Friday, July 20, 2012

What Is There To Say?

Interestingly enough, blogs are still alive and well.  Although, mine has laid dormant for some time, it seems bloggers out there are ever active, immortalizing their thoughts.  There are very few blogs I read.  Even the blogs of some of my very best friends elude my eyes.  Mostly it is because I fear I will read nothing new.  And then I come to the sort of blog that is written by someone whose theology/philosophy I don't agree with at all and, subsequently, I find myself plunging to the depths of despair at the havoc the writer is reeking.  It seems that everyone is fighting for something and the biggest something people are fighting for is to be heard.  Please understand, this is not a judgment on writers and/or bloggers.  I just wonder...what is there still to say?  And why are we saying it?  I may sound like a bit of a cynic.  Maybe I am.  I will continue to write and I'm sure my fellow bloggers/writers will as well.  I just hope we can generate something that is worth reading and worth the time we took to write it.  Otherwise it is just a useless ploy in hopes of becoming more than we are; lowly servants made citizens of a kingdom in which the only qualifications for membership are suffering and death.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Let's Grieve Together

As I reflect along with the rest of America on 9/11 it still all seems so surreal.  The twin towers in Manhattan are no longer there.  Planes crashed into them.  They came toppling down.  3,000 innocent people were killed.  They jumped out of windows, were burned alive or were crushed to death.  Those who mobilized on the ground first rushed to the scene, risking and many losing their lives.  Remains of 1100 victims were never found.  Those families have no where to go to remember a life was lived and then ended.  The freedom tower and memorial in downtown Manhattan will hopefully be that place for many of those families.

This is not a day to talk about our politic and what we should or shouldn't do in terms of war.  It isn't a day to talk about the administration of our country.  It is not a day we should be making mention of Al Qaeda or the presence of mosques at ground zero.  It isn't even a day to talk of our fight for freedom.  It is simply a profound moment and day to remember those who died so tragically and unknowingly.  It is a day to extend hands and prayers in oneness as we do our best to grieve the loss of life that was experienced a decade ago.  Anger we may feel.  Hopefully not hate.  Maybe we feel the depravity of the world.  But let's try and grieve.  Let's silence our foolish tongues from political rhetoric and vindication.  It isn't about that today.  Let's be sad.  We have good reason to.  Maybe the sadness will change us.  Maybe we will be motivated to live out the hope we are all so desperately seeking.  If we aren't careful we will not only feel the sadness of America on this day, but we will feel the sadness of the world as she groans for redemption; to be made new.  For families who have senselessly lost loved ones all over the world throughout space and time in the name of 'peace,' 'freedom' and 'justice.'  Let's be sad.  Maybe something somewhere will be made new.  In Jesus name.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

What's in it for me???


picture borrowed from everydayfunnyfunny.com


When I was younger I was told that Jesus died for me sins.  I asked, “Why?  Why did Jesus die for my sins?  If Jesus is God why did anything need to be satisfied?  Who is God to satisfy anyone, not least of all Satan?  Plus, it seems like a lot of trouble to go through just for one person.  You are telling me Jesus died for my sins so I can go to heaven.  But I am sorry.  I just don’t quite get it.”

It wasn’t until many years later, when I sat in one of my very first classes at Seminary and the Professor said to the class, “I know we have a tendency to read Scripture as the ‘Jesus and me’ story.  But it is actually much bigger than that.  It is the story of ‘Jesus and humanity.’”  Remarkable.  You mean it wasn’t all about me?  You mean there is actually a bigger story at play here?  Now before you get the wrong idea about what I am meaning to communicate, you must know that I do not wish to take us out of the story, but rather that we may find our place in the great and epic story of God. 

I have come to the dark realization that I have fallen prey to making my Christianity all about me.  My salvation, my needs, my prayers, my hopes, my dreams, my relationships, etc.  Of course, God invites us to share our lives, but there is so much more at play than just ourselves and getting our needs met by God.  God has indeed saved us and delivered us from ourselves.  We have been empowered by the Spirit to, literally, be Jesus to the world (!)  Why is it that we feel the need to go to an altar every chance we get in order to be delivered from some sort of struggle?  We pray and ask God to move.  We beg God to do something.  Yet God has done the greatest thing he could ever do: God has incarnated him/herself into the person of Jesus Christ in order to start this project of new humanity to be carried out by the church that would be empowered by the third person of the trinity, the Holy Spirit.  Yet we still find ourselves a broken and crippled people; unable to offer the world much, let alone a chance to experience a new kind of kingdom. 

A favorite story of mine…Mark 1:29-34, Jesus enters the house of Simon and Andrew.  Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever.  Jesus went to the woman, took her hand and lifted her out of bed.  The text reads, “Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.”  WOW!  So powerful.  Jesus healed her and she immediately got up and started serving him.  Why can’t we be more like that?  Jesus heals us and makes us whole and we immediately start serving him by serving those whom he resides in (which vis-à-vis Matthew 25 happens to be ‘the least of these’).  Interesting.  We don’t hear stories of this woman going back to Christ again and again begging him to heal her because it didn’t quite stick the first time.  Or perhaps she was so busy serving him that she had no time to think about falling prey to fever once more. 

This idea of individualism that has permeated the western church is subtle and deceitful.  Jesus has saved you, indeed.  But your salvation isn’t designed for just you.   It is designed to make us people of God in order for us to join in the recreation of humanity and the world.  

In Luke 3, John the Baptist is questioned.  “What then should we do [to receive the baptism of repentance]?”  John’s reply?  “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.”  Wow, John.  We don’t like this.  Not sure what to do with this.  This sounds like a works oriented sort of a gospel.  WRONG.  John is not saying that simply doing these things will save us.  What he is saying is that if we truly have the spirit of repentance in our hearts then it will be apparent.  If we have two coats, we will give one away to the one who has none.  If we truly have the spirit of repentance in our hearts we will feed those with no food. 

If, we as Christians, say we have Jesus in our hearts, yet do nothing in bringing the kingdom in a way that is apparent and real, then do we really have Jesus in our ‘hearts?’ 

Jesus did die for my sins.  The spirit of God does live in me and is manifested stronger when I take part in community, as the Trinity is community.  Yet the Son of God died so that we could be made whole in God in order that we might bring the Kingdom of God to the world.  Jesus died so we could be free to live as God intended: in full relationship with God and in full relationship with one another.  And what does that look like when it hits the ground…well that is another blog post… J

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Community life...in the beginning

For those of you who may not know, my husband and I are now living in community with our good friends Luke and Janelle Frederick.  It all started a bit over three years ago when Janelle and I first learned of Shane Claiborne and 'The Simple Way.'  We thought it was the most peculiar, most revolutionary thing we had ever heard of.  We never imagined that less than four years later we would be living together as married couples as a result of the inspired moments we shared that very fateful evening.  Throughout the last few years we dreamed with our spouses what it would be like to forsake the traditional life of house, stuff and more stuff.  Well if you have read my last few blog posts you know that this year we decided to make that dream a reality.  So here we are.  Two and a half weeks into community.  People keep asking how it is going.  All we can really say is, just fine.  We haven't lived together for very long, but so far we have sat around a dinner table about 4 nights a week, had a beautiful meal and talked about our lives and our days.  Janelle and I take weekly grocery trips as we do our best to buy food that all four of us will eat and enjoy.  All food that is bought it bought communally.    It is an interesting thing to share grocery money.  A good kind of interesting.  It is actually really refreshing.  This being the very beginning, we are still in the process of decorating.  The greatest thing about the decor in our home is that it is a complete marriage and overlap of the things both couples own.  We enjoy rooms where both couples are equally represented.  These things might sound surface and superficial, eating and decorating, but they actually represent much more.  A life shared with all things done with the community in mind.  Yet somehow we all feel comfortable and welcome in this home, in our home.  For all who might be interested and intrigued...thanks for reading.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Otherness, Oneness and Ourselves

Tonight I went running/walking around Lake of the Isles, as I usually do on dreamy summer nights.  I hate to run but I am so motivated knowing all the beauty I will be surrounded with as I make my way around the Isles.  It is truly one of my favorite places in the Twin Cities.  No matter what time of day you go to Isles there are always people around.  Maybe lovers under a tree, or someone reading a classic on a blanket.  Sometimes friends will be picnicking or walking their dogs.  Many times there are others running just like me.  You can't help but meet eyes with a variety of people unless you deliberately look away (which some people do).  I always prefer to lock eyes.  For some strange reason I feel more human as my eyes connect with the otherness present in someone else.  Mostly, because for a brief moment in time, we both find that there isn't as much otherness as we thought but rather a reconciling grin.  It is almost as if you have found another friend in that moment.

Today was no different.  I ran along with my Ipod blasting none other than U2 when I noticed a couple coming towards me.  They were Middle Eastern and both were wearing traditional, conservative Muslim dress.  The woman in specific was wearing a Khimar.  It is the sort of dress that covers a woman from head to toe and only the woman's eyes show, as the veil is draped right under her eyes.  I am trying to be as descriptive as I can and I am sorry if I am not using proper terminology.  As they walked towards me, I immediately became angered.  Today in Minneapolis it was 90 degrees and extremely humid.  At times it was difficult to breath.  Here this poor woman is covered from head to toe in black veils.  I wanted to run up to her and rip it off and cry.  That might seem dramatic but that is how I felt at the moment.  However, I knew there was nothing to be done.  This is a culture, a tradition and a faith.  I did, however, ask myself, 'what can i do in this moment to extend friendship to this woman?'  Now just as a disclaimer: I am not saying that this woman was being abused or forced or that this was a terrible thing even.  I simply felt bad because it was so incredibly hot.  Anyway, in that moment, I stared at her until I caught her eye.  She looked at me.  I smiled and nodded and fanned my fingers in the air for a slight, timid wave.  As she stared back I saw the skin around her eyes raise slightly as she smiled at me with her eyes.  I unfortunately was not able to see her beautiful mouth that was concealed by her veil, but like I said I knew she smiled back at me.  And just like that our moment of connection was over.  We had passed each other.  Her eyes were warm and tender and inviting; there was a hospitality put forth in both of our glances.

We sensed each other's otherness and felt right at home...and it was only a moment!!!!  Could you imagine if we had more than a moment??!!  What could we do with 'more than a moment?'  All of us?!  If we can truly feel oneness with a person who is so different maybe the thing is...we just aren't as different as we thought.  And I love that and I dream of it.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Our House of Dreams

So...this is somewhat a follow up to my last blog.  I received a lot of good feedback, however, I did have one honest friend who said, 'Maria, I was waiting for you to say what you intend to do about all the talking.'  I thought to myself, 'But I don't have all the answers.  I just have the answer for me and 'me' is not enough.'  I thought some more about this and while I don't have the answers that will solve all the problems I addressed in my last blog, I have decided to share with all of you what we (Matt and I and some of our friends) intend to do about it.

Probably, about four years back my friend Janelle and I started reading Shane Claiborne.  If you don't know who he is just google him and if you go back far enough in my blog you will get to 'A Politic of Peculiarity' which was inspired by Shane's book Jesus for President.  Anyway, he lives in community in a large house in inner city Philadelphia.  He is a social activist, author and preacher and while he is extremely radical in so many ways the thing that really made us stop and listen was this whole communal living thing.  Janelle is married to her husband Luke and they are both really good friends of ours.  We have traveled internationally together a few times, as well as domestically, and I have personally known them for over a decade, my husband has probably known them about half that.  We have all talked about living communally in the city together for quite sometime (maybe 3-4 years) and we always just called it a Sunday Afternoon Conversation (a term we coined for conversations which were made up of unrealistic dreams).  This past fall we asked each other, all four of us, why can't we do this???  We want to do it, so let's just do it.  Since the fall we have had countless conversations of all that would need to happen in order for this thing to work.  We hardly told anyone because we knew at any moment it could all fall apart and we wanted to make sure it was a sure thing before we started getting all the crazy looks. ;)  To make a long story short, all of our our actions steps and planning paid off and we are moving in together June 15th.  Luke and Janelle rented their house out in Shoreview and we have said goodbye to our fabulous, little Uptown apartment.

One of the reasons we used to talk about this so much as a circumstance only found in our dreamy conversations is because it excited us!  We were excited about the possibility of living life together.  We were desperate to know what it truly means to allow others into your life on an irrevocable basis.  We want to know what it's like not to just think or worry about ourselves.  We want to feel the strength of rejecting what society says we must have; a house in the burbs, 2.5 kids and lots of stuff.  We KNOW that there has to be something more and we want to know what it is.  We think looking into the eyes of one another on a daily basis and breaking bread together around a table we share in the house we all live in, might be a good place to start.  Luke and Janelle and Matt and I don't want to just live for ourselves anymore.  We have all heard the saying, "It takes a village to raise a child."  Well I say, "It takes a village to do anything great."  I think the four of us do community alright at the moment.  However, we think we can do it a whole lot better.  So here we go.  Our attempt at moving the talking to doing.  Our house of dreams (which happens to be a 1,600 square foot apartment behind the Walker Art Museum ;).  Two couples leaving their loves nests, so cozy and comfy, so safe and lovely, for the hope of something better.  The hope of transformation and dying so that we all can live.  Live the way we were created to live; not for ourselves.

*Picture of Matt and Luke signing our shared lease.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Is There Life After Talking?


There are so many young people who are disillusioned with Christianity.  They are disillusioned with bad theology, emotional rants, moral failures, refusal to help the poor (and yes it is refusal when one remains inactive), American flags on church altars and the disgusting display of extreme nationalism, church splits, thousands of denominations, inequality, judgment and fire and brimstone, selling Jesus as a commodity to ‘get into heaven.’  I mean I could go on, really.  And who can blame us???  We want Jesus; we don’t want church, as history has known her. 
            Back to the disillusionment…with our broken dreams and frustrated ideals so many of us make the decision to leave the church bodies we are apart of due to the fact that we simply cannot stomach the madness any longer.  The bitterness starts to grow and very soon turns into an attitude of a Pharisee.  We don’t want to help; everything that has been done is completely wrong; there is no hope and no redemption.  We have conversation after conversation about how the church has gotten it so terribly wrong.  We write blogs speaking of social justice and against hell.  We start churches with coffee shops in them to foster community.  But really, what are we doing?  We talk a kick ass talk, but what walking are we really doing?  We do our best to live our lives a bit differently and try to be apart of communities where we feel we belong and just keep living and talking and blogging.  I don’t mean to be too harsh, as all of these things aid awareness and transformation.  But how long must one be in a transformation process before one actually does something? 
            You see us young people who ‘throw down’ still pursue the American Dream (whatever that is).  We may package it a bit differently, but the truth is we still want our fancy education, our apple products, our houses, our cars, and our designer beer to prove we can drink and are not legalistic.  We still want our titles and we still want to have leadership positions that afford us affluence and influence all in the name of change.  We judge you and if we think you aren’t like us you are lumped in the category of those who don’t understand the context of Jesus and what he was really about. 
            We are so damn good at talking and blogging but what are we really doing that is really all that damn different?!  Are we dying so that someone else can live?  Are we living on just enough so that we can give the rest away?  Are we actively looking for ways to bring justice and peace? 
            The talking used to be enough.  It used to inspire me.  Apparently it inspired me to just keep talking.  I’m so sick of it.  It’s not enough.  And I simply can’t go on like this.  Everyone is so quick to speak, write and start a postmodern church.  Yet communities continue to go without clean drinking water as we drink water out of our ultra cool reusable bottles, people all over the world, not to mention in this country, go without shelter as we own homes with multiple vacant guest rooms, children in Africa continue to be left orphaned or dead from HIV or even a treatable disease as we pay for health insurance that we only use from time to time, people all over the world have hungry families as we struggle to keep from becoming over weight. 
            Yep.  We do a lot of talking and when we take a break from all the talking we go buy the latest technological gadget or run through the drive through or sign a mortgage or take a trip to Europe or whatever…fill in the blank. 
            Is there life after talking?

picture from :
http://www.mediabistro.com/unbeige/in-brief-object-lessons-trash-talking-tim-gunn-offers-golden-rules_b8592