26 April 2012

Jesus came back ... and so did i

on easter sunday we celebrated the resurrection event. the fulfillment of prophecies, promises, hopes and impossible wishes ... jesus demonstrating once and for all that death by no means has the final word. God does. and He keeps coming back to us, time and again. 

for which i'm immensely grateful. 

 many of you will know that my observance of the lenten season this year included giving up something. not coffee (would have been no sacrifice at all), not chocolate (moderate sacrifice), not facebook (humungous sacrifice). 

instead i decided to part ways with God for a time. 

this turned out to be a confusing, amusing, distressing, and intriguing decision - at least to many of you. so i thought that i would take a few sentences to unpack some of my post-lenten reflections here. 

to learn or not to learn ... 

1. you can't just trade in your paradigms for twenty cents 
it was harder than i thought to 'give up God'. after centering my life on Jesus for the last 23 years, even choosing to stop praying and shelving the bible didn't constitute a complete walkaway. fundamentally i still believed, and my ethics, habits, and relationships still evidenced the cumulative effects of faith. if it's that hard to try to engage the world of the atheist, imagine how difficult it must be to authentically appreciate the world from a 
point of view. 

2. don't make me go all R.E.M. on you 
i had to expect that this would be an edgy experiment, for me and for others. at the same time i'd hoped that through conversation and a declaration of intentions that those who were curious about this project would appreciate it. 

in fact few took it seriously. i think that i became a bit of a sideshow to many people. 

a disappointment, yes. maybe mostly because i'd hoped that others might consider engaging atheism for lent with me the next time that i do it, and that a group experience of it might prove even richer. 

3. old dog, old tricks 
the third commandment out of the famous ten says 'you shall not take the Lord's name in vain'. 

in vain. that means in an empty, meaningless way, right? 

because God's name is His identity, His power

i realized after a few days of fasting from God that i was taking His name in vain all over the place. not because i was swearing, but because i was so in the automatic habit of saying grace, of reading the bible with my raisin bran in the morning, of turning on christian music in the car. 

it was rote, routine, mindless, empty. in vain. 

i thought that i was being disciplined, training myself in the good ways of christian spirituality.

after 30 some odd days of avoiding the empty rituals, now i want to do these things again. really want to. 

4. comfortably numb 
if there's any advantage to be spoken of when becoming a functional atheist, it's the absence of psychological distress. 

when you hold yourself to a higher (external) standard, you know what happens? you often fail. and when you condemn or indict yourself for those errors you fall under the microscope of hypocrisy. 

not fun. 

but hey, if there's no God in your life, you're not worried about this stuff! second looks at short skirts, venomous words let loose, unnecessary and indulgent trips to the chocolate cupboard - all stress free. funny how you can sail through life when you don't believe that you need to know any better. 

5. you don't deserve nuthin' (or "a double negative for all the right reasons") 

the scary part about taking a sabbath away from God is wondering whether or not He'll hold that against you. but at least i have this going for me: finishing this lenten experiment, i come to God with no expectation of being re-embraced to the fold. no sense of entitlement. 

but it was there before. 

theological student. pastor. church planter. husband of but one wife. daily reader of the scriptures. counted on as a reliable counselor. 

an impressive resume for acceptance. at least to me. now its


at least now i'm being honest with myself - and before God.

6. running on empty 
as someone who goes out running on the roads in and around barrie, i do not run with any kind of music/mp3 device. some of my training runs eclipse three hours in duration ... a long time to just be humming "down by the bay". 

i've often elected to use that time to commune with my body, with nature and with God. an interesting thing happened during lent - the runs became very lonely. almost eerily so. not because i stopped hearing God's voice - but because i was keenly aware of the sheer silence in my spirit. 

i'm hoping to get my running buddy back soon.

04 April 2012

do, or not do ... there is no 'try'

if you're at all like me, you love stories of people who don't understand - or maybe better put, aren't restricted by - the meaning of the word "can't".

so many of us mourn the fact that throughout our lives we're told what we can't do - often because of our context, maybe our age, gender, race, social class, IQ, physical specifications (sidebar:  in the working world, we call this discrimination).  there are no shortage of voices which (intentionally or unintentionally) diminish our capacity to reach amazing milestones in our lives.  and when we choose to listen to them and believe them, we rewrite the scripts of our days and make them lesser stories.

and in part this is what makes following Jesus so refreshing and enriching - He not only believes that we could be achieving the impossible in our lifetimes, He challenges us to do it. 

whoa nelly.  the impossible? 

well come on now.  if Jesus only challenged you to reduce your dietary sodium intake by 15%, you wouldn't be at all persuaded that He was God now, would you?

Jesus often said things that not only pushed His disciples outside of their comfort zones, but that would actually call them to revolutionize the very paradigm of theworld on to which they held so tight.  He would go so far as to say that those who chose to follow Him would accomplish even more mind-blowing things than He did.  now i don't suppose that He meant that we'd be able to be faster than a locomotive and leap tall buildings in a single bound.  or maybe He did.  but ultimately His message was that those who would follow after Him - become His disciples - would take seriously their connection to the God of the impossible.  with that as our starting point, we could attempt to live the kind of difference-making, world-impacting, legacy-leaving lives that would otherwise be foolishness and utter nonsense.

so I ask you:

what is your impossible?

what do you have it your heart to pursue that seems so out of range, so beyond your capacity, but so woven into your DNA that it won't let you go?

why don't you have any faith to go after it?   

addendum:  you may not get there.  not everybody in the bible did.  but who they became along the way, walking in step with the God of the impossible - well, that just wouldn't have happened otherwise.