Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Masochistic Life

"Every culture that exists is in danger of having a horrible addiction to itself." - Don McLaughlin 
"The whole world becomes a slave to its own activity, ... if you want to be truly free, perform all actions as worship." -- Bhagavad Gita
"Life at the edge of death - the greatest life there is." - Jim Spivey
I eat peanut butter and cheese sandwiches sometimes. Weird, most people tell me, but these are two of my favorite treats and combining them works for me. I have no expectation (or need) for it to work for others.
That sort of comes to mind when I look at the above three quotes. They don't appear to perfectly mix, but it's working for me today. Let me explain...
When I pull back and look at my beloved life's work, it seems that I have made it my business to be a "culture-changer". And I get to work with lots and lots of cultures. The easiest one to point to in my life is the church culture I work in the midst of. Put me at any church in the world and I will find myself looking at it, listening to it, immersing myself in it...and then changing it. And I work to change it based on the distance that I perceive between it and the person of Jesus Christ. 
I do the same thing with individuals (including, at the top of the list, myself). Put me in any relationship with any person in the world and I will find myself looking at them, listening to them, immersing myself in their life story...and then changing their personal little culture. I guess there is always a danger that I could come across judgmental, unapproving, unaccepting, and arrogant...but that is not how I feel (with little flair ups here and there when my ego feels threatened)...and for the most part I'm unafraid of that as long as I am confident that I am in love with the other person, and out unabashedly for their good, and willing to do anything to help them have it.
I do the same thing in any culture I choose to be involved in...and the challenge of my life is to constantly do it in my own little family. It is my hardest work, my greatest challenge, my training ground, my litmus test, and the most intense privilege and responsibility that I will have (I'm an intensity junkie, so I mean that positively). I am committed to doing this work in and with every day of my life. I'm like Babe Ruth in this area, striking out way more than I hit home runs, with very few accidental base hits in between because of my "all or nothing" attitude. And that is part of my own personal culture that I have been trying to change for years now...with some headway ("base hits"), thanks to the Power that lives within me and my surrender to it.
Be it my own personal culture, someone else's own personal culture, my church family's culture, my personal family's culture, or any other culture in the world...I love changing it and find it impossible for me to do anything else, even when I try. And, yes, all of this has everything to do with the first quote...I'm addicted to the culture of getting cultures unaddicted to themselves (And you thought peanut butter and cheese sandwiches was weird!).
I have found healing for culture's addiction to itself in the truth found in the second quote...performing all actions as worship.
Once someone learns how to really and practically start implanting, "I will do ___________ as an act of worship to God" into their life, their life's culture changes instantly, and in the most healthy, freedom producing way.
Which leads to the last quote...cultures change only by dying, being replaced with new ones. So, to avoid addiction, and caring more for keeping things "how they are" and always be running towards the perfect way of life, which is Christ's way of life, I must always live life at the edge of death. And any family, church, society, political system, or planet that wants to produce life must also constantly and willingly live life at the edge of death if it wants to produce life to the full.
Funny that it is around death that I find my work as a "culture changer" most easily done. I performed a funeral last week, once again intentionally connecting myself to the pain that this family was experiencing. And once there, I did the only thing that I seem to know how to do...I immersed myself in their culture, listened to it, watched it...and then worked to change it. Interesting to me is the life that physical death seems to invite is all those touched by it. Physical death forcibly changes cultures... and since death (of all different kinds) is inevitable, it is most convenient for us that it is also the best possible means to life.
And so I hope you volunteer for it every day (rather than waiting for it to forcibly change you)...looking anxiously for what part of your life's "culture" that you are addicted to, the part that needs to die that it can be replaced with a newer, truer, better one.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Human on Human, both on Christ

"Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days." -- The apostle Paul
Admittedly, my imagination shoots to the clouds a little bit when I think about this meeting between 2 powerful guys that I really respect and have allowed to coach and mentor me in how I think and live. I really wish I could've been there.
...when Peter asked Paul to recount how his friend Jesus showed up on the Damascus road, and Peter excitedly answers with how Jesus showed up to him each time after Jesus' death, too.
...when Paul, with wide eyes, asked Peter all about his 3 years of walking with Jesus in the flesh.
...when Peter asked Paul what it was like to have such a dramatic shift in life, from killing disciples to making them.
...when Paul asked Peter what it was like to leave his fishing business and family to follow this controversial Rabbi.
What a moment of iron sharpening iron!
I wonder which of the 15 days it was that they had moments of confession to each other: Paul speaking with great anguish about his prideful supervision of faithful Stephen's stoning, or his angry march towards Damascus with intentions of violence against precious souls. And Peter matching it with his own tears and weeping as he recounts his 3 time refusal to acknowledge that he even knew Jesus in the midst of his friend;s darkest hours, or the time he lacked understanding so much that his Lord looked at him and saw Satan's hand at work through him. I wonder how long they cried together.
And I wonder when the crying stopped and they submitted once again to the redeeming and restoring work of Jesus in their life! Paul, with amazement, listening to Peter's story of "going back to work" fishing, and Jesus showing up on the beach to remind him of his call, and his belief in him! And Peter listening as Paul tells of all his guided moves by the Spirit of Jesus since those life-altering, life-giving friendships God sent to him through Ananias and the disciples in Damascus! I bet they were friends of Peters. "What a small world it is!" they might have said to each other.
The friendship and partnership didn't end there. 14 years later Paul went to Peter and other leaders of the Messiah Movement once again, moved by God to do so, letting them know of his call to take Christ's way of life to non-Jews. It stands out in my head that their partnership in Christ and their friendship in the Way was strong enough and important enough for Paul to confront Peter about Peter's insecurity in standing strong in the purity of Christ's call in the face of the Jews. Iron sharpening iron, indeed.
Sharing, confessing, celebrating, confronting, learning, teaching, growing, partnering...this is what my imagination says happened that 15 days.
And this is what I have been blessed to be a part of with the band of disciples that I run with here in Amarillo, TX. It is a fantastic group, and I am still amazed after 2 years of being here. They share with me, confess to me, celebrate me, confront me, learn from me, teach me, grow with me, and partner with me.
There is an element of attaching to each others pain that goes along with this kind of Christ-conforming, disciple-making friendship that makes life raw and real, transformation attainable and possible (as opposed to only theoretical and conceptual). I am immersed in this work on every side, and it is so real and practical that the language surrounding the idea of "new creation" that I find in the Bible jumps to life as I read about God planned for this stuff to happen all along.
It's not always romantic and rosy, mind you. Nor is it always what we might call successful and productive. But when I'm faithful to the work of Christ, living out and witnessing His death, resurrection, and ascension story over and over is paradoxically always romantic and rosy, successful and productive.
And it is the life you and I were born to live.