Wave Of Mutulation

IMG_1465

Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit (for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

Acts 8:14-17

I used to be a part of a charismatic church that was addicted to the Holy Spirit. It was commonplace during worship and other gatherings for speaking of tongues and passionate pleas called out to God in personal prayer languages. The first time I went to church as an adult was to a Christmas Eve service. About half way in to the service a woman right behind me started to speak, loudly in tongues. It freaked me out and I slinked towards the floor, trying to hide from her.

She continued on in this manner for sometime. Repeated rambles. Then a man stood up across the hall and interpreted to all what she was saying. I seemed to be the only one present that was unnerved by all of this. This was just another day in the life of this charismatic church.

I hungered to be a part of this community. I loved them deeply. I wanted to speak in tongues, for this was the ultimate symbol of belonging. The one true sign that you were indeed saved.

I tried to learn by observation. I attended every prayer meeting and worship service I could but I did not learn to speak in tongues. I joined the softball team and one afternoon at a party following a game I asked for help.

One of the older guys at the church I hung out with agreed to teach me. He gathered everyone’s attention and turns to me and says, “I am going to teach you how to speak in tongues.” So he grabs my hands and starts praying out loud. “El Shaddai! Sabba da da dei. Sabba da da dei. Sabba da da dei. Come Holy Spirit Come! We welcome you Holy Spirit. Bless us Lord. Sabba dabba dabba. Sabba dabba dabba. Sabba dabba dabba. Sabba dabba dabba.” He starts to say this pray faster and faster. Now he seems to be hyperventilating. He says, “You pray now Ryan.” So I start to do the prayer. “El Shaddai! Sabba da da dei. Sabba da da dei. Sabba da da dei. Come Holy Spirit Come! We welcome you Holy Spirit. Bless us Lord. Sabba dabba dabba. Sabba dabba dabba. Sabba dabba dabba. Sabba dabba dabba.” Deep inside I knew I was faking it. I felt rediculous. Then a few other peope started to do it. “El Shaddai! Sabba da da dei. Sabba da da dei. Sabba da da dei. Come Holy Spirit Come! We welcome you Holy Spirit. Bless us Lord. Sabba dabba dabba. Sabba dabba dabba. Sabba dabba dabba. Sabba dabba dabba.” Now people are excited. People are cheering us on. The original guy hugs me and says, “The Spirit has anointed you.” I left there feeling weird and anointed. I just faked the Spirit.

What does it mean to have the Spirit be upon you? What does this look like?

For that faith community I was a part of so many years ago speaking in tongues was THE marker of the Spirit resting upon you. If the Spirit was with you, then salvation, eternal life, and the favor of God was with you. You were chosen.

Today, it is not so important to me that I speak in tongues or that the favor of the Lord rests upon me. I am more concerned with clothing the naked and feeding the hungry. But the Spirit is still very important to me.

I often struggle with God, the father. I am not fan of his totalitarian authority and role as judge and jury. I delight in the swaddled infant Christ Jesus and the wandering sage like hippie Jesus. Most of all I adore the mysterious, present Holy Spirit.

You never quite know what you’re going to get with that sweet, mysterious Spirit. She dances wildly in our hearts and minds. She brings us to great heights and sustains us in the midst of great tragedy. She blesses, confesses, and obsesses over the material well being of our lives as she silently cradles our soul in her loving arms.

The Spirit is the water in our life. She fits all circumstances and vessels she finds herself in. The Spirit is powerful and relentless, able to break mountains and give life to deserts. The Spirit is profoundly transformative.

The Holy Spirit of God is much like love. You are hard pressed to define it. It may be difficult to find. But you know when you are in it and you can plainly see it in others. The Spirit is not magic but is magical. The Spirit is powerful as much as it is weak. The Spirit is visible and invisible. The Spirit is a generous lover: kind, compassionate, peaceful, excited, eager, and truthful. She is everything we aspire to be.

How do we know when the Spirit is upon us? Just like love, we know when we know. Our lives take dramatic turns engulfed in the passionate embrace of the Holy Spirit or a long slow meander, lovingly holding hands with the Spirit. You are never the same when the Spirit is upon you. The Spirit infiltrates our life, to leave us better able to see the divine in our ways and in the ways of others.

The greatest beauty of the Spirit is in the diversity, complexity, and expanse to which the Spirit is and is not. The Spirit is more than the glue that holds the godhead together. The Spirit is more than a reflection or remnant of Jesus or an afterthought of God, the Father. The Spirit is the playful, charming, creating Divine presence that takes pleasure in silently guiding us to places unknown within. Those places that we have not visited since we walked in the garden with God.

What does it mean to have the Spirit be upon you? What does this look like?

We will awaken to what it looks like to have the Spirit upon us as this year unfolds, trusting and knowing that God wants the best of us, even when we can’t dream that best ourselves.

There is no shortage of answers these questions. Speaking in tongues is one answer. It is not necessarily the answer for us here. What ever it looks like to have the Spirit upon you, upon us…we will do it together. Rest assured that this community of faith is a mixed bag of spiritual journeys and walks of faith and we are right where God wants us to be.

I Have Loved You Wrong

When Jesus, Peter, James, and John approached the other disciples, they saw a large crowd surrounding them and legal experts arguing with them. Suddenly the whole crowd caught sight of Jesus. They ran to greet him, overcome with excitement.

 

Jesus asked them, “What are you arguing about?” Someone from the crowd responded, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, since he has a spirit that doesn’t allow him to speak. Wherever it overpowers him, it throws him into a fit. He foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and stiffens up. So I spoke to your disciples to see if they could throw it out, but they couldn’t.”

 

Jesus answered them, “You faithless generation, how long will I be with you? How long will I put up with you? Bring him to me.” They brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a fit. He fell on the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

 

Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been going on?” He said, “Since he was a child. It has often thrown him into a fire or into water trying to kill him. If you can do anything, help us! Show us compassion!”

 

Jesus said to him, “‘If you can do anything’? All things are possible for the one who has faith.”   At that the boy’s father cried out, “I have faith; help my lack of faith!” Noticing that the crowd had surged together, Jesus spoke harshly to the unclean spirit, “Mute and deaf spirit, I command you to come out of him and never enter him again.” After screaming and shaking the boy horribly, the spirit came out. The boy seemed to be dead; in fact, several people said that he had died. But Jesus took his hand, lifted him up, and he arose.

 

After Jesus went into a house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we throw this spirit out?” Jesus answered, “Throwing this kind of spirit out requires prayer.”

 

Mark 9: 14-29 [Common English Bible]

 

Big Bird. Medicare. Economy. Entitlements. Middle Class. Liberty. Obamacare. Freedom. Corporations. Individual Rights. Religious Liberty. Romneycare. Right to Bear Arms. Education. The American Dream. 47%, 1%, and 99%. What are things that are under threat in the US?

 

If we listen to the prognosticators, the commentators, and the political naysayers the sky is indeed falling. We are at a turning point in this nation and if we mess this one up those that are taking back this country from those that are occupying the streets of this nation will lose it all and no one will have anything to occupy at all. Then what are we going to do?

 

I watched the debates this past week for a little while. I grew weary of it all and turned on the Orioles/Yankees game to see the O’s force a game 5. You want eroding tradition how about Major League Baseball’s new playoff format. Let’s kill the pennant race and water down baseball with one game wildcard playoffs. When did the Major League become the XFL?

 

In all seriousness, you can’t put your attention to anything without suspicion, doubt, and uncertainty poking at your motives or morals. No wonder we get all kinds of “end of times” prophets peddling their wears and sage wisdom for a small suggested donation. Speaking of “end of times” prophets, did y’all know that the Leader of the Kingdom of God and Second coming of Christ lives in Newalla.

 

We live in a time of quick fixes, sweet bargains, and certain certainty. Folks are lining up to share their thoughts on “Saving America.” You listen to radio, watch TV, or read the paper it is filled with information, opinions, and warnings. Drive around town and you’ll see the bumper stickers with the “Take Back America” rally cry.

 

Differing opinions on how to get this country back on track and varying ideologies about humanity, inclusivity, and financial strategies separate the two competing parties of this nation. Both offer up quick fixes, sweet bargains, and certain certainty. I am pretty sure that no one sets out in politics to strip mine the people for personal gain. I have to hold on to that hope. We believe. Lord, help us with our unbelief.

 

The polarizing posture has separated a nation beyond color lines, class strata, and civil morality. This polarizing posture is picking teams and dividing the nation in to sides. Concentrating wealth has left a middle class devoid of hope, opportunity, and a place at the table. Those that are concentrating wealth fear losing their wealth and institute measures to protect it.

 

We have “us” verves “them.” Class warfare. Immigration. Same-Sex Marriage. Democrat verse Republican. Christian verses the world. It is not a climate of mutuality and consensus building. A house divided cannot stand. Our glaring weakness is our inability to see the humanity of others in the varying of opinions. Our fall will be in the distrust of each other that leads to the mighty forsaking the weak. The marginalized being exploited by those in power shall bring tears to the eyes of Lady Liberty. We believe. Lord, help us with our unbelief.

 

The church is not immune from this quick fix, bargain faith, and certain certainty that’s peddled in US politics. The church offers a similar resolve to the world as our national politics have offered us. If you are not for us, you are against us. There is no place for new ideas in this time of crisis. We do things as we always have, its tradition, it’s right.

 

There are back room deals and fear based choices being made to gather the troops, steady the base, and hold on to power in the church that there is in DC. You have rebel-rousing figures that speak truths and demand action. You have rebel-rousing figures that speak truths and demand inaction. We poll. We vote. We are bound to order and decency as we seek a resurrected and transformed Christ. I imagine Jesus is just as frustrated with us as he was with the disciples that ran around attempting to do the works of Christ, in a sort of First Century Bad New Bears kind of way.

 

Blinded wisdom shakes the foundations of change. Are we the faithless generation? I do not know anymore. I am more uncertain of things today than I ever have been before. My faith in Christ, my faith in the church, my faith in the government, and my faith in humanity is shaken. The better you had hoped for your children, the better our parents had hoped for us has changed.

 

Gone are the days of a college education guaranteeing you a job. Gone are the days of the church being the center of the community. Competition for a job is fierce. Unemployment is high. Competition for membership is fierce. Dwindling churches are high. We seek a resurrected and transformed Christ with dying and unrequited ways. We, the church, do the best we can with what we got. We believe. Lord, help us with our unbelief.

 

What do we believe?

What do we not believe?

 

What we do not believe is as important as what we do believe. They are two sides of the same coin. You cannot have belief without unbelief. We need to embrace the transformed mind offered to us n the gospel. In the gospel message of Jesus the Christ there is room for certainty and uncertainty, there is room for belief and unbelief. The gospel compels us towards death of preconceived notions and beckons us to follow Christ to the cross and place our hearts, our minds, our spirit our will at the foot of the cross and leave them there as we are delivered to a new state of being. A state of being that is full of compassion, full of hope, peaceful, love-centered, and void of human division. A place not focused on ideology, association, or belief, a better place…

 

Our better needs to change. A better “better” calls us to less, to simplicity, to connectivity, to community, to an environmental harmony, to consensus, to peace, to humility, and to death. For it is only in death to ourselves that we will be resurrected in to the new life Christ has called us to. It is only in death that we shall bear witness to the transformative gospel and embody it to the world.

 

Gone are…Big Bird. Medicare. Economy. Entitlements. Middle Class. Liberty. Obamacare. Freedom. Corporations. Individual Rights. Religious Liberty. Romneycare. Right to Bear Arms. Education. The American Dream. 47%, 1%, and 99%. What comes after we die to ourselves and inhabit the gospel of Jesus Christ?

 

I have no idea what it looks like or what I gain in it. I do know it is paradise. We believe. Lord, help us with our unbelief.

The Pope and Bush walk into a bar…

The other day I was in the gym doing my routine and noticed the TV’s had the Present-dent Bush welcoming the Holy Father to (a)Merika. I sat there gliding on my elliptical journey across the world.

As I was gliding across Europe towards Asia I heard Bush describe this nation as a nation of prayer. He also specified the gender of God as he excluded a feminine relation of the divine in his usage of masculine pronouns.

A nation of prayer I pondered as I approached Eastern Europe. Is Bush referring to the Muslims that pray to Allah, the Hindus performing puja, or the Wiccans performing rites? Is there room in Bush’s America for worship of “nature’s God” that he refers to in his address?

Bush claims a compassionate America where “the measure of a free society is how we treat the weakest and most vulnerable among us.” I take a right at the Caucasus

mountains and enter Turkey. I continue into Iraq as look for the denizens that America is protecting from tyranny and despair. There are no hungry, sick, and discomforted people here.

I imagined this area to be covered with danger and glimmering with hope provided by the majestic humble majesty of George Bush and his “awesome God.” Where is the compassion of the death and destruction laying claim to Iraq and her children? Where is the measure we believe in of this free society in our dealing with the weakest and most vulnerable?

In Bush’s Gospel Jesus claims only US. The compassion of turning the other check, the love in giving your tunic also and the call to love your neighbor seems lost on all of US.

I glide across Iraq and cross the beautiful deserts of Arabia and then into the Sahara. The red sands give way to the green canopies of Sudan and then the north of Uganda. I am soon faced with the banks of the mighty river Nile.

I sit at its banks a while and soak in the smells and sounds of this life giving ancient river. On it waters it carries many nations and hopes along with it. The lush pineapples and bananas on its banks, with children playing in the waters.

Is God the God of love here, Mr. President? Does America also seek to protect the weak and vulnerable here? What does profit have to do with love? Can we comfort the sick and care for the infirm here?

I dive into the waters. They caress and comfort me. They sooth my soul. The Lord has lay me inside these cool and still waters to restore my soul. I continue my journey around the world, gliding in my imagination to bear witness to the compassion of the world. Please pray for us that we do hold compassion for all. Let us not hold that we are the ideal and divine bearer of truth or justice. Let us walk together to call into existence the Kingdom of God. This is my prayer…

Mr. Bush you will be gone soon. You speak of embracing love (God’s love) as the surest way to save [creation] from falling prey to the teaching of fanaticism and terrorism. Terror and fanaticism are rooted in the certain assurance that ones opinion is the only way to truth. Mr. Bush, I ask you to treat human life with the same regard and respect as you idyllically paraded on the world stage around the Holy Father. It is time to live up to the call on your life as a man of God.

If each of us is willed, loved, and necessary to bring forth the Kingdom of God, is it about time that we as a nation lived this way. Real freedom in found in the bondage in service to others. Truth lies in the mysterious capacity of being, existence, and reality to which all I participate and none to which I own. May God blessings be upon you and may love (the love of God) be our guide.  Love is no joke…