Here I am blogging, writing for online magazines, twittering (natebettger), facebooking, texting, cell phoning, emailing… while in the meantime reading stuff like the following from Richard Rohr (Adam’s Return):

Lifestyle and relatedness is more important than words, or as Francis of Assisi is supposed to have said, “Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.” We may reach out through the media and technology or through our written or spoken message, but we finally transform and initiate each other through who we are. Transformed people tend to transform people. In fact, we tend to be able to lead people only as far as we ourselves have gone.

It is relationships that change us much more than ideas. We cannot really do something until we have seen someone else do it; it cannot yet enter our mind as a possibility,. You do not know what patience is until you have met one truly patient person. You do not know what love is until you have observed how a loving person loves. What power we have for one another! For good an fro for ill. Thus rites of passage were communal rites, led by elders and father figures, and not sermons or a series of questions and answers – very low-risk encounters and forms of education, which the churches have relied upon for centuries.

It’s challenging to me, as I feel like these new media communication technologies can be so helpful for staying connected. Yet at the same time, I know my own tendency to neglect the one (more important) thing in an effort to stay up with the other. This is where my eyes often start aching in and my head starts pounding. I feel as though I need to stop my face to face conversations to answer that text, respond to that email, or check the latest facebook status. My presence is spoiled with someone and what is really going on in their life because I need to talk about the latest widget or external application for my online utilities.

My challenge is to focus first on what’s happening within myself and my present world that I am in. Rather than getting lost with my computer and headphones at the coffee shop, I hope I can see that the person sitting next to me is clearly hurting or the woman behind the counter is stressed out. I will only be able to transform and effect the place I currently find myself in by being present and transforming myself. This must be my highest priority. The media is merely a means.


Get off this crazy rollercoaster

The thing that has been on my mind the last week is our unhealthy tendency to live for the thrills in life. Now in and of themselves, I wouldn’t say that any of these things that we live for are inherently bad… but what is unfortunate is our tendency to think that this is where the real life happens or at least the significant times of life. Let me explain.

Watching rollercoasterI grew up in the church, and I would argue that from what I have experienced in traditional Western Christianity, the “living for thrills” is especially inherent. We can’t wait for the Sunday morning worship… this is where we REALLY get to experience God. The worship, the sermon, the whole experience is geared for us to receive it as our weekly experience of God. This could also pan out in the missions trip or the youth retreat. We get on great big spiritual highs during these times, but in the in-between, we lose it and we feel like we are losing all that we gained at the high time. I would say that we have set ourselves up for the crash by getting so excited at the special times.

In the contemplative life, many may look forward to the retreat experience. Or at work, we look forward to the weekend. Or maybe it’s the next big party, or the chance to go hang out with the girl friends or have some bro-time. Whatever it is, it’s the thrill we live for and all that happens in the in-between is just that… in-between.

When we live for the thrill, when we think it is the most important or most fulfilling time, we set ourselves up to crash in-between the thrills. We are on an emotional life roller coaster. Longing for the ups and suffering through the downs.

Forget it folks! Hold it all loosely… seriously. Life is a consistent journey of ups and downs and we are able as human beings to take them all with humor and grace. When we can walk the middle path of holding it all loosely (it will, after all, be different tomorrow… I guarantee it!), we may not get so excited during the up times, but we surely won’t feel so bad in the down times. Granted, I am not saying that we shouldn’t celebrate the good things or that we won’t feel depressed once in a while… but it will surely be a more consistent upwards path towards celebrating all of life.

Life, after all, is the party. Every day is worth celebrating. We are alive. We are breathing. The sun is rising. So you masculine ones, find your purpose and learn to give it with all your heart to the world. And you feminine ones, revel in the love that you create and grow in the radiance of love that you can share with the world around you.

Fugitive pieces… a film of wounds, healing, and freedom

I saw the movie “Fugitive Pieces” last week (trailer below), and have been sitting with it for quite some time now. So poetic and so heartfelt, it is one that truly does offer some amazing insight as to how we can heal from the things that wound us most. Jakob Beer saw his parents killed right in front of him during Nazi Germany. For his entire life, he suffers from these wounds… seeking to heal them through others and only finding that the healing must come from himself as he is loved by others.

Some of my favorite quotes:

The best thing about wood is not that it burns, but that it floats.

Ben: I don’t understand how you could have gone through what you did and still be so generous… still write the things you do. I used to think that if I understood you, I could understand my father better. But it’s like you’re from different worlds.

Jakob: Well… I don’t think so. Your father told me not long ago that he would still dream about his mother and father… smallest things… the detail of his mothers’s coat… a button… his father’s shoes out in the rain… and that when he woke up in the morning, old as he was, he was still crying.

Child I long for, child I dream. If we conceive you, think of us sometimes, your mother and me, when it rains. And one day when you’ve almost forgotten, I pray you’ll let us return. That through an open window, even in the middle of a city, the sea air of our marriage will find you. I pray that one day in a room that only by night’s snow, you will suddenly know how miraculous is your parent’s love for each other. My son… my daughter… if we conceive you know that once I was lost in the forest. I was so afraid, my blood pounded in my chest and I knew my heart’s strength would soon be exhausted. I saved myself without thinking. I grasped the two syllables closest to me and replaced my heartbeat with your name… Bella… now I see that i must give what i most need.

Why we can’t make changes from the top down

I post this quote, in part as a response to Greg’s questions HERE, and also as another effort in processing the importance of “elder wisdom.”

Richard Rohr, in his article, “The Catch 22 of Male Initiation” (LINK), writes,

It has become rather clear to many of us that both top leaders in the church and leading politicians in society are largely made up of men who wanted to get there.  They pursued roles and positions of power for any multitude of reasons, some of which are even praiseworthy.

At the second level of “management” you find priests, ministers, civil employees, and corporate bureaucrats who have rightfully sought their own career goals, but unless there has been some influx of wisdom, suffering, or mentoring from life itself, their ego structures tend to be pretty well intact and self serving. “My personal upward mobility, but for the sake of the kingdom of God” is the best we can hope for!  They have done even good things, but the underlying motivations of self image, security, status, and self aggrandizement have never been looked at or seriously questioned.  In fact, they assume this is what life is all about.  This creates a major spiritual blindness at both levels of leadership, and of course in all men who have not stumbled, fallen, and been raised up (the central paschal mystery).

What is lost to our society, however, is much needed wisdom and the common good, and often just basic spirituality.  Such patriarchy becomes a self perpetuating machine at an arrested level of consciousness. Uninitiated men appoint, affirm, and promote other men at their same level of moral development, because their own ego standards are all that they have to judge by. In other words, the water never rises, levels of consciousness do not naturally proceed by attraction and promotion from the top, which is what we all hoped for. This is the meaning of eldership, seniority, and mentoring, but it only really works in “wisdom based cultures”, which we now have very few of (Tibet, Bali, and small, hidden pockets, especially in remaining native cultures still found on all continents.)

So wisdom often has to come from the outside, the bottom, or the edge.

So the reason I call it a “Catch 22” is that you have to build your tower of success, even though it is the very thing that can destroy you, and will destroy you if we do not see through it.

We will lose if we do not find our power.  But we will also lose if we find our power and then do not “unfind” it!

So you must let go of the very thing that you have supposedly found.  But the trouble is you are very identified and attached to it by then!  So someone must warn you ahead of time, or it is often too late.  That is initiation.

I love this, and it speaks to my own thoughts on adults in leadership running around as adolescents. I have to be careful here in how I say this, as I myself am only just beginning in my journey of maturity and wisdom. I would say though, from experience, that there are many men of whom I know would have much to offer me and my peers in our “becoming,” but from whom I feel as though I don’t really have much to learn from in regards to what it means to be a well-rounded and wise man in our world. We must call them out.. call them to a higher standard… but I get the sense that many of them, in their “ego worlds” would not hear our requests for more present leadership. This, don’t get me wrong, is not always a fault of their own, but often due to their own father wounds and also to merely being a part of a perpetuating cycle that has lost its emphasis on initiation.

Help us… we are in the pool and drifting…

Imagine with me the river of life. Broken up with rapids, pools, rapids, pools, currents running through all of it… undertows. Imagine where different parts of life fit in the life and movement of the river.

Childhood… adolescence… rapids of much speed and change. Our lives are governed for us… we really do not have much control over how we navigate these waters.

Post high-school perhaps the river widens a bit… but again we generally are herded into a specific current called education. We have our degrees and our curriculums to keep us going through. We see others going on different paths and we learn that there are many paths in this river. Generally though, we don’t know how to receive these other paths openly as we were only shown the current that we grew up with.

Our currents generally keep going down the river into our adult lives. We have our careers, our families, our 401K, our houses and our cars. Once we get on this track, we can easily get carried on this current and continue to spin on down without navigating at all… without seeing anything around us except for the things that are directly effecting us. The rocks, the undertows, the near drowning, the shallow spots where we get a glimpse that there might be something more. But it is tiring, and we are merely reactionary. We don’t navigate and we don’t have the strength to help others navigate.

I would argue that there is a pool that happens between the fast-paced current of higher education and the fast paced current of an unnavigated life. Some of us surf through it without ever knowing we were there… because we listen to where we were told we were supposed to go and never given the gift of navigation. Problem is, many of us enter that current completely disoriented… backwards, upside-down, all turned around. This I would say is the majority of adults in our culture. But then there are others who float there for a while. They are lost in this pool. They don’t know how to navigate LIFE because there was no one to show them.

Sometimes people figure it out for themselves… usually by the time they are 50 or 60 and by this time they are tired, disappointed, or depressed that they didn’t navigate anything up till this point. They don’t have much left to give those who are coming down that river. Some of them get washed up on a rock. Some of them finally figure it out. Some of them just keep on spinning.

What we need is people to help with the navigating… in that pool of our 20s. This is the critical time. People who know how the river can go need to be on the shore guiding, supporting, showing their younger counterparts how to navigate.

It’s the river of life… and it MUST not be our own individualistic journey.