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.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

stuff from on high...

First, a quick aside... I'll be out of town this week working my fool head off in the Owens River Valley on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada. I know I'll have connectivity Monday through Thursday nights, but I'll be out of touch probably until then. And I may be too wiped out to post anything this week. We'll see.

And now, stuff from on high...

About two or three months ago, during one of my trips to Sacramento, I noticed something peculiar outside the window. I was sitting in a guest cubicle in our satellite office on the sixth floor of the historic Senator Hotel across from the capitol. (By the way, as much as I’ve stared at the capitol building, I have yet to catch a glimpse of Arnold.) This window doesn’t face the capitol. It faces a multi-storied parking garage. But just beyond the top of the garage you can see the southern spire of the Church of the Resurrection. It’s another historic building in downtown Sacramento. And as happens with older buildings, this one is being... well, resurrected. They are doing a complete facelift/restoration.

Anyway, they were working on the upper sections of the bell towers and had scaffolding built up to the top of this spire. That’s not unusual with these kinds of jobs. What was unusual was the bright blue portapotty that was perched at the very highest section of the scaffolding.

I actually wrote something in my journal that day to remind myself of what I saw. It was a striking image. I can imagine the conversation between the workers and the foreman about the need to lift a portapotty up to such heights. And I would have hated to be the guy responsible for getting it down. (It’s gone now.)

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about that image for a while. I knew it meant something, was a good picture of something. Maybe this suggests some things to you other than what I’m about to say. If so, please feel free to comment. Please remember also that we like to keep portapotties (and blogs) clean for all those who avail themselves of the facilities.

But what it suggested to me was that no matter how high up you get, no matter how structured and well-thought-out your theologies, no matter how good your questions, there is always stuff that you need to deal with, better, that God needs to deal with.

If you can imagine, too, if someone tipped the thing at the wrong moment, anyone standing beneath would be... well, it wouldn’t be pretty, would it? Perhaps it’s a good thing that it was out in the open like that. People walking underneath or staying underneath at least know that those they look to for guidance still don’t’ have it all together. And people who use that portapotty way up there can remember that they are human like everyone below. All God’s chillen’ got stuff. That’s probably one of the reasons I like reading Anne Lamott’s writing. She doesn’t window dress it at all. She lays it all – good and bad – right out there in the open.

It’s a beautiful group, the church of the resurrection, just as long as we remember that we all got stuff.

Grace and peace!



Anonymous Marshall said...

Hi, Owen,

Marshall once more. I left a posting earlier today affixed to your earlier blog about skiing behind an anchored ship.

Here, I'm moved that you mentioned Anne Lammott. I love Anne's writing on the spiritual life because she proclaims her humanity as fully as she proclaims God's divinity, and therefore does not lie in defence of the truth. How refreshing!

A key message to be derived from Anne's writing, for me, is that God accepts our humanity - cf. the cross - though we ourselves often don't. It's as though we believe God must immediately fix us, therefore we must be immediately fixed, therefore we are - but the world is not so credulous.

The truth is that Christians continue (like the rest of the world) to commit what Christian poet Paul Mariani called "our many and deliberate f*&^-ups." Why do we fear telling that truth? Are we a large dysfunctional family who smile and tell the world ouside the "truth" because the TRUTH is too painful to acknowledge?

God bless Anne Lamott. It seems to me her naked humanity makes God look better than our customary application of "spiritual makeup." If we can't proclaim the truth about ourselves, how can we be trusted to proclaim the truth about God?

If only we could, as individuals, be as real about our failings as the Bible is about them! The Bible itself is a divine book, but also intensely truthful about the humanity of its heros. Samson is a hero of faith - also a pervert. Peter is wishy-washy. David dies the death of a bitter, vengeful old soldier. Solomon has...issues. Paul is a hothead.

"My power is made perfect in weakness."

Perhaps my three favorite words in the New Testament are "God is able" (Romans 14). And the primary life lesson of the last decade of my life has been that we are not.

I have concluded that all the spiritual power we natural humans have is the power to intend well. (Or sometimes merely to intend to intend well.) Step one in the beatitudes is to recognize our spiritual poverty. The gospel message is not conveyed by our accepting Jesus then pretending to be all washed up!

The gospel message was never "God has me all fixed up, and he'll fix you up, too, just like me." Listen to Paul: "I am a mess - so much so that I elect not to spell out the shameful thing I mean by 'thorn in the flesh' - but I don't want to be a mess... But it's gonna be fine, 'cause check out what God has promised...!"

10:36 AM  

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