

And I think it’s even more dangerous when a fearful person manages to get into a position of power than when an aggressive person does. Their evils are done not because they “want to,” but because they think they have to. Jesus was crucified by fearful leaders.

Christian communities (at least the ones I’m familiar with) tend to be largely made up of timid people rather than angry or aggressive ones. So the leaders chosen from among them are generally also the fearful kind.

The more dangerous kind.

7.31.2014

don't get angry, get going

I was feeling reminded this morning of Jesus' "move on to the next town" instructions, then found this journal entry from seven years ago. It's really what I need to hear right now:

"Whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it, and stay with him until you depart. As you enter the house, salute it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.

"And if any one will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town." (Mt 10.11-14)
I came across these words of Jesus again this morning. That last line, especially, is something I need to pay attention to right now. I've been struggling with feelings of anger. Anger towards some people I used to feel compassion for, people I've wanted to care for, intending to ease their burdens, to be a friend to them. Now I wonder how my feelings for them have turned so cold. Instead of feeling compassionate, I have to admit I feel more like calling fire from heaven...

This has bothered me more and more. Why the anger? Why so much emotion, and why have I had such a hard time sorting it out and letting it go? As I've thought more about it, I've also realized there have been at least two other times during this past year that I've felt similar anger towards someone I was trying to help.

Like in most human conflicts, I imagine there are two parts of it, mine and theirs. I'm sure there has been some selfishness on my part, some ambition to "do good," to be the one to solve someone else's problem. And when that person doesn't cooperate, or doesn't respond right away, I get frustrated and angry, feeling like a failure. This is my problem, not theirs. And, as I wrote before, my experience of failure in this is probably good for me, to get me to stop pushing my own agenda on people, stop serving my own purposes, and let God work with them in his own way, his own time. I need to learn to "go to the next town" with trust instead of anger.

But there's also their part, I think. When others reject some truth or some help we are offering, that's a sad thing. Those people hurt themselves this way, and perhaps also hurt people around them (including us) through their choice, making everyone's life more difficult. So maybe there is some cause for anger there. But it's not for us to punish. It's hard to know what would help in such a situation, maybe some kind of rebuke is called for. Some kind of knocking the dust from our feet.

The calling-fire-from-heaven anger, though, seems to indicate a need for more trust, more submission to God. Letting the work be God's, and being willing to simply do my small part, whatever God gives me to do. And trusting God to handle any rejection, to take care of the consequences in the lives of those affected (including mine).

7.13.2014

dreams and reality (at 2 a.m.)

I think it’s pretty common for new parents to go through something of a “mid-life crisis” as they come to grips with their new daily reality. It can be a very joyful time, but also one of boring routines, in which the parents’ hopes and dreams are no longer center stage (unless maybe it’s the dream of having a baby). The question “Is this what my life is going to be?” can hit pretty hard.

In many ways, this is a critical part of maturing, realizing that the hopes and dreams of our early adulthood aren’t the ultimate goals they seemed to be then. Learning that, to a large extent, they were indeed dreams. And accepting that this child’s care is more important than trying to make the world fit the grand image we had in our heads, or make others believe that we are the heroes we eagerly imagined ourselves to be. This real child helps us set aside the unreal imaginings of our youth.

Too often, though, I think people try to replace those fading hopes and dreams with new ones, based on their new relationship to their child. “I can’t save the world, but I can save this child.” Which is perhaps a little more realistic, but ultimately just another hopeful figment of the imagination. Isn’t it? The child may indeed be saved, but in the end, if we’re honest with ourselves, we won’t be the ones who can take much credit for it.

The best result of this (or any) mid-life crisis is if it turns us away from dreams to reality, especially the reality of finding ourselves in relationship—but in relationship to God. Our adolescent desires aren’t very trustworthy guides. But God’s desires are. And we can’t rely on our resources and abilities to provide and protect and guide our child, but we can trust God to do so, just as we trust him to provide and protect and guide us. The truest longing to save the child is good, as long as we recognize that what we’re feeling doesn’t originate with us. And the purest of our early desires are good also, as long as we realize that those also didn’t originate with us. These are good and real and trustworthy because they are God’s desires for us.

And we open ourselves to God’s desires when we “turn and become like a child,” desperately clinging to God like this baby now clinging to us.