Settling- The Killer of Intimacy

I miss Mongolia. I really do. There are the people, friends and co-workers that we miss. There is the true sense of adventure and being completely and literally in the middle of nowhere. The darkness and seeing so many stars. Being off the beaten path that can happen within a few miles of leaving the capital. The culture, deep and rich, that we miss. Lots of things, which brings me sadness and also joy.

Chinggis Khaan (yes, correctly pronounced “chen-gis” not the Ghengis we all learned in school) was a brutal warrior. He was the one that through his brutality, was the first one to unify all the tribes of Mongolia. But, as much as he was brutal, he was also just as much a genius. Traditionally, the Mongolian people are nomadic. There homes known as Gers (like “Bears” but a “G” instead of a “B”), otherwise known as yurts, are meant to be taken down and set up, relatively quickly. Part of Chinggis’ genius came into play when they would attack other tribes or nations. Instead of simply attacking, defeating and leaving, the entire Mongolian nation would attack, and then set up camp and live for a short bit before moving and attacking another place. They were used to living off the land and being nomadic, so if he attacked a nation that had settled, a nation that was used to their crops, growing seasons, etc., they didn’t know what to do when Chinggis would attack.

His philosophy was that if the Mongol empire ever settled, that would be the end of their nation. Meaning, if they ever settled in, built cities to be defended, became more dependent on single water sources, crops that needed to be tended to instead of the virtually all meat diet they were accustomed to with their nomadic herds, they would then suddenly and constantly be on the defensive, not the offensive. And this would be the downfall. Though this is true, their weakness of being spread too thin is what ultimately led to their defeat.

The last few posts have been about intimacy, living out our own desires apart from what God’s desires are for us, and in this we ended up building temples and church buildings that God never intended. In the history of Chinggis Khaan, we see some truth of what God was intending for us-that we would never settle. That we would never settle on intimacy with Him being shaped and confined to a building. That we would never settle on worshiping in a simple man made place, to a set of rote actions or to man’s language. And yet, as I look at the church as a whole, specifically the American Church, it has become very much that. Settling. So much so that we have taken on more a far more defensive mentality than God had intended. We have become comfortable in our isolation from the rest of the world. We have become quite happy in our superiority complex that we tend to view the rest of the world through. We’ve grown too accustomed to the world as it is, instead of the imaginative Eden we were created in.

We have settled. This is not the intimacy God desires to have with us. This is not the intimacy He created us for. This is not intimacy. This is settling for second…or third best. Let’s move beyond the walls of our churches and engage the world. Let’s tear down the confines of what we think God is like. Let’s rid ourselves of the defensive mentality and become willing to go where and how God leads us. Let’s get back to our wandering ways like in Egypt, ….I think in that we will find the promised land we’ve forgotten and left to dreams.

be blessed today

Time To Tear Down The Walls

Oh those moments of panic. The plane drops 100 feet in altitude, the car spits and sputters while you’re in the middle of nowhere, your cell phone dies when you don’t know where you are, your child gets lost in a crowded subway stop, mall or venue…these are the times it seems that our dependence on God spikes to 200% more than it did in the moment prior. I’ve been there…actually in all of those situations, and I start silently saying prayers of safety, uttering my dependence on God, crying out for help.

Yep. I get it.

In those times when we’re lost, confused, there’s a loss of control, not sure what to do next, feeling powerless because, well, we are. Completely. Totally.

And then, sadly, when things become more clear, more stable, it seems that I have less time and dependence on God. At least in my life, that’s the cycle that I go through, instead of just simply being dependent on Him all the time.

I’ve been talking about dependency on and intimacy with God the past couple of posts (starting with this one here). I posed the question last time, asking, “what if the idea of having a church building wasn’t God’s intention for us.” This isn’t my idea, but something I’ve been exploring. I’m beginning to believe that the Temple of Solomon was actually never what God wanted. God describes in great detail how the tabernacle, the moveable tent that was continually filled with the presence of God, was to be made. In fact, God speaks and Moses records chapters of minute detail. But when it comes to the temple, it appears to be David’s idea. David has this time of feeling bad that he lives in a palace and beacause of this, has a desire to build a temple. God even says to David that He never asked anyone to build a temple. As in Romans 1 where God gives men over to their selfish desires, it appears that God does the same with David. But says, “well, if you’re going to do what you want to do, ok, but you will not build it, your son will” (1 Chronicles 17:4) And even in this, David ignores and makes the plans, funding and even gives the word to build it, not Solomon.

Just like in those times where we have an utter loss of control and are thrust into situations where we make the choice to lean into God, give him total control and become dependent on Him, Israel was the same way those 40 years in the wilderness and as they entered the Promised Land. Wandering, walking, traveling, journeying, that’s what they did non stop. They were guided day in and day out by a pillar of fire and a pillar of clouds. Water came from rocks, bread from heaven, the crumbling of fortified cities with the simple blast of trumpets, and the continual presence of God.

But then things stabilized, the decision to build a temple was made, and that continual dependence on God was replaced with Pharisaical law, rote liturgical practices, and the belief that God is only present in the temple…not anywhere else. This is opposite from what God had intended. His intention was Eden, of course, strolling through the orchard, in between the vines of grapes. And the wilderness was similar, walking together, being together, talking together.

Today, we have grand temples, built for kings. We have buildings that are being well used, but the belief that that is the only place where ministry can happen or the only place where God is present, still remains. We “go to church” dismissing the Truth that we are a part of the church in the world, meant to be the hands and feet of Christ…maybe before we are the mouthpiece of Him. We put great belief in our liturgy-and yes EVERY church has liturgy, not just the Catholic or Orthodox faith traditions-that if we do it this way, we are good for another week.  We have replaced intimacy with structure, dependence on God with our isolation.

Today, I hope we begin to mentally tear down the walls of our temples that are imprisoning us from being the Church to those around us. I  hope we begin to see passed the walls, that we can look at our neighbors through the Church, look at those around us through scripture, and look at Christ beyond our liturgy that may bar us away from intimacy. That is my prayer for the Church and the American church.

be blessed today

 

 

Photo credit: http://www.designmom.com

 

Church-Sanctuary Or Prison?

I went to seminary in one of the suburbs of Portland, Oregon. While I was attending there, I also was involved in a leadership program out of Canada. Both of these were incredibly formative for me. It was a stripping away of the false things I thought were true about God and myself, and replacing them with the Truths of God and Truths He spoke over me. It was the experience of being in a cohort of friends, constantly reading, reflecting and interacting-a working out of my faith. It was the most formative three years of my life. And at the same time, I got stuck for a while. Stuck with holding up Portland as the place I needed to get back to.

I love Portland, I really, really do. The weird, environmentally, artsy, creative, coffee culture heartedness are all part of what I really enjoy. And, I’m thankful we get to live near this beautiful place. Where I got stuck was that I was constantly trying to get back to that intimacy that I had a few years ago. The intimacy I had with God and with others. The consistent rhythm of learning, reading, interacting, conversation, solitude and being in nature. It was great and it was only for a season, at least in that way. I got wrapped up in the belief that the only way for that to happen again is if we lived in the heart of Portland. Kind of a weird nostalgia, but I believed that if I could relive it, it would happen again. And that became a prison. There wasn’t anything wrong with that intimacy I enjoyed for so many years, it’s just that I had built up in mind that that intimacy couldn’t happen outside of it.

The past few posts I’ve been writing about God giving us over to our desires, being dependent on Him, and putting our faith in things other than God. It’s all a part of some thoughts and ideas I’ve been wrestling with.

There are some beautiful buildings in the world. I love architecture because it is so interesting. Castles, palaces, churches, theaters-they are all beautiful. When I think of the Temple of Solomon, I think of how incredible it must have been. Everything was laid out in great detail, and we can read about that in the Bible. Artists have tried to give their interpretations as to what they think it looked like, but I assume they fail in comparison to the real thing.

Yes, these types of building are beautiful. But these aren’t the only buildings that are beautiful. The building in the photograph above is a beautiful architectural building. But it’s not a theater or church. It’s not a castle or a palace. No, it’s a prison in the state of Kentucky here in the USA. Another building that I had the privilege to see in person, was incredible. Brilliantly white, perfectly rounded domes, intricate hand carved marble is what this massive structure looks like as it stands next to the Yamuna River in India. But it is also not a church or castle, palace, not even a prison. No, it’s the Taj Mahal-a tomb a  king made for his dead wife.

What if our churches aren’t really churches at all, but prisons. What if our church buildings aren’t really places of worship, but instead tombs? What if building such structures was never a part of what God intended? How would that change our theology, our ministry, the Great Commission and Commandment God has given us?

…to be continued…

be blessed today

How Do You Measure The Infinite?

Structure. Structure has several meanings. There is the structure in regards to a plan, structure in regards to a rhythm of life, and then of course, structure in regards to the actual building structure. We build portfolio’s, planning for years or even decades to come. This fund and that fund, all in hopes that we can plan out everything in our future and have no worries. We put dependence in that, and therefore, we are worry free. At least that’s our hope. That’s structure in regards to a plan. We have administrative assistants, or worse case scenario, the leather-bound day planner that structures our our meetings, practices, workouts, lunches and birthdays-structure in regards to rhythm. And, we have our business buildings, shopping malls, apartment buildings, homes or even tents-structure in regards to physical place.

These different structures are meant to aide us in our lives. Help when we are too aged to be able to take care of ourselves, help so that we make time for those things we deem important and needed and help in making life easier, warmer, more comfortable. And these structures aren’t bad in and of themselves. They exist to aide us. But far too often, I’ve noticed in my own life, that instead of aiding me, I begin to live for these structures instead of theses structures existing to aide me. My reliance upon God is replaced with reliance on these things. When these things are out of line, I scramble to put them back into place, forgetting God in the midst, only to return to Him when my structure, in it’s various forms, is restored to a “liveable” state.

Reliance on those things replaces relationship with God. I’m assuming, again at least for me, that I put reliance on those things because I can touch them, feel them, see them. They are tangible, measurable, containable, etc. But God is not measurable. And therefore, we cannot fully understand.

If we cannot fully understand and contain, how can we then trust? In the evangelical world in America (I don’t say “West” because the West is not just the United States and Canada, or Western Europe, but Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and other places; incredibly diverse), we have come to a place where we have to “prove” God. We have to give scientific evidence, and argue and debate from a “prove it” offensive. Yet, God never called us to do this. We took this upon ourselves because it was too hard to believe in a God that, like the wind, blows where He wants, when He wants, how He wants. The wind is un-containable, and therefore we cannot master it. Otherwise, no pun intended, it would blow our mind. We put our reliance in our schedules, structures, in our scientific “facts” about God. But what if those were to crumble? A few posts ago, I began writing a series of posts talking about desire and dependence. I’ve been mulling over for sometime now (by time I mean a few years) about our relationship to God and where our desires have taken us from where we were to where we are now. It’s a wrestle in the mud kind of idea. But reliance and us having to build constraints to feel that we can rely on Him, have been apart of the journey we have been on as a Church.

What’s funny, is that we also cannot fully understand each other. I’ve been married to Iris for 15 years, and I still learn more about her each day. I come to a more fuller understanding of her each moment. I know I will never come to a complete understanding of her and I don’t want to. I want to continue to learn about her and learn from her. Because If I ever find myself in a moment when I have come to a complete understanding of her, a moment when I can “measure” or “contain” her, what kind of relationship would there be? What desire, need, hunger or even interest would there be towards her?

God is infinitely more “complex” than we are. There is security in Him, but not in the ways we think. Not in the ways we can measure, contain, encapsulate into a tidy, neat package. I want to serve a God…and love a God like that. That I can explore the height, depth and breadth of His love for me for all eternity…..and never reach the end.

be blessed today

 

 

Independently Dependent

Oh the frustrating and rewarding times of being the parent of a tweener. It doesn’t help that our oldest is six feet tall at only 11 years of age. But he has the desire to be his own person. Well, he has the desire to be an adult part of the time-NOT when it comes to hygiene, cooking his own food, doing his own laundry, etc. I get it. You probably do as well. We were all there once, trying to figure out our way through this world. Trying to figure out which group of friends to spend more time with;  what activities, if any, are we going to be a part of; what are our interests; wanting to tackle things on our own without mom and dad’s help; but still wanting to be in the family, taken care of and catered to. And it’s just awkward.

For me as a day, it to is a struggle. I want to continue to parent how I always have because I don’t want to see him hurt, disappointed, made fun of or friendless. And yet, I also know that I need for him to grow his own wings, fall down and figure out how to get back up, make friends on his own terms and figure out who he is. It’s all part of life. But, he has a desire to become independent, just like I was starting to at his age.

Last week I started a several post series. I wrote about how we have the freedom to chose what we want to do. And, at times, God gives us over to those desires. But at a cost. The cost of relationship. And here, we can see that break happen in our relationship.

Independence helps build our self confidence, self esteem, helps us to grow thicker skin and mature. But we have a very mixed definition of independence, especially here in America. It seems to me that we have equated independence with isolation. We’ve built walls around us (metaphorically) that keep people from getting too close so that we won’t get hurt again. And we call that independence. But it’s not. It’s isolationism. And it’s not what God had ever intended.

God desires dependence. Sure, He has created us each uniquely, yet in His image. He empowers us with His Spirit to use the gifts He’s given us for His glory. But He doesn’t want us to go it alone, and definitely doesn’t want us to isolate ourselves. He is the God of Adam and Eve, woman and man, the Body of Christ, the Church. He desires us to be dependent on each other. And at the center of that dependence, is God. He desires that we are dependent on Him.

Being confident in ourselves is not the opposite of dependence on Christ. Being confident in ourselves is having confidence in how God made us, how God has wired us and that God can work through us. We can be self confident and God dependent in the same moment. And we can also be independent of the way of the world and the way the world works. None of these equal isolation, yet we so quickly go there.  My hope and prayer is that we become more dependent on Him each day, more confident in who we are in Him, more independent of the things that hold us to this world and less isolated from everyone.

be blessed today

 

The Break

I had a pretty heated discussion a while back with a friend. I had spoke with them in great detail about some private things, and had assumed it wouldn’t be a big deal for them to hear it. After hearing it, they began to push that I give them permission to share this with with other people. I calmly replied back that I would appreciate it if they didn’t say anything. And then, then came more pressing. Pressing and pressing, and me in shock that my friend would have pushed this hard to share something so private. My trying to keep calm and trying to wrap my head around why they were pushing so hard, I finally said firmly yet sorrowfully, “Listen, I cannot control you. If you want to share these details, it’s your choice. But I have asked you repeatedly not to and would hope that you would honor that request.”

That was the end of the conversation. We said our goodbyes, and I got in my car and just sat there, dumbfounded. The damage had already been done. No, not the damage of sharing private information, they had decided to not do that. No, the damage was the break in our once close relationship. That encounter caused me to hold them at arms length, and the intimacy we once shared, was no longer present. Eventually we made amends, but it took awhile for that to happen as I was so incredibly hurt.

God allows us the desires of our hearts. Either those desires are in alignment with His, or they’re not and He allows us to pursue them anyhow. He won’t control, instead He gives us the freedom to choose. But, it comes with a cost. It comes with the price of a broken relationship with the Creator, the Builder.

That is exactly what happened with Adam and Eve. He allowed it, sure. But it cost them something we have been trying to get back to as a human race ever since. And we’ve tried to fill it with everything we can, but not with God.

The next few posts, I’ll be sharing something I’ve been wrestling with and have not come to an end conclusion. But it does have some pretty significant impacts on how I view God. Not my original thoughts, but ones I think that are worth wrestling in the mud with.

But for today, it is simply the acknowledgement of a gracious loving God, who even when we are pursuing something that will hurt our relationship with Him, He still allows us to simply so we are the ones who choose Him for who He is. Romans 1 is a very clear picture of that. And, because He is just that gracious, kind, compassionate and loving, when we get into the pit of our pain from those choices, He is still there willing to carry us on His broad shoulders, with gentle hands and strong feet on solid ground. What a blessing that truly is. I hope we all can reflect on that picture as we go through the worries of today and try to save off the worries of tomorrow.

be blessed today

 

When We Become Yesterday’s News…

We all went on a hike as a family a few days ago. On the top of a mountain, walking the trail around, we had gorgeous views and bright, beautiful sunshine. The pines and Eastern Washington weather made for a good little hike. Though the top of the mountain was fairly flat, the edge of the trail was edged with, well, nothing. It was a cliff. Not a tall one, but at least a 40 feet drop, but far enough to cause a parent to worry. I am all for my kids being curious, getting close to the edge to get a bit of that rush feeling, but also within arms reach so I can keep a hand close to them in case they get a little too close.

So, I let them entertain their curiosity, me keeping close and keeping a close eye on what they were doing. Why? So they wouldn’t fall. Why wouldn’t I just let them fall? That seems like an odd question, right? I think anyone reading this would understand why I was keeping such a close watch on my kids, why I wouldn’t them to fall, right? It’s because we all understand that I love my kids, I cherish my kids, I want to protect my kids. I value my kids. They are valuable to me.

And there it is.

Last time I wrote about being important. How being important was something external. That we are constantly trying to get accolades or approval from other people. Being important is something you must achieve and constantly strive to keep up. But that can, and usually does, imprison people and hold them down because there is the expectation that either you keep up with it, or you fall to the side and fall out of importance. People can lose importance. We can lose our status. One definition I read said that important is “having relevant value.” And if you stop being relevant?

Being valuable is different. Yes, things can lose their monetary value. But we can never become less valuable to God. We aren’t a thing that needs to continue to be relevant in order for God to pay attention to us or to continue in relationship. No, we are something much greater-we are valuable. Valuable, by the same dictionary, “is having great value.” Even more than gold, or platinum. We are called children, sons, daughters, made a little lower than the angels as it says in Hebrews 2. Being valuable is all in the eye of the beholder. And since our Beholder is God, we don’t ever lose value.  Since we are at the apple of His eye, I’d say we are in a place of the deepest of relationships.

No ladders to be climbed to Him. No need for constant applause and cheap token awards. The Creator, the Builder values us above all other creation. I hope this finds you where you need to hear it today. I know I needed to.

be blessed today