Saturday, December 29, 2007

Words for a picture

He leaves again

He leaves longing for the left behind

The comfort of lust satisfied

Over and over again

He leaves the lover

He believes the leaving will not last

He leaves and light deceives him

He leaves and turns

Rolls up his sleeves to look into the deep days of the dark season

When the sun slides away on purpose

Hides from him

Hints of the familiar lost

Then vanishes and deceives him

He leaves

He cannot return

There is no home in the past

He leaves again

And what he leaves is nothing more than


What’s wrong with kids these days?

Adult: Young people are living at home well into their twenties and beyond.
Youth: What you trying to get rid of us.
Adult: Aren't you tied a little too close to Mama's apron strings, still latched on to the parental teat?
Youth: Uh, there's another viable option?
A: Well you have a degree don't you?
Y: Worth only a third as much as yours since there are 3 times as many of us graduating with the same thing.
A: You just aren't trying hard enough. I mean no one ever handed me a job out of thin air – I had to work for it – it takes effort.
Y: I can get a job all right – just not one that makes you think I am an adult.
A: Well you do look silly with that stupid uniform from Taco Bell. I mean for a university grad shouldn't you be chasing your career. Instead you show up late for work – 'call in sick' and expect to stay employed.
Y: I haven't decided what I want to do with my life yet
A: Typical – adrift – aimless…
Y: Or maybe the economic and social landscape is changing so quickly that it is just that much tougher to make sense of the chaos left in the wake of fortune grabbing baby-boomers like you.
A: Well maybe things wouldn't be so confusing if you didn't spend so much time getting high and getting laid.
Y: Right. When you did that stuff in the 60's it was freedom. Now it's immoral.
A: That was different. We had a legitimate revolution to fight against the repressive status quo. Every generation has had its war.
Y: We just want peace.
A: If you even knew how to spell it - let alone use it in a sentence.
Y: Come on don't be a "h8r".
A: See what I mean, honestly,
Y: Well right me off if you like. Truth is I'm looking for a few kind souls who can help me find a life with a deeper meaning than the pursuit of a pay check or severance package. I mean the idea of adulthood you have created doesn't even catch my attention. You work your ass off to achieve as much upward mobility as possible, hoarding as much as possible for your self. Busyness has given you ulcers, and heart disease both physically and emotionally. Three wives later and a life mortgaged to foreclosure you keep telling yourself that it will all be worth it when you retire. Exactly, when you have Alzheimer's and two strokes – tell me that your all inclusive cruise to the Bahamas is really all its cracked up to be. So you can look at my faults and write me off. You can call me names or create these elaborate stereotypes of what kind of generation I am. Supported by stats you can tell me I more wicked and wasteful. Maybe you think that if you insult or accuse me enough I might just get pissed off enough to care. And if I cared maybe you could get through to me. Is that what you think? Well you're wrong. If life is what you've shown it to be – if growing up means I gotta live like you. I don't want it - I am not interested. So why should I care that I am not measuring up to an idea of life I am not even interested in. Now please could you leave me alone I need to take this call on my new iPhone.
A: You have one of those?
Y: Yes
A: I can't seem to get mine set up properly.
Y: Have you tried that new downloadable utility from Apple?
A: I’ve heard about it but I can’t seem to get to it with my service provider.
Y: Here let me look at that…

Monday, December 17, 2007

I’m a John…

Well not exactly…

Thursday after my philosophy exam (which I totally nailed) I went to lunch with a class mate. He and I went to the Penny Coffee House and had a lengthy conversation about life and philosophy. Cool kid.

After we were done I walked across the street to get into my truck (RAM-50) and drive home. As I climbed in I saw a group of about 5 or 6 guys in shabby clothes with one girl. I reached down to put the key in the ignition and looked up to find the girls rapping on the passenger side window. Too lazy to wind down the hand crank I opened the door to see what she wanted. She jumped into the truck. Before I could say or do anything she asked me to take her to a shelter on the north side of town. So I pulled out into traffic. To be honest my heart went out to this kid – not more than 17 years old. I have had the opportunity to interact with homeless people on several occasions with the urban mission projects I have worked on. I know that there are many choices that have put these people on the street and many circumstances that are beyond their control that strongly affect those choices. So I decided to take her to the shelter.

No sooner were we in traffic than she spoke up. "Hey mister could you help me out with thirty bucks. I need thirty bucks. I was wondering if you could help me out and I have condoms and everything if you want."

My brain froze. I had just gotten propositioned. Me. ME!

Then my brain goes into overdrive. Millions of thoughts blasting through my brain.

"Sorry I don't do stuff like that." I say half whimpering. Silence.

I'm driving, turning. "Can you help me out though?" she says.

"No! I don't have any money on me."

"I just need 30 bucks for a ride home."

"Where's home?" I'm asking still dazed but starting to organize and rank the thoughts chasing through my brain.

"Coaldale. I need a bus ticket."

"I live in Coaldale." I blurt out - stupid brain is letting me down again. And I follow it up with…

"I could give you ride to Coaldale."

"No that's okay. Just drop me off where you picked me up." She says obviously disappointed and disinterested in wasting anymore her energy on me.

"You know," I say, "having sex with you is worth a whole lot more than $30."

"What…" she seems somewhat reengaged- maybe I have reconsidered.

"Really it should be worth somebody spending their whole life with you. $30 is far too cheap to sell your body."

"Yeah" she says. And it occurs to me that my attempt at a coy counseling tip is lost on her. Perhaps this is due to drugs but likely due to a built up resistance to self righteous jerks trying to guilt her into some sort of change. So I drop her off where I picked her up.

I told my story to police officer who lives in our cul de sac and he scared me a little. He said that I could have been picked up and charged for being in the act of soliciting for sex. A cop who knew the downtown could have arrested me. Now wouldn't that be a pretty different story if I was writing it with a court date pending…

It pisses me off that the law works like that. I was just trying to do something nice. But on the other hand I still wince in anger when I draw on the pictures of the johns in their new SUV's and minivans pulling up beside these wasted pieces of flesh. And it fills me with hopelessness for a world where grace can be a crime and where indecency can perpetuate profound brokenness…

Toothless girl sleep well tonight…

The best part…

The Sunday School Christmas program is the best religious experience of the year…

I love the irreverence. The preschoolers running like steers on stage till the few brave parents have corralled them into a pile at the front of the stage. The monotone singer in the kids' choir can't carry a tune but can sure make a lot of noise. It reminds me about how the incarnation was so unpredictable. Psychology tells us that that the human brain has not reached full development until sometime after age 3 or 4 and then in smaller more imperceptible ways the brain keeps one growing and becoming more elastic throughout our lives. We know that the brain of a child often leaves the rest of body lacking. I remember thinking that that Jesus somehow must have been different – you know that he was somehow a fully developed adult in a child's body. But if we actually believed that we would have to significantly change our theology. I can recognize Jesus up there on the stage and it makes me smile.

I love the effort. Kids, parents, teachers work hard to perfect the production - usually a play of some sort. They schedule extra practices and assign parts to as many kids as possible to. On the surface getting every kid involved seems to give each child an equal chance to shine but really it's mostly a chance for added parental anxiety. And inevitably the kids pull it off. There are always some mistakes. Those are the best parts for me. I almost wish you could practice them. I love how redemptive mistakes force the audience to be. Some kid misses a line and the room goes taught with tension. People fidget, they start to squirm but they are forced to considerately wait or compensate for lines mumbled, cues missed, or false starts. I get incredible pleasure in seeing the audience forced to do what we find so hard to most of the time. Redeem the deficiencies of our world. Because you can't fault the kids for their effort…

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Ryan posted a good quote here which got me to think a little more about how ironic things are.

We live in an immediate culture. Everything is now. It's almost like a currency. We trade money, time, prestige, power for extraordinary experiential reality of the moment (waiting in line for tickets to Led Zeppelin). This has some obvious dysfunction inherent. With no regard for the future, the only that is important is the now. And right now is only important to give us memories of the most amazing experiences that we can call up in the future. So the future is only useful as a tool for the remembering the past.

Follow me?

So the only thing that should matter is the quality of life as I perceive it right now. Now we are in a pickle because the past is always better than the future and so the present continues to decrease in quality. The only thing we can do is try and rev our engines harder in order to see if we can get close to how good the past was. Sucks!

Enter the concept of hope. Tricky little concept. Too much hope placed too far away in the future can cause you to become distanced from your life right now. (e.g. some fundamental views of heaven) And if you are alienated from your life right now then it really is worth very much. Kinda like working at McDonalds just so that you get to have a life after midnight when you get off shift. You hate working at McDonalds so you really don't care about it – it's a job. Christians with this kind of approach are irresponsible with their own lives and they really could care less about what happens to the earth or the people in the earth.

But hope that is placed too near in the future seems irrational. I mean most of us are pessimistic enough to think that the poverty, AIDS, war problem in Africa won't change appreciably in the next month or even year. It seems we take two steps forward and three steps back. So a person who goes around with that kind of hope is either a super rich activist who can afford to be hopeful or pretty much out-to-lunch.

But what if we change the way we look at hope. Instead of it being a goal or destination, what if it was more like a lifestyle a mode of living and actively looked for opportunities for redemption and restoration. What is hope is not so much a possession that we desperately hang onto but more like a tool that we use to bring about the purposes of the Creator in the world…

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

somebody wrote my theme song

Ojala que llueva café

If only it would rain coffee in the fields,
and a shower of yucca and tea would fall,
from the sky a sprinkling of white cheese,
and in the south a mountain
of cress and honey.
oh, oh, oh-oh-oh...
If only it would rain coffee.

My folks are touching the homeland (Nicaragua) this Christmas and I wish I was a hideaway in their luggage.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Is the incarnation enough? pt. 2

Can you imagine Christmas without the cross? Think about how we might view our faith differently if all we had was Jesus incarnate – God with flesh on. One big problem we would be faced with is that without the cross we would essentially lose our concept of salvation. There would not be a get-out-of-Jail-free card at the end of the game of life that could make up for all our blunders here in this life. And we might wonder if God was really as powerful as he says he is unless he was able to defeat sin and death. But check it out – what actual proof of forgiveness do we actually have in this life. I mean the Bible tells us we are forgiven and assured a place in heaven but has anyone ever actually come back from where ever heaven is to confirm our suspicions? So we place hope in something that we're not completely sure of – we call that hope. What proof do we have that Jesus accomplished anything at the cross without faith? None really.

So without the cross and its significance our faith changes drastically. So some argue the cross is the pivotal center piece of Christian thought and practice.

But what if the cross wasn't.

The incarnation is equally impossible without faith. But its consequences are equally important if not more so. Incarnation forces us to deal with this life as if it is important all on its own without the threat of some super existence we could escape to someday. It forces us to recognize that into the very same world of pain and struggle God descends to be a very local and personal agent of redemption. God comes to show us an example of how to live but also to confirm to us that this life is not some meaningless toil that we should long to escape but a real important existence that is worth the effort. Worth the effort of acting redemptively, worth the effort of acting for justice, worth the effort of reconciliation, worth the effort of enjoying this life's intrinsic goodness. The incarnation elevates our own existence because God was willing to identify. So our life has value. And more value than just making the right decision about which ticket we're going to purchase for our after-life trip. Our life is actually about bring 'heaven' to earth.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Is the incarnation enough?

One of the things that our philosophy professor has taken great delight in criticizing is the belief in the afterlife. Of course this has significant implications for what sort of meaning we attach to the nature of life itself. So searching for meaning becomes a quest for significance, purpose, and quality. It seems most of us have some sort of expectation as to what life should be like. And if our lives don't seem to match those expectations we get bothered by it. Of course, one of the most significant contributions to understanding the meaning of life has come from religion. Religion of most stripes offer explanations about life as it is related to what happens after life ceases. Christianity says heaven and hell await the soul which continues to 'live' past the biological death of our bodies. Heaven if you make the right choices in this life and hell if you make the wrong ones.

Eternity has become the central feature in the Christian explanation of the meaning of life. Eternity might even be the only foundational aspect of most Christian theological tradition. Here's a little test see if you can come up with a solid explanation of the basic concepts of Christian ideas without talking about heaven or hell. Tough right? And when something seems to take such a dominant role in the formation of thought I get suspicious. But to be sure I don't reject the idea of eternity or its implications – I just don't think any idea deserves a free ride – especially when it seems so central.

Secular thinkers will often point to how eternity thinking has caused Christians to disengage from the present world because their focus is fixed on the life hereafter. And they are right. We refer to this world as embodying all that is wrong. And so this world becomes a training ground for what is to come. It's a throw away world where our actions are essentially inconsequential because of the hope of an eternity where we will be transformed into perfection. And it should not surprise us that materialism (mega-church), and poor environmental stewardship, even anti-immigrant sentiments can all be clearly reflected in many current Christian expressions (one's I have been reminded of recently). Because if this world really doesn't matter that much then who cares if we get things wrong 'down here' as long as our insurance policy is thick enough to get us the perfect retirement in the sky.

That's where it seems to me that the story of Christmas can really shine. God becomes one of us. God makes a statement – we are worth hanging out with. And by living with us he gets to show us how to live this life to its fullest potential – right now!

If God was focused on the afterlife/eternity/heaven as his main focus, don't you think there could have been a better way to motivate humanity than by identifying with us. He could select several humans in each generation to visit heaven and then make a documentary for the rest of us. He could give us samples of heaven – little bits of blinding lights and golden bling. He could make so that one of the confirmations of our assurance of heaven after this life was to get some sort of documentation of the fact.

But Christmas suggests that eternity is not God's focus. We are his focus. Right here – right now.