And the mystic applauds…

From Anthony de Mello – The Heart of the Enlightened

    An ancient legend has it that when God was creating the world, He was approached by four angels. The first one asked, “How are you doing it?” The second, “Why are you doing it?” The third, “Can I be of help?” The fourth, “”What is it worth?”
The first was a scientist; the second, a philosopher; the third, an altruist; and the fourth, a real estate agent.
A fifth angel watched in wonder and applauded in sheer delight. This one was the mystic.

And this:

Little Johnny was trying out for a part in the school play. His mother knew that he had set his heart on it but she feared he would not be chosen. On the day the parts were given out, Johnny, back from school, rushed into his mother’s arms, bursting with pride and excitement. “Mother,” he shouted, “guess what! I’ve been chosen to clap and cheer.”

We all have our part. It may be that we don’t see the value of what we offer because our definition of what is valuable is too small. We perceive that we fail because our definition of success does not encompass the things that we most deeply care about.


Of single-minded focus

But there is the danger and the temptation to you, of drawing your minds into your business (busyness), and clogging them with it; so that you can hardly do anything to the service of God, but there will be crying, my business, my business; and your minds will go into the things, and not over the things… And then, if the Lord God cross you, and stop you by sea and land, and take your goods and customs from you, that your minds should not be cumbered, then that mind that is cumbered, will fret, being out of the power of God.  ~George Fox

 Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness… ~Jesus


Why I don’t vote… can I say that here?

I want to preface this by saying that I am finding myself increasingly not alone. Some of my most admireds are saying some of the same things. Greg Boyd, Mark Van Steenwyk, …parker and others… although my thoughts are my own, coming from a number of years of thinking about this. During this time, it seems to come up more and more as people wonder where I stand. This may be the only post on this subject unless something else is spawned from comments. I welcome the feedback.

The last few conversations on this regard came from questions from Ben and Tony… so thanks, you guys, for spurring the ideas.Emergent, contemplative, Celtic… all feed into my understanding of my place in this world and how disconnected I want to be with the political process. I am primarily concerned with the kingdom of God that Jesus talks about, primarily concerned with what is happening from the heart to the relationship, and I am truly seeking to be as singular of mind and heart as I can. I believe that Jesus has taught us to be a certain way… regardless of who is in political power. If I can’t be this way, it is not going to matter whether someone I like or someone I don’t like is in power. No one with that much spotlight is going to stay true to a kingdom way of living.

It’s not that I think my vote won’t matter… it’s not that I don’t want to exercise my rights as an American citizen, or that I am taking that for granted… it’s not that I don’t care if someone in power is out for my best interests. These arguments are not enough for me to change my mind.

It is that I don’t want to be stretched thin. I don’t want so much of my thinking and research and concern to go into much other than relationships and transformation. I smile as I hear people talk of their concern or worry about what is going to happen in the elections. I think… “Huh… something reminds me of Jesus mentioning that we shouldn’t worry about tomorrow…” He talks about birds and flowers, dependent on God for all they need. He also talks about the need to not lobby for position… as his disciples desire to sit at his left and right hand.

Tony put something up on his blog regarding an email he received. Some great thoughts here.

You can’t escape ideology except by escaping politics altogether. You can, of course, form communities in which ideology doesn’t matter so much. Sure, society has long had many groups and whole institutions in which that was the case–sports clubs, for example. But it would be a mere confusion to think that the possibility of such communities somehow means that there is now magically another way of “doing politics.” No new political discoveries will come out of emergent Christianity, but if the community is actually made up of diverse people who actually tolerate people with viewpoints that are very different from their own, that’s fantastic.

I like this. Some may say we need to have an ideology. I’ve heard a lot that we are coming up with a “third way.” I don’t know if there will be a “third way,” but I do know that there will be some way… and it may not look like Jesus in the end. I am going to have to live differently in spite of that. I am going to have to adapt to that new way. I am a part of something much bigger… but it brings me much closer to home. I am part of something much more complex… but it brings me to a place of much more simplicity.

Absolute relativist… relative absolutist?

Thanks to Bob Hyatt for bringing this up. Len Sweet in Relevant Magazine… raises an important issue.

“I am both an absolutist and a relativist,” he [Len Sweet] says. “You can’t escape absolutism. To say there are no absolutes is in itself absolute. The Pharisees were the absolutists. Pilate [was] the relativist, asking ‘What is truth?’ I find both of them within me. But both the Pharisees and Pilate stared truth in the face and didn’t see or hear it.”

The tricky part with truth, he says, is how it resonates with people.

“I believe in absolute truth, but the New Testament presents a new understanding of absolute,” Sweet answers. “Fundamentally, truth is relational. Absolute truth is Jesus, God’s perfect pitch—His tuning fork to the eternal. Every tuning fork needs to be struck to be heard. The striking of the eternal, unchanging tuning fork took place on Good Friday with the pounding of six-inch nails.

“This is the real reason I fear that Emergent may be losing its way,” Sweet continues. “It isn’t striking that tuning fork nearly enough. Jesus said, ‘If I be lifted up, I will draw all people to God.’ We sit at drawing boards, trying to design all sorts of blueprints and experiences to draw people to church and to God, while Jesus Himself is the draw. It’s all about truth, which means it’s all about Jesus.”

Here’s my thought. The best thing that Sweet says is that “truth is relational.” It is embodied. Going back to my previous post… we can ask questions upon question… giving critiques upon critiques. But the final question, the living question, is “What am I going to do with this?” If truth is embodied, if its relational, is not living in the way of Jesus and affirming that, indeed proclaiming Jesus? I’m not about to say one theology is better than the other, one view on the atonement is better than the other. What I do hope for is a living consistency.

It seems too easy to say one group has got it and another is missing it. I know many Emergents, though, who would affirm this living consistently in the way of Jesus. Jesus is not all of God is he? Or maybe he IS all of God… but yet there is more… It seems to me that in the active life of the Spirit in us and through us, we become Jesus physical ministry on this earth. I raise my eyebrows at the ideas, the theologies, the questions… that are not embodied. If Jesus is the truth, is speaking about him enough? Is he only “lifted up” by name or used as a draw by mouth? Or is he embodied… relationally? This, I see Emergents doing. Too often, our words turn people away… not always because of what we have done as individuals, but often because of those who have come before us. So maybe we don’t speak as much. Maybe we just live it… radically… transformationally.

When questioning becomes trendy

Rainer Maria Rilke, one of the patron saints of The Shepherd and the Knucklehead, writes in Letters to a young Poet:

You are so young, so before all beginning, and I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear sir, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers which cannot be given you becasue you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer. (Italics mine)

In my world of shepherds and knuckleheads, emergents, deconstructers, philosophers, writers, and dreamers, the questioning often becomes the most important thing we can do. “Live in the question,” we say. One of my own central purposes in life is to hold space for people to ask the questions. I am not the one with all the answers. I am not the authority. Let’s discover together.

To live in the question… to live into the answer, seems to me to be the wondrous journey itself. But when do we go too far? Questioning is never wrong… and may we never stop asking questions of the absolutes we are given. To stop, though, with the constant deconstruction and questions… this seems to me to be to be settling at a place of answer. We have decided that the answer is to question… to deconstruct. These resolutions tire me… and I am feeling increasingly disconnected with a lack of positive resolution.

It seems to me that we must continue to ask ourselves, “What am I going to do about it? How is this going to effect my life NOW?” Now that I have the question, now that I doubt this, or am skeptical of that… what am I going to do? How am I going to live with this? This is how we live the question. This is how we can continue to question without resolving to stay in the same place. To stay in one place is to live a slow death.

Question can easily become trendy… deconstruction a popular fad. To resolve to always question and never do anything about it disconnects us from reality and relationships. I will hold space for you to question. I will welcome the questions, and no, I will not settle on an easy answer. But know that I am also going to be asking a question of my own: “What are you going to do about this?”