Friday, January 17, 2014

Dodging Amazon

This new land that I find myself surrounded by has given me new inspiration for undertaking something that has been pushing me from the inside for quite sometime...almost more time that I'd care to admit.  Actually I just discovered a bench mark when, through some divine inspiration combined with a very practical need to "get a life" beyond the one I'm consumed with most of my waking hours, I sat down to journey back down memory lane.  I ended up at my very first blog post.  Having gone back to the beginning, two things struck deep within me.  The first one was the reality of how long ago that was ... nearly 9 years ago.  So many things have transpired in my life since then.   When I began this online odyssey I was in a different neighborhood, with a different future in mind, and different views on what it would mean for me to be faithful in following God's call on my life.  Our family portrait only had four faces and they were all in the same house.  Now the portrait has 8, moving to 9 this next week, and we span 3 different locations and two different states with 1200 miles between us.  I still don't spend any time in an office but that's because I know longer have one.  I've gone from a 100 year old church with 4 buildings on 2 blocks to a church not yet birthed with no buildings and no idea which block we might really land on.  The question of "how do I find myself here?" can be answered by a term that I have come up with lately, inspired by my new locale.  It's actually a physical metaphor for a spiritual state of being that I can identify in my life.  I call it "dodging Amazon". 
Let me take the liberty of explaining this one.  My new neighborhood has an overwhelming influence from that most prolific of online retailers, Amazon.  I live within site of ground zero for their sprawling empire.  Thousands of people wandering the streets of my neighborhood earn their livelihood from them.  Dozens of area restaurants are finding fortune from them.  They, the Amazon nation, are everywhere ... including every street, intersection, and crosswalk for blocks around.  The stereotype is headphone and backpack clad, head down, smartphone led, food truck seeking, pack wanderers.  This is probably unfair to some and possibly a bit exaggerating, but its accurate enough to cause anyone in a motorized vehicle to constantly be focused and ready to "dodge Amazon".  They have this annoying habit of stepping out, often without warning, from the curb right in front of oncoming traffic.  Sometimes it is with a slight nod or wave of thanks for yielding, and sometimes it is accompanied by a clueless expression.   It occurred to me, a few weeks back, when the 1 millionth of them walked blindly in front of me causing a quick braking and even quicker stream of mental adjectives, that I need to constantly be aware of the inevitable interruption of my life's flow.  I have always tended to be, strived to be, longed to be, a point A to point B person.  It's not necessarily the best way to live, but its my way and I like it.  So when get into the car and head out, I'm wanting to mentally be 5 miles out.  I can't do that here.  I have to constantly be engaged in "dodging Amazon".  Whether they are going to step out in front of me or not doesn't matter, because they are always there, and could be in front of me, disrupting my life at any intersection. 
It occurred to me a few weeks back that this is exactly how I got here in the first place.  I have been playing this game for years and have not really realized it.  Every time that I get comfortable and looking 5 miles down the road, God has this annoying habit of stepping off the curb, and once again I'm snapped out of my stupor.  If I'm wise, I'm going to yield.  When I do, I often get to see the appreciative nod.  If nothing else, I have been forced to become more aware of my surroundings. 
This morning, pausing to look back where this all began, I can see the appreciative nod and realize once more that I'm right where I'm supposed to be.  Here's to many more years of "dodging Amazon."

Thursday, January 02, 2014

available

This morning I heard someone that many of you would know respond to a question posed to him with the comment "I think that everyone just needs to do what's right for themselves".  This wasn't a blanket statement, it was contained within a context to be sure, but it is certainly a reflection of where we are in our culture of "me and mine".  I'm not na├»ve and I've not just crawled out from under a rock.  I understand that this has been along time coming...culturally speaking.  My alarm comes from a "light bulb" moment  culminating from my long struggle with the faith system that I've dedicated my pastoral artistry to.  Everyone else who does not share my love for Jesus can excuse the rant, but if you are a professed follower of the Jesus of history and the book of books please hang around for a bit.  I have something for you to consider.
If you have been invested much at all in your faith process, particularly the evangelical version, you have most likely increasingly heard the terminology regarding discipleship and disciple making coming from your hallowed halls.  Its not a new term at all...Jesus used it and in fact it was part of his last earthly discussion with those following him.  Really, in its most basic form, it simply means someone who is becoming increasingly more like Jesus.  It's process terminology and it represents a process never completed this side of heaven.  However, it has become the holy grail and the silver bullet of the Christian life, all wrapped up in one curriculum demanding ideal.  The problem with this is that there is no curriculum to draw you closer to the person of Jesus other than the gospels.  Want to be a disciple, start by reading about the one whom you are trying to model.  Sounds more easy than we've made it?  This is because we live in a culture of "everyone just needs to do what's right for themselves"... and by culture, I am referring to contemporary "church" culture.  This thought process, that seems so right to so many is so contrary to the life of the one we are trying to model.  Want to follow Jesus?  Don't think of yourself.  Want to model his life?  Don't think of yourself.  Want to grow in your faith?  Don't think of yourself.  In the land of self, we are called to be selfless.
I have this theory.  In the Older 2/3 of the book of books there is an encounter with God where he asks "Whom will I send and who will go for us?"  A guy named Isaiah, for a moment in time, does not think of himself, responds "here am I, send me".   In other words, he said, "hey I'm available".  If you continue to read, even immediately following his volunteering, it is quite obvious that this was not in his best interest.  He wasn't doing what was right for himself...in fact he was setting himself up for a life of immense selflessness that wasn't going to bring him anything but grief.  But here's the thing... what came out of his making himself available was foundational to the hope of Israel and the ultimate coming of Jesus.  So here's my theory ... the greatest movements of God result from him asking "who will go for us" and someone responding "I'm available, I'll go".  Most of us are stuck in what's right for ourselves.  Discipleship is simply sacrificially giving ourselves to a movement of God.  It looks different for everyone.  It can be practical.  It can be physical.  It can be financial.  The only thing common is that it represents "available".   We long for discipleship but are never "available" to follow.  It's understandable for the culture that we live in.  It's tragic for those who claim to want it.