It’s just not that complicated

“Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?” – Isaiah 58:5-6

 

I could stop right here and leave this passage to speak for itself. How often do we overthink, over analyze, perhaps even over do the “rituals” or “commands” of our faith? How often are we focused on the aesthetics or whether or not we are acting in the “right way”? When, really, what we see as the thing that God cares about is the way we treat our neighbor. In this passage God does not even mention what we traditionally think of as fasting, He simply implores the reader to speak out against injustice and break the yokes keeping people oppressed and enslaved. It has nothing to do with acting “humble” or performing a ritual correctly. Are you helping to lift the burden of others?

In Matthew 11:30 Jesus says, “For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” And then in Mark 12:30 we have Jesus summing up all of the Law and the Prophets with this, “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, and with all of your soul, and with all of your mind, and with all of your strength.” Jesus then finishes with this in Mark 12:31, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” We make things so complicated and live in anguish analyzing whether or not we are doing what God wants or what his plan is for us. It’s just not that complicated.

Love yourself.

Know that you are worthy.

You are enough.

You belong.

Then spread that knowledge, that love, to everyone you encounter.

Stand up for the weak, give a voice to the voiceless, carry others burdens. I would say that he or she who understands this understands salvation and in fact has it. God desires mercy not sacrifice. This is what it means to die to yourself. This is what it means to live a “Godly” life. This is how we pursue God in our relationships.

And this is not all about literal slaves or people oppressed by systems and governments, although it is certainly that. But we are afflicted and oppressed by many things. We are oppressed by thoughts of inadequacy, we are afflicted by a pursuit of pleasure that will inevitably end in brokenness and hurt. We are oppressed by religion when it tells us we are not good enough, that we are hopeless, broken, or evil at our core. If religion will not make known to us the Truth of our being, then we must find other ways. For we were created good in the image of God, therefore, what is true about God is also true about us. What we believe about God will be evidenced in us.

When we choose to believe that God is Love and Love is for us, all of these things will follow that revelation.

 

Grace and Mercy ⇒ Love and Peace

Love is the fulfillment of the Law

“And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So, let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.” – Romans 13:11-14

 

In the paragraph before this section, Paul writes, “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.” He continues in the verse to say, “Love does not harm its neighbor. Therefore Love is the fulfillment of the Law.” These verses set the tone for the rest of this passage and create the lens with which to view Paul’s words here; and that lens is Love. Paul is urging his readers to wake up, to open their eyes to the world around them, for if they will they will see salvation is near. The darkness of night is fading to the light of the day. The evil of darkness will fade to the light of love if only we would open our eyes to see it, to become aware of it in our midst. Paul tells us not to behave in such ways that are counter the nature of Love. He is not providing laws to follow, for every Law that needs to be fulfilled is fulfilled in Love.

Therefore, may we participate in true loving relationship with others, not in brief encounters with the intent to only please ourselves. May we understand the deliverance, prosperity, and beauty of each given moment and not use the abuse of substances to escape our current reality. May we realize that all we have has been given to us freely, even our very lives for which we have done nothing to earn. Therefore, let us not live in a state of jealousy or dissension, the fire of which never burns out. But rather may we as loved, worthy, and sacred people give our sacred time and energy towards the loving embrace of not only others but also ourselves, and in doing so, clothe ourselves with the loving embrace of Jesus Christ. We are called to live at a level above the basic desires of self gratification and the desires of our flesh.

We have been empowered by Christ to live with the needs of others as our top priority, with justice for the weak and hope for the hopeless as our desires.

 

Grace and Mercy ⇒ Love and Peace

As long as the earth endures

“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” – Genesis 8:22

 

The Lord makes this statement in the book of Genesis directly after the flood that destroyed the earth. Although it can be difficult to understand this God in the context of our current understanding and beliefs about God, what this story shows is one response to evil, one in which a redemptive act of violence is used to cleanse the world. However, we read immediately after that, “…never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.”

This is no longer the way of the world, redemptive acts of violence will never be the final solution, in fact, just as the seasons of summer and winter will never cease, nor will the seasons of good and evil. Just as there will always be a time of work, a time to sow, there will always be day and night, good and evil. There will always be a season for both.

Just as God admits in this story, it is not good to destroy all that we have made even when things are not going as planned, even when it seems all these things have turned against us. Redemption though destruction or violence will never be our permanent solution. Instead we are called to hold the good and the bad in tension, to recognize their importance in the seasons of our lives. And we all go though seasons, it seems to be the nature of world we live in. We have seasons of struggle, of financial hardship, depression, bad relationships, singleness, sickness, and pain. But, let is never be your decision to ignore these seasons, to erase them from your memory, or act as if they do not belong. For just as the winter turns to spring and then to summer, the life found during the good times is directly related to the remnants of pain and death found or present in the difficult times.

Therefore, both belong.

And neither is more important than the other, rather each is a season. What is more important night or day? Summer of winter? Cold or heat? The seedtime or the harvest? You can not say. Instead, each is dependent on the other. Just as each season of our lives is dependent on another, this seems to be the nature of all things. Who are we to say, “I do not deserve this?” or, “Why is this happening to me?” or, “This is not fair.” The life and goodness of later seasons is directly related to the death and evil of others, each dependent on the other. That is why in the trials of life we as Christians can rejoice in our sufferings, because at the core of our beliefs is the promise that even through death there is life, that no matter the struggle or the evil we face, we can say with confidence that good can come from even this.

 

Grace and mercy ⇒ Love and peace.

Isaiah 58:5-6

5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? 6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? (‭Isaiah‬ ‭58‬:‭5-6‬ NIV)

From nothing. To nothing.

In my last post I touched on the idea of the ex nihilo nature of all things, including us as human beings. As a way to elaborate on this idea further, I used the description:

…out of nothing we came, and to nothing we shall return.

It was brought to my attention this this line may need some further thought and discussion to get at the concept that I was trying to convey.

And so, that is what I will attempt to do.

 

Where was your consciousness before you were conceived?

Where will your consciousness be after you die?

From a purely physical standpoint, all of the necessary energy and atoms needed for your brain to exist and neuronal pathways to operate have existed since the Big Bang. After you die, all of that which composes your physical “mind” will decompose and return to a state of unorganized matter. But this idea seems insufficient to describe the complexity and nuances of a mind, of a consciousness.

What I mean by the phrase “out of nothing we came” can be thought of as: from no “thing” did we come, where “thing” refers to our common understanding of physicality. By saying “to nothing we shall return” I mean to say that no “thing” we currently can conceive of physically is sufficient to describe where our consciousness will go or be, absolutely.

I know that the function of your brain can be described quite well with physics, math, chemistry, and what have you. However, I am speaking on a more metaphysical level here.

If you lose your arm, are you still you?

If a part of your brain is removed during a surgery, are you still you?

How much of your physical body can be removed for you to sufficiently not be you?

If a brain injury changes your personality, are you still you?

These questions seem, to me at least, to have a much less scientific and material answer as a metaphysical one. That is what I am driving at here.

In his book Falling Upward, Richard Rohr quotes Carl Jung as saying:

“Life is a luminous pause between two great mysteries, which themselves are one.”

With my words I am not trying to make an eschatological statement about the ultimate fate of humanity, but I am trying to present an awareness of the mystery at the core of our existence. A mystery often called the soul.

Richard Rohr goes on to say:

Agreeing with Jung, I believe that the One Great Mystery is revealed at the beginning and forever beckons us forward toward its full realization. Most of us cannot let go of this implanted promise. Some would call this homing device their soul, and some would call it the indwelling Holy Spirit, and some might just call it nostalgia or dreamtime. All I know is that it will not be ignored. It calls us both backward and forward, to our foundation and our future, at the same time.

From mystery.

To mystery.

From nothing.

To nothing.

No meaning.

Profound meaning.

Nothing to do with God.

Everything to do with God.

 

Paradox is at the core of it all and, when accepted, is the most liberating awareness one can have.

 

Grace and Mercy ⇒ Peace and Love

 

The first and second awareness

What is it that leads us to a place of repentance and what does it mean for us practically today, in every moment of life?

How do we recognize the “great kindness” that surrounds and covers us all?

Let’s start with the latter.

The first awareness that we as humans must have is this: each of us did absolutely nothing to be born.

How would you answer the question, “Where were you and what were you doing during the rennaisance?” You likely would be confused by such an odd question because during the renaissance you just… weren’t.

That is why we need to gain the awareness of our “nothingness,” of the fact that you and I have done nothing to earn the right to experience this life. You, through the same set of natural forces that brought the universe into existence, have been brought forth to experience reality and all the pain, suffering, anguish, love, joy, and hope it has to offer.

The second awareness is this: blessing and flourishing already exist in all things, all around you.

Because you did nothing to earn life, anything that allows you to maintain it becomes a blessing. Every bite of bread and every sip of wine you take is an absolute blessing from that which all things find life, the ground of being itself.

I define flourishing as having both the capacity to create meaningful change and to take meaningful risk. When using this lens to view our lives, flourishing becomes apparent all around us, in every decision we make and every chance we take.

In combination, I call these two awarenesses the Great Kindness of Existence.

However, a problem usually arises from this: “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” There is no favoritism shown when it comes to the Great Kindness. It does not act as we would have it, as we see justice.

There is an inherent grace to existence.

Yet, through meditation, struggle, and work one is led to a place of repentance.

To repent means to allow this awareness to wash away our contempt for others.

To repent is to recognize that each breath is a good gift, undeserved and unearned from that which gives life.

To repent is to recognize the bitterness and malcontent you have for life…

and

let

it

go.

Simply put. To repent is to change your mind.

“Or do you show contempt for that riches of His kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?”

– Romans 2:4

Often in the history of humanity we have not recognized that this level of awareness does not come through coercion, force, or even logic necessarily. But rather, it is through kindness, tolerance, and patience that we recognize it and, therefore, it is through the same mechanism that others will acknowledge it as well. Undeserved kindness, unearned tolerance, and unlimited patience lead us back to the core truth of our being: we have done nothing to earn the right to experience this life. We were created ex nihilo, out of nothing we came and to nothing we shall return.

Therefore, there is nothing you can do to make yourself more worthy, more loved, more accepted.

You are already there.

You belong as much as any other person who has existed.

All we can do is be grateful for this Great Kindness; thankful for the amazing, incredible, good gift of life itself.

 

Grace and Mercy ⇒ Peace and Love

 

The redemption of social media

I first got the idea to donate my birthday to charity: water from an episode of the Robcast where Rob interviews Scott Harrison, the man who got it started. The idea was intriguing and the charity sounded like one of the most unique out there as far as donations and the allocation of their funds. But it wasn’t until the Liturgists podcast on suffering that I finally committed and signed up to donate my own birthday.

That was in November.

However, as my birthday approached I began to second guess whether or not I should actually do it.

“It seems like a corny thing to do on your birthday.”

“Could you be more self-righteous?”

“You just want people to be impressed with yourself.”

“You’re not really going to raise much money, so it doesn’t really matter.”

These are all things I told myself as I became more and more self-conscious and worried about how others would view me. I didn’t want to become just another person asking for money. I didn’t want to become another person trying to display my “perfect” life on social media.

And that is when it hit me.

Over the years I had been the person looking down on others for being worried about how many likes they got, who viewed their profile, how many friends they had, what other people thought of them on social media. And now I was that person. Overanalyzing what I would post, how I should say it so I sounded good, should I even post it at all?

Social media has become a place where we present a false self to the world. An idealized self. We post pictures of our sweet vacations so others can be jealous. We post scathing political opinions to display authority without having to deal with he vulnerability of a real conversation. Essentially, we have turned social media into our vulnerability shield.

But, to truly flourish in this life one must embrace vulnerability. It is how we grow, how we humble ourselves, build deep relationships, and experience God.

So, on my birthday I set up a donation page and posted the link to my Facebook.

From that single post, I have raised over $250 and, as a result, 8 more people in this world will get clean drinking water. From one post!

This opened my eyes to the power social media has for good in this world, especially for people like myself with the incredible privileges and wealth that come with living in a country like the United States.

If used for good, social media can revolutionize the world.

Never before have people been so connected.

Never before has it been so easy to get 8 people clean drinking water.

Never before has it been so possible to show grace and mercy to others.

Never before have we had the authority, the capacity to create real change, to bring about more love and more peace.

It’s time now to take the authority we have and raise our vulnerability. Only together will they bring about…

Flourishing for ourselves.

Flourishing for others.

And perhaps, in the process, the redemption of social media.

 

Grace and Mercy ⇒ Love and Peace

If you would like to donate to my charity: water campaign follow this link: 24 years. 24 people.

 

 

 

 

 

Birthday Water

So, I’m now 24 years old and since nothing “big” usually happens on your 24th birthday I decided to make it “big” with this “Donate Your Birthday” campaign through charity: water (also, they are just a sweet charity to donate to).

My goal is to raise $724.24 which is enough to help get 24 people clean drinking water. If you have a little extra cash laying around or if you are simply feeling extra generous today, I encourage you to donate $0.24, $2.40, $24.24, or any amount you want to.

Donate Here!

I don’t know how many of you have heard of charity: water, but they are an incredible charity that has already funded over 21,000 water projects around the world that will lead to over 6.4 million people getting clean water. They use a creative model that allows every publicly donated dollar to be used on water projects while private donors fund all of the behind the scenes work, salaries, and office supplies. If you want to learn more I encourage you to check out their website or you can listen to this Robcast (Rob Bell podcast) to learn more about the guy who started it:

Interview with Scott Harrison

Or you can listen to this podcast:

The Liturgists Suffering Part 3

Over Christmas break my family and I had our water pump go out for about a day and a half. Even in that short time period it became painfully obvious how dependent we are on water for so much more than just staying alive. Even flushing the toilet uses about 3.6 gallons of clean water (for older toilets) per flush. Although many of us are aware of the privilege we live in, this served as a great reminder of just how “normal” instant access to clean water has become for myself.

Millions of people, mostly women and children, around the world spend a majority of their day collecting water (usually not clean). It is impossible to gain an education or even work a consistent job when clean water is not readily accessible.

Any effort to bring clean drinking water to those who do not have it is also an effort to educate, empower, and employ them.

 

Grace and Mercy ⇒ Peace and Love

Grace over justice

For many people, the crucifixion of Jesus was an atoning sacrifice needed to please the demands of a just God. The world was meant to live in peace and harmony, until the Fall of man in the Garden of Eden, at which point humanity became tainted with sin. According to this conservative view, God is too perfect to dwell with sin and too just to forgive without a sacrifice, without blood being shed.

And so, Jesus lived a perfect life as the Son of Man in order to become the ultimate sacrifice of humanity. His perfection and crucifixion were the only way to appease the justice of this God.

That’s basically atonement theory in a nutshell.

How can we expect to be a non-violent people when at the core of Christian beliefs (still the dominant religion in the U.S.) is a son being beaten and killed at the will of his father?

If Atonement Theory is the center of your beliefs, then your beliefs center on redemptive violence.

But is this the only way to view the crucifixion?

No.

In what way is it just for an innocent man to die for the sins of many?

Would we call it justice if a murderer was let off the hook and an innocent man took his place on death row?

The symbol of Jesus on the cross is not one of justice. Instead, it was the ultimate symbol of the triumph of Grace over justice.

Grace over justice.

What the cross illustrates is a radical turn in the trajectory of human consciousness. It directly calls out our ideas of what justice is and how it leads us to the conclusion of (the myth of) redemptive violence.

Going deeper into the story we see a man so connected to the Divine and the human, so connected to an eternal flow of love, that he let himself be beaten and murdered to show us that it is only through grace and mercy that we will bring about peace and love.

To declare all sins forgiven by his sacrifice is not justice, it’s grace.

Grace for all of humanity.

And it’s not as if this grace “magically” appeared at his death. No. Rather he died to further our awareness of the grace we already exist in. The grace that has been lavished on us from the beginning of time. The grace that we trampled and kicked to the curb with our ideas of self-righteousness, with our practices of redemptive violence, with our distortions of justice.

If the God of all things is strictly a just God, then I’m afraid there is not hope for myself or anyone else.

But if the God that exists in all things, through all things, and above all things is a God of grace, then I believe it is time we deepen our awareness and accept this beautiful truth.

Once we are able to accept this truth of our being then, and only then, will the way of our being be able to match it.

 

Grace and Mercy ⇒ Peace and Love