Sunday, October 29, 2006

Breathing & Becoming

Last evening Cathy & I went to a birthday party. At the party, they had a few bottles of wonderful red wine available. It was being poured from a decanter. A little while into the party, one of the guests remarked that she had poured herself a 2nd glass, this time from the bottle -- and was amazed at the difference the decanter made. I asked her, half-jokingly, if she'd poured it out and replaced it with some from the decanter. She said "No, I'll just give it some more time in the glass."

I didn't think too much about it, but when I awoke this morning at 2:30 or so, I was struck that this word-picture is a very apt analogy for a friend of mine, but also for how I would like to be.

In a January '06 post, I mentioned personal metaphors, and how I see myself as a Translator. In a May '06 post, I wrote about the process of developing a personal mission statement, and mentioned my desire to help people feel more loved, and less burdened. These two posts came back to me as I lay awake at 2:30 this morning, pondering the image of a decanter. In addition to being a Translator, and one who helps people feel loved, perhaps another metaphor for my life -- one I would like to fulfill, but have a long way to go in -- is as a Decanter. I want to be someone who, when people spend time with me, they relax and breathe and become more fully who they are; who they're intended to be.

This reminded me of yet another blog post (am I the only one whose mind is this active at 2:30 in the morning?). In his humorously titled post cob-o-lob-o-dob-o, my friend Brennan paid me compliment which (I'd like to hope) is a bit prophetic. He said:
It seems that some people can make other people into more of themselves, this is a rare quality indeed. When I am around COB I feel more myself than I was before. And that is good.
That's someone I would like to be more and more. As I was pondering this, it also struck me: this word-picture of a decanter applies to the "waiting" season of life I'm in right now. Any good soup (or good beer!) must go through the process called "conditioning" where it sits in a pot (or a carboy!) and, well, that's it.

It just...sits there. The process seems pretty boring and makes me think "Nothing is happening! Why can't I eat the soup yet? Why can't I drink the beer yet?" I could, I suppose, but it wouldn't taste nearly as good as if I waited for it to finish conditioning. It seems like nothing is happening in the conditioning process but, in reality, flavors are blending and maturing. Fragrances and nuances are being released. This takes time.

This seems to be the place God has me at the moment. In order to become fully me, to really become that Decanter, I need to spend more time in His decanter. It is in His presence I can truly relax and breathe and become more fully who I am; who I'm intended to be. And it is comforting to know that, should I get impatient and try to rush things, He does not toss me aside.

He just lets me spend more time in the glass.

Breathing and becoming.

~ Keith

(Tom Petty may have been talking about a woman instead of God, but I think he had it right)

Friday, October 27, 2006

Congratulations from DMV?

I went to the DMV yesterday.

I arrived at 4:00 pm and I waited in line less than 10 minutes.

Each of the four employees I encountered was courteous and helpful.

I paid $26, signed my name, gave my thumbprint, and had a picture taken.

I took the written exam for my motorcycle license.

I passed!

The last DMV employee with whom I interacted actually said (with sincerity!):
Congratulations! You are now legally licensed to drive
both autos and motorcycles in the state of California!

~ Keith

As a side note on DMV courtesy -- check out the Alaska DMV webcams which let you know how long wait times are by viewing how crowded each office is at any given time!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Of Sneetches & Snail Shells

Now the Star-bellied Sneetches
Had bellies with stars.

The Plain-bellied Sneetches
Had none upon thars.

The stars weren't so big;
They were really quite small.

You would think such a thing
Wouldn't matter at all.

But because they had stars,
All the Star-bellied Sneetches

Would brag, "We're the best kind of
Sneetch on the beaches."

~ from The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss

(steps up on soapbox...)

I'm saddened by how many Jesus followers in 'emerging' churches rale against the 'traditional' church as irrelevant and dead.

And I'm saddened by the number of Jesus followers there are in the 'traditional' churches who turn up their nose at the 'emerging' church as nothing more than syncretism.

(steps down from soapbox...)

I'm reading Derek Morphew's book Breakthrough: Discovering the Kingdom and appreciate an analogy he uses on page 151. (partly because it reminded me of some thoughts I have re: answering the question what is the church?)
Morphew says:

(begin include...)

The church is a structure of human relationships: brothers and sisters, shepherds and sheep, teachers and pupils, servants, exhorters, leaders and followers. This structure is created wherever the kingdom [of God] breaks into society. The life of the kingdom brings the church into being; the resulting network of human relationships must seek to contain, express, and transmit the presence of the kingdom. However, sometimes this structure impedes and even resists the power of the kingdom.

The kingdom is illustrated by the analogy of a snail and its shell. The secretions of the snail create the shell which the snail inhabits. Many shells lie empty and lifeless. As church history has progressed, God has given successive interventions of his kingdom. Each time, a shell has been created appropriate to the life of the church. But church history is strewn with empty shells where the structure remains but the life has disappeared. The kingdom perspective should cure us of a preoccupation with shells. Different outpourings of God's presence take on various modes of expression. Our eye should be fixed on the event of the kingdom. Where is God intervening? Where are his mighty deeds being performed? Where can we see the power of the age to come? Our interest in the shells should be functional. The shell is holy while the snail is there. The shape of the shell is not holy and neither is the shell once the snail has disappeared.

(end include...)

As I alluded to whilst on my soapbox, there are some today in 'emerging' churches who say "The Traditional Church (just about anything with any structure!) is just a dead empty snail shell. The only thing with any life in it is this new and elite way of doing/being church!"

And there are some today in 'traditional' churches who say "This new emerging thing is just an empty shell of syncretism & cultural conformity. There is no life there because it isn't church like we've always done it."

Both are wrong!

I think there is tremendous life in many churches who meet on Sunday mornings and have paid staff and pay mortgages, etc. (my church, Mid-Pen Vineyard chief among them!). I also think there is tremendous life to be had in a Simple Church / House Church context. The key is: the color of the shell has no meaning. It is the life of the snail inside the shell that matters.

One group says "Well, we have the real church because our shell is blue! Everyone knows green shells are old and dead!"

The other group says "No, WE have the real church because their shell is blue! Sheesh! Everyone knows green shells are the only ones that God approves of! The very idea of God living in a blue shell? PREPOSTEROUS!!!"

The truth is both groups have pretty shells and God loves them both. And either shell color could be empty -- just being blue or green doesn't make the shell full of life!

I really appreciate being a part of The Vineyard. All I've heard from Vineyard folks in various settings has been very supportive of both 'traditional' and 'emerging' models of church. The focus seems to be not so much on the color of the shell -- instead the focus is on The One who made and is still holding the shell.
The history of the church has been: Disagree. Divide. Repeat. I think a time is coming (and is now here!) when the church will disagree (on the non-essentials) and stay together (because of the essentials). If we made a list of things that make Vineyard what it is, I don't think the new expressions would lack any of those things. The differences would be cosmetic. Drastic maybe, but really just cosmetic.

In the 60s & 70s, the mainline Protestant denominations looked at Vineyard (& others) allowing hippies in church with bare feet, and using drums and guitars in church, and said:
"You want to do that and still call that church?
You are not part of us -- what are you anyway?"
Then in the 80s & 90s, those same mainline denominations came to accept Vineyard and now say:
"You still are not really part of us...
...but we accept you as
an expression of The Bride of Christ"
The picture I have in my head of what some will do in the 00s and 10s is fit into a new category where Vineyard looks at them and says:
"You are us, and we accept you
as an expression of The Bride"
-- but also asks/says:
"You want to do that and still call that church?
And still call that Vineyard?
Cool! That's OK with us!"
~ Keith

(please note for clarification: I don't think Vineyard, in our acceptance of various expressions, is better than anyone else. I'm sure there are others in the kingdom who also are open and supportive of various expressions of church. I wouldn't want anyone to think I was saying Vineyard has a star on its belly and everyone else has no star thar.)

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Restoration of Jesus

I'm almost finished reading Gary Best's book entitled: Naturally Supernatural: Joining God in His Work. It is an excellent read; reminding me what kind of life I am called to as I follow Jesus: partnership with Him.

Like John Wimber liked to say: "everyone gets to play". Gary's book has been a wonderful and refreshing reminder that this includes me!

This fits well within the context of what I have been hearing and seeing lately re: the Kingdom of God (if the idea of an Enacted Inaugural Eschatology excites you, then check out the three in-depth lectures available here in both mp3 and PowerPoint).

To whet your appetite and let you in on what is exciting me, here are some excerpts from Gary's book (ch 5: Bringing the Kingdom to People): (OK, yes, this is a long post -- but it is well worth the read, as is the entire book, of which this really is just a very small taste)

(begin include...)

Through his life and his death, Jesus countered and conquered each of Satan's strategies that had created humanity's bondage:
  1. Satan came with doubt and deception; Jesus invariably spoke the truth.
  2. Satan's goal was always separation from God through these lies; like a shepherd, Jesus' goal was to find the lost sheep and bring them home.
  3. Satan's ultimate intention was disintegration and destruction; Jesus came to bring freedom.
As Jesus' disciples, charged with continuing his ministry today, we are well advised to focus on the strategies he modeled for us...we are to walk in truth and use God's truth as a powerful spiritual laser, penetrating dungeons of deception. We are to embrace the reconciling spirit of Jesus and resist the passivity of our individualistic culture by actively reaching across dividing barriers to the marginalized. Confident in the authority that Jesus has given us to heal the sick, free the prisoners and release the oppressed, we can speak with certainty to spiritual strongholds just as Moses did to Pharaoh: "This is what the LORD, the God of Israel says: 'Let my people go...'"(Exodus 5:1).

Let's look at each of these in turn.

Jesus and Truth
And you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.
(John 8:32)
First, in contrast to the deceiver, Jesus walked in absolute integrity in his relationships with others. He always spoke truth and never deceived or manipulated. He said: "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (John 16:6). Drawing a contrast between himself and Satan, the "father of lies" (John 8:44). He never told people what they wanted to hear, he told them what they needed to hear -- how to turn and be freed from their bondage and oppression. Yet his truthfulness was always clothed in unconditional love and acceptance; it was an invitation to life and hope, not simply harsh condemnation.

The Power of Truth

If we are to bring the Good News of the kingdom to the oppressed effectively, we must understand the power of the truth, base our lives and thinking on it, and be able to speak it with authority. This means cultivating an ever-deepening relationship with Jesus, who is truth embodied. It also means faithfully studying and meditating on the Scriptures, the soil of truth out of which the Holy Spirit speaks and guides (2 Timothy 3:16). With this foundation established in us, we can anticipate gifts of both wisdom and revelation from the Spirit to assist us in penetrating spiritual strongholds of deception that keep people in bondage.

Usually when people speak of "telling the truth", it is a negative experience, reminding others of what isn't and who they are not. It is usually associated with failure and rejection. Our ministry of truth is very different: It is centered on who we can be when we walk into the freedom of dependence on and restored relationship with God.

Jesus and Reconciliation

Second, whereas Satan's central intention has always been to build walls of separation (first between people and God, then between people and finally, even within their own personality and sense of identity), Jesus came to tear these walls down. "He has broken down the wall of hostility that used to separate us," is the way Paul describes it in Ephesians 2:14. While Satan's ultimate goal is hell or "outer darkness" (billions of people absolutely isolated and alone), Jesus goal is the fully revealed kingdom of God (multitudes completely united in an eternal community of love).

On our own, we could not and would not find our way back to the garden, the place of restored relationship with our Maker. God either had to reach out to us or he would have to abandon us -- there was no other way.

Ambassadors of Reconciliation

God had truly captured [Saul's] heart. His central motivation was now to respond to this love that had come to him so unexpectedly. He said: "Whatever we do, it is because Christ's love controls us" (2 Corinthians 5:14). From this point on...his consuming passion was to bring others to this same great mercy that had reconciled him.

And, Paul would say, this is precisely what God wants to bring about in all of us who have been similarly redeemed from deception and separation. God has commissioned and authorized us to act as his ambassadors of reconciliation, extending the offer of God's free gift of grace through Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:18-21). When the desires of God's heart and gratitude for his kindness take root in us, this is a privilege, not some obligatory "project" for God.

We can, with all the authority of heaven, pronounce to people that God's intention is no longer to count their sins against them (total amnesty).

Jesus and Freedom

Finally, Jesus directly confronted the spiritual, physical, and emotional strongholds of Satan's rule in the lives of people.

Jesus recognized that much of the brokenness and "disease" of people is a natural consequence of a fallen world, separated from the life of God. Jesus came to reverse those consequences -- through him the kingdom and rule of God had come near with multifaceted salvation. It is not surprising that much of his ministry was directed to overturning those situations by healing the sick, restoring relationships, and supplying miraculous provision. Jesus knew that often Satan and his forces were directly oppressing and binding the lives of these people.

Freedom to the Captives

When anyone hears the Good News of the kingdom and turns to it in repentance, the rule of God comes to their aid. That is, and always has been, bad news for God's enemy. Jesus made it clear to those who misunderstood his encounters with demonic strongholds: These were clear signs that God's kingdom was present in him (Luke 11:20-22). Since we are called to this same ministry, we can expect the same kind of authorization. Jesus has commissioned us to continue his mission. We must remember that our ultimate goal is not simply to rescue people out of one kingdom. It is also to bring them successfully into the next.

(end include...)

All this, (within the context of the rest of the book, my experience following Jesus, and my place within the Vineyard tribe), strikes me as amazingly accessible; do-able!

I get to play! YEA!

~ Keith

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Sand & Stone

You may have heard this one before.

I hadn't.

I liked it enough to share with you here:

...once upon a time two friends were walking through the desert. At one point on the journey, they had an argument, and one friend slapped the other one in the face. The one who got slapped was hurt, but without saying anything, wrote in the sand:
Today my friend slapped me in the face.
They kept on walking, until they found an oasis, where they decided to get get in the water and cool off. The one who had been slapped got stuck in the mire and started drowning, but the other one came to the rescue. After recovering from the near drowning, the one who had been saved wrote on a stone:
Today my friend saved my life.
The friend, who had slapped and saved, asked, "After I hurt you, you wrote in the sand. Now, after I saved you, you write on a stone. Why?"

The other friend replied: "When someone hurts us, we should write it down in sand, where the winds of forgiveness can erase it, but when someone does something good for us, we must engrave it in stone, so no wind can ever erase it."

~ Author Unknown

Thursday, October 19, 2006

blame orgus

Owl jamms

Owl rouge

Cadmium on chronicitron

chrome orange

Monday, October 16, 2006

No More Blogging in My Underwear

These days I'm blogging less than I used to, and the content and character of my blog posts have changed too.

When I first started blogging, I loved it because it was very cathartic. I could say what was really on my heart much like a journal or diary, but since it was public, this sort of upped the ante and made me feel I was being more transparent or vulnerable than I otherwise would be -- so I felt more honest; more forthcoming. That was a good thing for a time, but I also crossed some boundaries.

I still journal quite a bit, but keep it to myself these days. I'm finding more and more satisfaction with that, and also with sharing the insights God is showing me only to a few trusted friends, rather than the whole world at large.

It has been a process of boundary exploration for me. On the one hand I want to break free of my tendency to isolate myself, yet I also have found myself wrestling with questions re: how much self-disclosure is too much. Here is the best word-picture I can think of to describe what I mean:
If I am at home alone, or with my wife, and want to sit around in my underwear, I can do that with impunity.

If company is coming over, it is best (for all concerned!) if I get some clothes on.

If the company is close friends who're staying overnight then maybe as the evening wears on I'll go put on my pajamas and slippers and hang out like that.

But I wouldn't do that with just anybody, and if I always sat around in my underwear no matter who came over, that would be wrong on many levels.

Thinking back and re-reading my early blog posts, I now realize I (inappropriately) spent a lot of time in just my underwear. There was a certain freedom in that, but as I've thought through this I've come to see how staying fully dressed is a much better idea.

I know my blog is not read by tons of people, and that most of the people who read this stuff know me -- some know me very well. But electronic communications like blogs and eMail are rife with miscommunication since there are so many aspects missing: non-verbal cues like facial expression, tone of voice, and body language.

And the kicker for me is this -- even if someone completely understands what they are reading, I have to ask myself why I am posting it. In other words, like other aspects of life, my blog posts and other forms of self-disclosure fall under the biblical principle of "just because I can doesn't mean I should".

If I have something meaningful to say, and I want someone to know about it, I've found it is much better for myself and anyone else if I do that face to face. It doesn't mean that communication will be easy or fun. In fact, doing it "the hard way" is better in the long run than just blogging about it and hoping someone will read it and then know who I really am.

So blogging has a place in my life, but it is not a place for soul-baring. It is still a place for personal reflection, and a window into my life, head, and heart...but as you look through that window I'll be fully dressed. =O)

~ Keith

for more on the perils of blogging and the value of either not blogging at all, or being more selective in what/when one chooses to blog, there are some great links here at Conrad Gempf's blog.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Three Months Ago

Three months ago I ate some Chinese food and had a very interesting and specific fortune. I blogged about it here.

In case you were wondering, not a whole lot happened. It was a good day, and all. I'm still working through life trying to figure out what it means to follow Jesus and allow Him to change me to be more like He intended me to be in the first place.

But nothing spectacular happened today, just so you know.

~ Keith

Monday, October 09, 2006

I did it!

I passed the Northern California Motorcycle Safety Training program!

Tuesday 3rd October I spent from 6pm - 10pm in a classroom

Saturday 7th & Sunday 8th October I spent 7am - 12noon riding one of these!

Now all I need to do is go take the written exam and I'll be able to get my Motorcycle license.

Then I need a helmet and a jacket and a pair of gloves and maybe a pair of riding pants and maybe a pair of motorcycle boots, and maybe some rain gear...and I guess I also need a motorcycle!

~ Keith

Friday, October 06, 2006

Lentil Stew and Tears at Work

Last Sunday I spent time worshipping at an Episcopal church with my friends m.cellophane and evolving woman. It was neat and I felt God's presence, and my heart was moved toward a deeper faith in, and devotion to, Jesus.

On Tuesday evolving woman wrote about the journey she has been on. In that post she asks some deep, thought-provoking questions. I have no answers, and am asking some similar questions myself.

Then today I read an article on GinkWorld about lentil stew.

I want to be that kind of neighbor.

~ Keith