life in the suture zone...

In the earthquake faults between tectonic plates, the suture zone is the in between place where they meet. I find in that a metaphor for the times in which we live... and invite your conversation in the suture zone.

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Location: Bakersfield, CA, United States

... a struggling, but mostly joyful, apprentice of Jesus.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

believing in a good way....

Back in January I went to a leadership session where the speaker contrasted belief in the post-modern age in which we find ourselves with belief in the now-passing modern age of the last 500 years. I haven't done enough research to know if he actually has spoken on this at his own congregation or written this list on his blog. And since he is employed as a preaching minister for a church, I'm not going to mention his name lest someone with nefarious purposes does a name search on him in order to convict him of some supposed heresy. Several of you may have heard him at a conference some of us attend in Nashville or in Fresno and he may have mentioned the points there. If so, you know who I'm talking about. If not, don't worry about it. If you need to write someone up, write me up. Besides, I was writing fast and I certainly don't want to misrepresent him. If I lost you somewhere in this paragraph, just ignore it.

These are not my points, though I wish I had come up with them. Admittedly, I massaged them a little since one point had just one word written in my notes. I offer them as a point of departure for discussion with the thought that nearly everyone believes in something.

Believing in a good way...

-- allows you to remain open to things outside of your belief system and, most importantly, open to new ways of seeing things within your belief system

-- exhibits a curiosity about life and its mysteries

-- allows no question to be "off limits", no matter how it challenges my belief system

-- exhibits a humility and teachableness even though you remain grounded in your own belief structure

-- is comfortable with uncertainty (I wrote "certainty" in my notes, but I'm sure in writing fast it was supposed to be "uncertainty" and I just missed it; so I have changed it)

-- produces good "fruit", by which I think he means it turns you into something other than the human equivalent of a junkyard dog. One more editorial note in this regard, and this sounds quite judgmental. But I have noticed a greater proclivity to junkyard dogness in churches than just about anywhere else. It makes you go hmmmmmm.

Many of the above points center around not allowing ourselves to be set in concrete in regard to our beliefs and not placing so much weight on systematic intellectual constructs rather than how we practice life. While I have met some people who are convinced they have it all figured out, I've never really met anyone who has, myself included. There is profound mystery in the world. Of that I am sure. How's that for certainty? ;-)

One more thing.... It doesn't really matter whether you are religious or irreligious in this regard. To believe you have it all figured out is to put your complete faith not in the Bible or Koran or Bhagavad Gita or Torah or Yoga or Science or whatever. It is instead to place your faith totally in yourself and your own intellectual abilities to conquer such mysteries. I'm not advising that we all abandon critical thought. But, while I don't know about you, my three-pound box of brains is too small to figure all of that stuff out. This is one of the reasons I have adopted a more contemplative, experiential approach to and practice of life. Besides, at the outside, in 120 years what you thought about this that or whatever won't matter. Unless you are one of the "big name" philosophers, your thoughts will have dissipated into the ether of the universe (unless quantum physics discovers otherwise). Your three-pound box of brains will be decayed and gone.

How you lived? Now that's another story.

But that's just me.

What do you think? ;-)

Grace and peace,


P.S. My wife is doing better all the time. I am quite thankful for your thoughts and prayers.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Well.... It's like this. (Some of you already know.)

Dorothy's ears were assaulted by some very loud sounds this past November/December that resulted in a condition called tinnitus (ringing in the ears), followed by a hypersensitivity to sound (which most doctors don't recognize as a legitimate condition, but I can assure you it does exist!).

Many of you know that my wife is a lifelong musician who makes her living by playing the piano as an accompanist and by teaching private and group piano lessons. Though she has continued teaching, she hasn't been to work as an accompanist since before Christmas. This has put a real damper on my being able to post on my blog and on

So, that's why there has been nothing here since before Christmas.

She is improving, so that's good. I'm hoping to post occasionally now and then.

In the meantime, just one note of interest...

In January of 2006 I posted several times regarding my visit to Mt. Calvary Monastery and Retreat Center in Santa Barbara. One of my posts, that dealt with the Grand Silence that begins after Compline and lasts all night until breakfast (or after breakfast one day), has been picked up and linked to in a Wikipedia article on Compline. You can go here to find it. It is the link entitled "Great Silence" in the second paragraph.

One small (and probably fleeting) moment in the sun.....

Grace and peace,


Monday, December 25, 2006

a blessed Christmas....

May the blessings of the God who came to earth be yours today and through the coming year. Wherever you are on your journey, may your steps take you on a path toward peace, health and good purpose.

Grace and peace,


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

"not by prose alone"....

I ran across this snippet this morning in a book called Alternative Worship by two guys in the UK who are leaders of the emergent church there. The title of the chapter (the book is really a resource of worship rituals, liturgies, readings, stations, etc) is the title of this post: Not by Prose Alone. And it adds, I think, to the conversation that Marshall and I have been having regarding poetry and worship. (You might want to read our as yet incomplete discussion by referring to the comments to the post immediately preceding this one.)

Theology is sometimes called "Godtalk." Worship embodies styles and habits of talking about and to God. The nature of this speech or the tone of language is vitally important. Some critics of church tradition argue that our capacity for speech has been vastly reduced in the modern era. The poet Les Murray contrasts the terms "narrowspeak" and "wholespeak" to illustrate his thinking on ways of talking about God. He suggests that in recent times (modernity) Godtalk has been severely reduced to narrowspeak, the voice of reason--rational and didactic ways of talking, the discourse of prose. Narrowspeak has to "make sense," be explainable, and be easily understood by everyone. It is communication reduced to just words, words, and more words.

Wholespeak in contrast is a poetic discourse, mystical speech, a language which is "truly dreamed." This is very similar to Walter Brueggemann's appeal to the church to rediscover poetry rather than living by prose alone. Both Murray and Brueggemann argue that the church needs to rediscover wholespeak or poetry, rather than feeling obliged to adopt the language of modernity. We might call this the re-enchantment or re-mythologization of speech, where speech reflects the Christian imagination, recognizing the importance of symbols, images, "myths," and metaphors as well as sharing space and time with music and the visual arts. Truth can be carried or opened up just as effectively (or maybe better) by this kind of language.

What do you think?

(Not to detract from the main point of this post as expressed by the authors above, but I would add that the modern church is much more dependent on its poetic imagination "underpinnings" from the past than it knows or would dare admit. I would suggest that the same is true of modern science, and that both the western religious and scientific worlds are just beginning to wake up to the fact that the emperor has no clothes. That doesn't cause the emperor to have no value or validity in either realm. It just leaves her/him very cold and exposed. But let's leave that for another discussion.)

Grace and peace,


Friday, December 08, 2006

a poet's view of worship....

I have been reading the book The Cloister Walk (Penguin) by writer and poet Kathleen Norris. (It won NYT Notable Book of the Year when it came out.) Given the loss of metaphor in the modern world view, and the corresponding lack of value attached to it, the impact on Christian worship (and other areas of Christian practice) and especially faith has been quite profound and devastating. At least that's my opinion. I include below a some paragraphs--rather lengthy, I know--where she explores worship from a poet's perspective. Let me know what you think.

The ancient understanding of Christian worship is that, in the words of the liturgical scholar Aidan Kavanagh, it "gives rise to theological reflection, and not the other way around." We can see the obvious truth of this by shifting our attention to poetry, and entertaining the notion that one might grow into faith much as one writes a poem. It takes time, patience, discipline, a listening heart. There is precious little certainty, and often great struggling, but also joy in our discoveries. This joy we experience, however, is not visible or quantifiable; we have only the words and form of the poem, the results of our exploration. Later, the thinkers and definers come along and treat these results as the whole--Let's see; here she's used a metaphor, and look, she's made up a rhyme scheme. Let's stick with it. Let's teach it. Let's make it a rule. What began as an experiment, a form of play, an attempt to engage in dialogue with mystery, is now a dogma, set in stone. It is something that can be taught in school.

Let's return to our classroom setting, only this time we'll be exploring faith as well as poetry. A poem, as Mallarme´ once said, is not made of ideas but of words, and faith also expresses itself through that which is lived, breathed, uttered, left silent. If faith, like poetry, is a process, not a product, then this class will be messier than we can imagine. To make the poem of our faith, we must learn not to settle for a false certitude but to embrace ambiguity and mystery. Our goal will be to recover our original freedom, our childlike (but never childish) wisdom. It will be difficult to lose our adult self-consciousness (here the discipline of writing can help us), difficult not to confuse our worship with self-expression. (All too often the call for "creativity" in worship simply leads to bad art.)

(Skipping a paragraph)

Poets are immersed in process, and I mean process not as an amorphous blur but as a
discipline. The hard work of writing has taught me that in matters of the heart, such as writing, or faith, there is no right or wrong way to do it, but only the way of your life. Just paying attention will teach you what bears fruit and what doesn't.
But it will be necessary to revise--to doodle, scratch out, erase, even make a mess of things--in order to make it come out right.

When it comes to faith, while there are guidelines--for Christians, the Bible and the scaffolding of the church's theology and tradition--there is no one right way to do it. Flannery O'Connor once wisely remarked that "most of us come to the church by a means the church does not allow," and Martin Buber implies that discovering that means might constitute our life's work. He states that: "All [of us] have access to God, but each has a different access. [Our] great chance lies precisely in [our] unlikeness. God's all-inclusiveness manifests itself in the infinite multiplicity of the ways that lead to him, each of which is open to one [person]."
(skipping the rest of the paragraph)

The first time I went to a monastery, I dreamed about the place for a week, and the most vivid dream was of the place as a chemistry lab. Might religion be seen as an experiment in human chemistry? And the breath of the divine as the catalyst that sparks reactions and makes our humble institutions work as well as they do, often despite ourselves? Imagination and reason, those vital elements of human intelligence, are adept at dismantling our delusions. Both bring us up against our true abilities and our limitations. But we've gotten ourselves into a curious mess in the modern world. We've grown afraid of the imagination (except as a misguided notion of a "creativity" granted to a few) and yet are less and less capable of valuing rationality as another resource of our humanity, of our
religious humanity. We end up with a curious spectrum of popular religions, a rigid fundamentalism at one end, and new Age otherworldliness, manifested in "angel channeling workshops," on the other. And even religious institutions--I'll speak here of the Christian churches, because they are what I know--often manifest themselves as anything but Christ's humble body on earth. What gets lost in all of this is any viable sense of the sacred that gives both imagination and reason room to play.

Can poets be of any use here? I believe so, though I'm not sure of the reasons why. I may be doodling. But the sense of the sacred is very much alive in contemporary poetry; maybe because poetry, like prayer, is a dialogue with the sacred. And poets speak from the margins, those places in the ecosystem where, as any ecologist can tell you, the most life forms are to be found. The poet Maxine Kumin has described herself as "an unreconstructed atheist who believes in the mystery of the creative process," while my husband, who is both a lyric poet and a computer programmer, declares himself to be "a scientific rationalist who believes in ghosts." If, as Gail Ramshaw has said, "Christianity requires metaphoric thinking," if, as a Benedictine liturgist once said to me, the loss of the ability to think metaphorically is one of the greatest problems in liturgy today, maybe the voices of poets are the ones we need to hear.

I know this is long, and I want to type even more. (I've probably already gone beyond the limit allowed under copyright law. Forgiveness please, and thanks to Ms. Norris and Penguin.)

But what do you think?

I think the modern church and modern science are both suffering from the same problem.

Let me know.

The next several paragraphs are stunning. Perhaps I'll post them later. In the meantime...

Grace and peace,


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

on philosophy and postmodernism....

Well, again, it has been a while since I posted. Life has been, as normal, in the fast lane for the past number of weeks, leaving little time to think, much less write a post for my blog. But, excessive guilt has won out. And I've been saving up, so grab your beverage of choice and get ready for the plunge.

I just finished reading a book by the late Stan Grenz, a theology and ethics professor who suddenly passed away last year of a massive heart attack at a relatively young age (in his 50s, like me -- makes one think). Called A Primer on Post-Modernism, I found it a fascinating read, though certainly not light at all. He begins by surveying Enlightenment Philosophy that provided the foundations for the modern view of the world, including the holes and weak spots in the presuppositions that supported it. He looks at pre-Nietzschean philosophers whose observations began to pull down those foundations. He surveys Nietzsche's strong critique of modernism and the Enlightenment, which in effect pushed the button that exploded the foundations of modernism and laid the groundwork for the post-modern world view(s). Then Grenz surveys the three chief philosophical spokespeople for the post-modern approach to life.

To Grenz' credit, who comes at the task from a post-Evangelical Christian viewpoint, he does a fairly good job of describing each philosopher's thoughts without critiquing them from Grenz' viewpoint until the last chapter. So in that way, it is a good survey of the path of philosophy leading to current postmodern views (though several of the philosophers would object to there being any "path" to it). Plus, Grenz identifies ways of looking at things from a postmodern viewpoint which would be beneficial to people of Christian faith. If you want to wade into the current Suture Zone in which we are living I would highly recommend it. Just don't expect to breeze through it, especially if you have no background in modern philosophy.

I've had a number of "aha" moments while reading this book. Here's a list of those points, some of which I may elaborate on in future posts:

First of all, I am astonished at the power of philosophy to affect how people think in the regular world. We often consider philosophers as dusty relics (even current ones) who inhabit the ivory towers of universities speaking in unintelligible gibberish about useless, or certainly impractical, ideas. True? Not so. I was floored by the ideas I hear commonly on the tongues of even marginally educated people that seem to have originated with Nietzsche. Philosophy has a grossly underestimated impact on society. I don't know why I'm surprised by that, but I am.

Second, I am also astonished that language and literary theory are at the heart of the post-modern enterprise. In many ways, science has been abandoned by post-modernists as simply another, perhaps useful at times, but wholly inadequate epistemology when one considers the world. The exception to this (though Grenz doesn't cover this in his book) is the post-modern philosophers who have adopted an acceptance of scientific assumptions for the sake of having a what they see as a pragmatic view of the world (Searle, et al).

My third observation, though not a surprise, is how well some pieces of classic Christianity align with some of the post-modern rejections of the modern view. It was almost as if we Christians abandoned (or forgot?) what we are really all about when we encountered the modern world and world view. To a large extent, though, Christianity has always tried to adapt to the culture and world view in which it finds itself. I've often made the point in the past that to the rationalist of the 17th/18th century, God was a rationalist. To the empiricist, God was an empiricist. To the existentialist, God was.... irrelevant? Anyway, I think you get my point. But there are criticisms of the Enlightenment enterprise made by post-modern philosophers that should resonate strongly with Christians who have some understanding of their ancient roots. One example: the place of community (as opposed to the Enlightenment elevation of the individual as center).

My fourth observation is that the greatest threat Christianity faces is the wholesale rejection of meta-story by postmodern philosophers. But that leads to a critical question. On what basis can we claim, as Christians, that the overarching story of mankind is God's redemptive story as represented in our sacred texts? Is this simply one assumption, among many available, as the world scratches around for something other than quicksand or illusion to stand on?

Finally, and this doesn't exhaust my observations on the points raised in this book, it is quite obvious to me that postmodernism is a reaction to the categories established by the Enlightenment. Though I don't know of any other way to see the world except through the lenses we've inherited, even by reacting to them, it seems to me that the very fact that we are reacting to the modern world view as we deconstruct it, that modern viewpoint is in large part defining where we end up. A friend in ministry once said about those in my denomination, "We know what we don't believe, we just don't know what we do believe." That is as true, from my perspective, of those who have rebelled against my denominational heritage as it is of the dyed in the wool fundamentalists who have perpetuated its doctrinal "purity". For example, my grandparents didn't believe in dancing. Those in my generation don't believe in not believing in dancing. The argument with the previous generation/mindset/worldview largely determines and limits the path that one can take in reacting against it.

What if no one is asking the best questions? What are the best questions?

One last thing.... Grenz points out in his final chapter, almost an epilogue reflection on postmodernism and the implications for Christianity, that although our perceptions of everything may be invalid, they are not all necessarily equally invalid. My friend Marshall has pointed this out about science. If one eats something known to be poisonous to humans, they will suffer the consequences -- sickness, death, etc, no matter the literary categories we attribute to the experience, to life, or whatever. They will no longer respond to us in the same way they did (if at all) prior to ingesting the poison. Some of us are going to be hanging around burying or cremating or otherwise noting the cessation of mortal existence for that person. Though Foucault rails against history as being invalid (if you don't know who he is, read Grenz' book), JFK was assassinated on November 22, 1963, dying the same day that C.S. Lewis and Aldous Huxley did. Who assassinated JFK, the precise cause of Lewis' death or the effective legacy of any of the three are open to argument, perception and clouded validity. But all three stopped breathing the same day. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech that irrevocably set the path for Civil Rights reform. Even the lost "a" in Neal Armstrong's communication from the lunar surface (or wherever he was, if you believe it was a hoax), has been rediscovered in the NASA recording. And maybe when I went to Costco last night, they really were out of something that was there only a week ago that I was going to get someone as a Christmas present. And maybe over 20 years ago, sitting in my 100-year-old kitchen by myself praying, and suddenly finding myself no longer in the kitchen but somewhere else in the very real presence of Someone else, maybe that wasn't the product of an overactive imagination? I don't know why it hasn't happened to other people. I don't even know why it happened to me. I wasn't looking for it. What makes this "figment" any more invalid than any other perception of the world?

Who knows? Maybe even this guy Jesus actually lived and spoke and died, and, yes, even rose again, all to reestablish relationship with people. And maybe, in spite of the way that his followers have screwed up the message and the focus and the meaning of his story so badly over the millennia, maybe, just maybe, God is still trying to use the story to connect with us, and through us to make the world a better place.

Now, I certainly haven't worked through all of this. I have more questions than I have answers. I figure the rest of my life will surface even more questions and quite probably even fewer answers. But I am intrigued by the Story. Life for humanity is a story of shared (and broken and strained and dysfunctional and enduring and infinitesimally complex) relationships with others, with our environment, with ourselves. Is it all a grand, yet irrelevant, tale, or a series of disconnected tales that have absolutely no common relevance? Is everything meaningless as pointed out by the writer of Ecclesiates? I hope not.

I hope not.

Grace and peace (and two Excedrin if you have a headache like me now),


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

taking up the cross and following....

A friend on a forum I read regularly asked:

"If anyone would be my disciple, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me."

According to this statement of Jesus, self-denial is either prescriptive to discipleship (must happen in order to become a disciple), descriptive (it is a necessary, ongoing part of the life of a disciple), or both.

Ironically, self-denial seems hardly to play any part of my life. How about you? If you will, ask yourself, when was the last time you denied yourself anything for any reason, let alone for the sake of Jesus? Is it possible that our surrounding abundance inhibits our admission into the school of Christ?

What do you think? And please share if you have any recent experience of self-denial.

I wrote this answer but didn't post it there. Thought I would put my response here:

I don't think Jesus is talking so much about the cross aspect of things as he is about us following him. The cross is at minimum a warning that where he leads may not be pleasant, nor where we want to go nor lead to what we want to do. But implicit in the statement is that he is the one doing the leading, and that his leading is not from some remote location, but right there next to us or just ahead of us. Our self-denial focuses more on letting him direct our paths. In other words, I read this set in the context of relationship with the living Jesus. At least, that's how those he was speaking to would have taken it, right? I sort of imagine the following dialogue:

Jesus: So, have you decided to follow me, sign on to my mission to rescue the world?

Me: Yeah, I guess so. So where are we going?

Jesus: No telling. You can never tell where these things might end up or what we'll encounter. I have pretty good instincts, though, when stuff happens. Guess you'll just have to trust me, huh?

(a pause)

Me: Yeah, I guess so. So what is it we're going to do?

Jesus: Well, it kind of depends on the situation, but it'll be God-come-near stuff, Kingdom stuff, like valuing everyone. You know, widows, poor people, the uneducated and hungry, the mentally ill. Those kind of people. All kinds of people, really. The self-absorbed, the addicts, the successful and unsuccessful. We'll look them in the eye, listen to their stories, ask their opinions and value and try to understand their answers. In short, we'll live with them in their world. Of course, all of this is sure to upset the power brokers, and we'll have to stand up to them, sunshine their abuse of or apathy toward the powerless, show it to be the devil-stuff it is. And I'm not just talking pagans here. There are probably more of these folks who are religious than not. By the way, you especially don't want to fall prey to that kind of attitude. If you do, I may have to slap you a bit to wake you up, get your attention. In fact, if you do stuff that hurts one of my little ones, well that's really bad.

Me: Got it.

Jesus: Do you?

Me: Okay, I think I get it, but you are probably going to have to straighten me out when my zeal leads down the wrong path. So what's going to happen if we stand up to these in-charge people?

Jesus: Well it won't make them happy at all. That's for sure. They have a tendency to get quite nasty. In fact, God may have to send a number of our community into the situation before the power brokers lose their grip.

Me: Oh, so you'll lead in a crowd of us so that we'll be safe and win in the end?

Jesus: Who said anything about safe? I was thinking more that if these abusive power brokers chew enough of us up and spit enough of us out, they eventually will lose their teeth.

Me: You mean I could die from it?

Jesus: Well, that's how it happened for me. Not that it will happen that way for you. Who knows? You might be at this a very long time. But even if it happens the other way, it's not the end of the world, you know.

Me: I know. (a long pause) It doesn't sound like much fun.

Jesus: Suffering is never fun. But that's missing the point, isn't it? Think of the company you'll be in, the community you'll be going through this stuff with, the joy of being in partnership with God for that which is truly good and valuing and rescuing. The good news is that the community only gets tighter and better and bigger. Hopeless, angry, abusive and used-up people get rescued from themselves and each other. People start loving each other like God does. Nuts, we could march straight into hell and there's nothing they could do to stop us. God's God-come-near Kingdom-way-of-living is never going to be snuffed out. Quite the contrary. (a short pause) Most important...

(at this point Jesus looks straight into my eyes)

Jesus: ... I... will... always... be... right... here... with... you.

(a very long pause)

Me: Okay. I'm in.

Jesus: Good! So are you ready to get started?

Me: Sure. What do we do first?

(Jesus puts his arm around my shoulder and we start off)

Jesus: Okay. First, you know all that stuff in your house? You don't need it all. I'm envisioning this huge garage sale, maybe Ebay. And the money you get for it.... Remember that guy at the freeway offramp? Well, he's been pretty hungry lately, and you could.....

(sound fades as we walk off together)

I know this doesn't speak to everyone who reads my blog. But it's a dream I think God has for the world. At least, that's what I think.

Grace and peace,


Thursday, September 28, 2006

the blessing way....

I like the novels of former AP bureau chief Tony Hillerman. He writes mysteries -- a modern fiction genre, actually -- but with the added twist of setting them in the very pre/post-modern setting of southwestern native American spiritual beliefs. He has written his works in settings that include the Hopi (a favorite of mine, since one of my unpublished novels is set in that same environment) and the Pueblo Indians. But most of all, Hillerman focuses on the Navajo. The Navajo Nation has named him "friend of the Dineh" ('the People'), and so I would assume that Hillerman does a fairly respectable job of reflecting their beliefs in his work.

I say all that to call attention to the value in the Navajo world (learned from my reading of Hillerman) of harmony with all of life. All of life is looked at from this perspective. If someone commits a crime, such as murder, there is more to the offense than just the legal ruling. There is the restoration of harmony that is needed for the perpetrator, because if it is not re-established, the discord of the original act rolls out in further waves of discord (alcoholism, family strife, even physical sickness). They even have ceremonies that their sacred men learn to sing to restore harmony. One of those ceremonies is called the Blessing Way.

As I was considering my last post and the various responses to it, I thought of Hillerman and his novel of that title. It made me think how like the kingdom of God as referenced in the Christian Bible this blessing way is. McClaren has suggested that the term kingdom has lost much of its meaning for us today. He has suggested a new metaphor: the dream of God. I like that. I like that very much. God's dream is for the restoration of harmony for all peoples, both with himself and among all peoples. When we live into the dream of God from that perspective, we are really living out of the heart of God as expressed in the life of Jesus.

The best part of Jesus' good news of the dream of God is not so much what I have focused on for so many years. In other words, the substitutionary atonement theory -- Jesus' blood to satisfy some legal hangup God has with us so we can go to "heaven" when we die -- is not, in my opinion, the best expression of the good news he came to preach. Atonement (not just substitutionary) is part of it, certainly. But his message, rather, was more simple than that: "God has come near and is very close and available. You might want to rethink your outlook on this and accept that God is indeed near." (Mark 1:15; my paraphrase, of course) This message has all kinds of implications, but its main focus is not do's and don'ts or laws about how we should live or theories about how it all works or even the historical facts of the matter (though I am not discounting them). Rather it is joining and owning the story of God's living, dynamic, two-way relationship with humanity (and, I would add, the rest of his creation).

I find it very sobering that this message failed to resonate with most of the religious people Jesus came into contact with. Instead it was the losers of society who seem to have understood and accepted it much more readily than their pious neighbors. Prostitutes, tax collectors, rebels, dock workers and fishermen, marginalized women, those under the power of demonic addictions and the poor, among others, seemed to be the ones who "got it" and ended up living it. They were his greatest success stories and ended up having a profound impact on their world (not that the echoes of that impact have always been "good").

A little over a week ago, I ate Wednesday evening dinner with my friend, Wade, and another young man, whom I assume was about to attend a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. He had questions about the Revelation (who doesn't?) and the end times. I briefly explained the genre of apocalyptic literature, and how it is very dangerous to take those things literally, that the Revelation was written to people for whom hope had evaporated in the face of severe persecution, etc. Then I suggested that focusing on end times really misses the point of Jesus' main message: that God is present, that he wants to enter into dynamic relationship with us, and us with each other; that he is calling us to rethink how far or near God really is, and start living into the reality of God's nearness. I could tell this was something completely new to him. That disturbs me in a way. But I am also hopeful.

Call me a deluded dreamer, but I'm praying that this "seed" germinates. If it does, we may see more of the blessing way, the way of Jesus.

Grace and peace,